Friday, August 2, 2013

The Climb

Sawasdee ka everyone! Amanda Aaronian again. I’m here to tell you all about my music therapy experience here in Thailand. The analogy I would use to describe it is the stairs of the Wat Tham Sua (Tiger Cave Temple) in Krabi, which is in the Southern area of Thailand.

When I started at the bottom of my journey to the top of the Tiger Cave Temple, a sign stated how many stairs I had to climb to get there. That number was 1,237 steps! THAT’S A LOT OF STEPS! When I saw that number, my stomach felt uneasy and I was unsure of whether I was really able to go through with this. I first felt this uneasiness when I began my clinical music therapy work here in Thailand. I kept thinking of all the things that could go wrong and/or become problematic in a session for example, not remembering the Thai music and getting through the language barrier. Even though I had these fears and worries, I knew that there was no turning back, so I just had to put my feet in and see where this journey would take me.
Throughout the upward climb, I had to make several resting stops, not only to catch my breath, but also to see and take pictures of the beautiful views of the area.  In a music therapy setting, when I finish each music therapy session with a client or group of clients, I had to take time for myself to reflect on that particular session. I had to think about what I thought went well, what I could improve on for the next session, and how the client(s) interacted with their caregivers, other patients, and therapists. This type of reflection helped me realize what was effective and how this profession can truly make a difference in people’s lives.
I have seen how music therapy can make a difference in someone’s life when Shelby Riley I had a 3 year old male client who has Cerebral Palsy (CP), a disorder that impairs control of movement due to damage in the developing brain. Shelby and I co-treated with the Occupational Therapist (OT) at the hospital to help our client improve his basic motor skills. One thing that we were working on was helping the client turn his whole body to the left and back to the center by himself. Shelby and I improvised a song that had the words “left” and “back” while the OT was doing the motions for him. Each time he was on his left side or on his back, we all provided positive reinforcement by playing the jingle bells and strumming the guitar fast, which were his two favorite instruments. After five times, the OT wanted the client to do the motion himself while we continued to play our song. When we were singing it, his attention was on us, and after a minute he was able to slowly turn to his left side and onto his back by himself! Seeing him accomplish this was an amazing improvement for him. By facilitating the music with a soft volume, playing the guitar in a steady tempo, and physically following the client when he was turning showed how music therapy could help him with developing a certain skill. After reflecting on this first session, it showed me how just one session can make a difference in someone’s life.
I felt this same type of accomplishment with my client with CP when I made it to the top of the stairs. I was able to carry my body through all of these steps and made it to where I could see a 360-degree view of the beautiful scenery of the jungle and forests around me. Seeing this view and feeling the cool breeze felt like a huge achievement and success in my life. In music therapy, seeing that client’s progress towards a more normal life that is inhibited by his disease made me feel like I helped him accomplish something huge in his life. He was able to cognitively process how to turn and physically move his body to his left side and back. Developing that skill could help him learn how to roll over and help him continue to develop more basic motor skills in his future.
Even though some stepping-stones may be easier or harder for each client or even for yourself, going through that journey can give you the most eye-opening and exciting experience! I know my experience in Thailand has, how about you?

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