Inside Music Therapy: Client Experiences
Jackson, Nancy A., Journal of Music Therapy
Hibben, J. (Ed.) (1999). Inside Music Therapy: Client Experiences. Gilsum, NH: Barcelona Publishers. (307 pages)
Inside Music Therapy: Client Experiences, edited by Julie Hibben and published by Barcelona Publishers, is a book unlike most other music therapy books. It is not about what music therapists do, or how they do what they do, or how they conceptualize what they do. In fact, it is not about music therapists, or even about music therapy, per se. It is about the music therapy client, about her/his experience of the music therapy process, and the meaning that this process has for her/him.
The book presents 33 narratives of client experiences in music therapy. These narratives, divided into five respective sections, are written by clients themselves, by therapists who present clients' own words, by parents of clients, by therapists who use multiple means to infer nonverbal clients' experiences, and by researchers who have qualitatively studied clients' verbal expressions about their experiences. The client experiences include both group and individual experiences from a number of different settings, and originate from a number of countries. Hibben introduces each section of the book with a short synopsis describing the contents of the section. Similarly, she includes in the Table of Contents a brief summary of each chapter's narrative. In this way, the narratives are easily accessible by individual chapter and by section, not just as a complete collection. Additionally, she provides an introduction for those readers who are not familiar with music therapy, outlining the types of music experiences about which they will be reading in order for them to have an understanding of the context within which the client experiences occur.
In the first two sections, written by clients themselves and by therapists who present their clients' own words, the narratives clearly relate to the reader the experience of the client, not only in relation to the therapist and the therapy process, but also in relation to the music itself. Some experiences are monumental and obvious in their transformational potential, such as the experiences of the music therapist/client who, as a child of Holocaust survivors, meets her "Holocaust shadow" in GIM sessions and works through the music and imagery to integrate the shadow for her own healing. Others are less dramatic, but are equally poignant in the meanings that their tellers ascribe to their therapy process, such as the musician who writes about his experiences with GIM, "The scales fell from my eyes, and suddenly I could see and-more essential-I was aware of the beauty and grace of every atom of this world and the rest of the universe." Or the young man who lives with severe pain from sickle cell anemia who states about his music therapy experiences at school, ". . .1 have had to learn about ways and things to do for my own self. Music has been really helpful, especially during times when I didn't necessarily think anyone could give me anything." Still others are eloquent in their utter simplicity, like the young man who wrote about his experiences with instrumental improvisation, "... I could feel like a complete person," or the teenager who states about his experiences in family music therapy, "I hate therapy . . . But I don't look at this as therapy. I look at this as a way of expressing myself." These simple but meaningful experiences of clients are especially powerful as reminders that success in music therapy cannot always be measured by the extent to which the client meets therapist-created objectives, but can always be measured by the extent to which the client finds the experience meaningful and useful.
The section of narratives written by parents of their child's experiences in music therapy is equally moving. Parents of disabled individuals have a huge investment in their child's health and well-being, and have a perspective on their child that is far mare in-depth than any teacher, therapist, or healthcare worker can possibly have. …