Saturday, June 22, 2013

Extremes: The New Normal

            Sawadee ka readers!  Morgan Skillett again, a recent graduate of KU, coming up on the start of my six month internship in Hayward, California.  It's hard to believe our time here is almost complete.  I will miss so many things about Thailand, that I can't even begin to count them all.  But for now, time to talk about the main reason I traveled half-way across the therapy!!

            When first starting my music therapy practicum in Thailand, I had no idea what I was in for.  There are multiple challenges one might face in a session, including language barriers, familiarity with Thai music that would be appropriate for each age group and that we were told that some clients may be timid or shy around us because we are "farang," or a Westerner.  Thai people are unbelievably forgiving and kind, which is probably the reason most of us did not burst into tears of fear before walking into our first session.
Thai Music Lesson
            During my trip, my practicum placements were at Sirindhorn Adult Day Center and at Siriraj Hospital in the Pediatric Palliative Care Unit.  Both of these placements are broadening my knowledge of music therapy and are shaping me into not only a better therapist but a better person.  These two sessions are vastly different and require multiple techniques and strategies to find ways to ensure we are providing the clients with the best music therapy session possible.
            Over the course of my sessions,  I have noticed that the Thai's prefer to the extremes.  This can be illustrated in the enormous response level we get to singing or playing very slow music and very fast music.  The songs in the middle have a significant drop in participation, which is much different than back at home.  Generally in the US, most of our songs fall into the middle range of fast/slow tempos.  If the song is too slow, we run the chance of having all of our clients fall into a deep sleep.  If songs are too fast, it can sometimes overstimulate the clients, running the risk of increasing their arousal level too much.
Melissa, me, Taylor, clients and Laura after our last session at Sirindhorn
            At Sirindhorn, the clients are thrilled to dance, play their instruments to upbeat classics such as Hound Dog or Can't Buy Me Love.  Slow songs such as Can't Help Falling in Love, Edelweiss and Somewhere Over the Rainbow are also very popular with this group of adults.  Over the past few weeks, we have found what works best for our clients with the help of the other music therapy staff.  The extreme fast and slow tempo songs are the most beneficial for the clients and helps sustain their attention.    To ensure that we're accommodating to their preferences, it requires us to make specific decisions about which songs we will sing/play in our session and what strumming pattern or style we will use.
Taylor, me, Melissa and Laura with our beautiful lei's that were given to us 
            Extreme is such a beautiful and unique word that describes Thailand.  Extreme food, music, beauty, people and culture.  Shouldn't we all be a little more extreme in our lives?  The possibilities are endless.  It is truly an honor to have the opportunity to do music therapy in Thailand.   

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