Therapist’s Block

Posted: August 24, 2010 in Music Therapy

I couldn’t think of what to write in this post.  Which got me thinking about writer’s block.  I wrote a story about writer’s block once.  It was all about a writer who had writer’s block and started writing a story about a writer with writer’s block.  It was a mind-blower.

But, since this is a music therapy related blog, I got to thinking about therapist’s block.  This is the phenomenon where you just can’t think of a good intervention for a session.  Does everyone get this, or is it just me?

On Monday-Wednesday-Friday, I have adult groups.  Right now, there are two, and each group lasts forty minutes.  I really enjoy working with them, but I’m finding that I get burned out on musical experiences a lot quicker than if I were only working with them once a week.  In trying to think up good substitutes to plug into various spots, I’ve been coming up with lots of experiences that would be great if it was for a group of kids.  For adults…they may or may not enjoy them, but they aren’t age appropriate.

So I get stuck in a rut, doing the same basic things again and again.  The basic session plan I’m using at the moment is this:

  • Hello and Welcome to Music
  • Question Blues – A getting-to-know-you question that is typically “What’s your favorite…”
  • Movement activity – Lately, we’ve been doing scarf dances
  • SOMETHING.  I’ve been plugging in different things – song writing, lyric analysis, rhythm activities, I even pulled out Bop-It one time (Bop-It should have been on my list of nonessentials).
  • Instrument Playing.
  • Singing of popular songs for the amount of time we have left.
  • The goodbye mostly consists of  “Put your instruments away and I’ll see you next time.”

The sessions are fun, but I don’t want to get stuck in a rut.  I try to keep that fourth slot open for different things, but if I can’t think of anything, I just plug in something that has worked before.  I don’t want to turn music therapy into the department of redundancy department, but I just find that the creative well runs dry sometimes.  The consumers don’t seem to mind – it’s very rare that I find someone looking completely bored.  And I guess that’s the most important thing.  I think they’re benefitting enormously from the day services program, and I’ve seen their progress in music.

What do you do when those mental blocks come up?  I tend to do something else.  Sometimes I’ll turn on iTunes and see if some song comes up that inspires something.  Sometimes I’ll start looking at old files.  Sometimes I’ll stare at the ceiling.  Sometimes I’ll pick up the guitar and just start goofing around.  Sometimes it works.  Sometimes it doesn’t.  Sometimes I’ll come up with something silly.  Sometimes I’ll come up with something stupid.  Sometimes (more rarely than I’d like) I come up with something that is perfect.  Sometimes (more often than I’d like) I come up with something I think is perfect, but later decide is not quite so perfect.

It’s been a long time since I’ve worked with adults, so this block is probably a result of my insecurity.  I am really enjoying it, more than I thought I would, and I’m confident that I’ll always be able to work through my creative droughts.  Thanks for reading!


  1. Roia says:

    What I did was get clinical supervision. Finally, after six years of being really bad at coming up with activities, I decided there had to be a better way, so I called a music therapist who advertised her services as a professional clinical supervisor (not knowing what that was exactly at the time), and it saved my music therapy life! Now I get to do supervision, and it’s a joy. I think people can burn out doing lots of activities. We end up feeling as we’re responsible for our clients’ having fun, and, in my noisy opinion anyway, therapy is hard work.

    • themtguy says:

      That’s a really interesting idea. It might be nice to find someone like that, particularly since I’m currently all on my own. Or it might be good to find other music therapists in the area and form a support group. Hmm.

      • Roia says:

        When and if you decide to do clinical supervision, drop me an email. I’ve been working with adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities for the past 22 years, and I’ve been supervising for the past few years.

  2. Aaron Teague says:

    Yes, supervision is needed. It really helps me be clear in my intervention, my personal reactions, and the complexity of music tehrapy. I have been in some type of supervision since 2005, a peer group with other music therapists and in 1:1 with other creative/expressive arts therapists.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s