"When I reflect on the work I've done with people, I think of moments in time that demonstrate how simply being in a music therapy setting allows for such great change to occur in someone's life, how a musical exchange can shape thoughts and become a cathartic experience." ~ Melanie Walborn
Hi MTs and wonderful readers. Allow me to introduce my friend and colleague Melanie Walborn of
WB Music Therapy. She is a truly great music therapist and I had the privilege of interviewing her for Advocacy Month.
In the spirit of story telling and for the sake of getting together at our favorite meeting spot, we spent some one to one time talking about music therapy where Melanie was gracious enough to share some of her meaningful stories. Listening to them was really touching and further proved how the power of a good story speaks volumes.
When I asked Melanie why she loved music therapy, she said how the most powerful and meaningful element for her happens to be the way in which our profession offers an outlet for clients to express themselves and let the emotion come out of it's shell and be communicated in a way that other modalities do not. She had two great examples of this in her practice.
One of Melanie's clients is a child who has a diagnosis on the autism spectrum. The child has the usual aversions to touch, difficulty with choppy speech, social delays and communication deficits and was largely dependent on his mother. As time went on he was gradually assisted towards independence from his mother and this is where he started engaging more with Melanie. His favorite song was "Part of Your World" from the movie Ariel the Little Mermaid. During one session, her client not only started singing the song with fluidity of speech, but he reached over to Melanie and gently touched her shoulder, as if communicating his connection to the song with his view of the world. When Melanie told the mother about the session, she was in awe over his expression and that he actually touched her. It was one of the cathartic experiences that Melanie treasures. When you think about the song "Part of Your World", you can see the connections. Ariel the Mermaid wishes so desperately to be part of something that is out of her reach and the parallel is the client, in the world of autism trying to survive his world. It's a powerful and thought provoking point of view and I was so glad and pleased to hear it. Give Ariel a listen for old times sake.
With another client, Melanie shared the story that has always stuck with her. A boy in the school setting was referred because of his emotional state after having witnessed his mother's murder. (!) He was not successful in being able to process his pain, emotions or fear until he started music therapy sessions. With a natural affinity for rhythmic instruments and drumming, the client felt comfortable and began to communicate with Melanie through song. He sang about his experience, sang about how he hurt, about seeing the blood of his mother, the feeling of being trapped and the guilt he carried for not being able to help her. Imagine the images and the confusion of a child so young being exposed to something so traumatic and having no way to express themselves. Melanie's sessions provided him with the powerful outlet he needed. She also hoped that her sessions would teach him that music was a coping tool that he could use outside of their sessions. Sadly, the funding for Melanie's sessions with him were cut and there was never any closure to their treatment. This unresolved treatment is all too common with the increasing funding cuts we face as music therapists. We can only hope that the time we do share with our clients gives them the outlet they need at the time and that they can take even just a little of what they experience with them thereafter.
Thank you Melanie. You are a great music therapist and I'm lucky to have you as a friend and colleague.