Music Therapy Clinician: Supporting reflective clinical practice 2 - Page 16

sexual abuse ; not because it doesn ’ t happen ( it does , and far more frequently than you probably imagine ), but because people are unlikely to do those things when there ’ s a witness around . What you will witness is verbal and emotional abuse . At the least , this may take the form of failing to respect clients — talking about them as if they aren ’ t there or can ’ t understand , for example . At worst , it will include shouting ; speaking in nasty , angry tones ; barking orders ; name-calling ; openly mocking , imitating , and ridiculing clients ; even intentionally provoking them until they react and then scolding them for reacting .
And frequently that verbal and emotional abuse will be directed at you ! In part , it ’ s because that is simply what happens in a setting where abuse is the norm ; no one is exempt . But there are also reasons why your co-workers may be inclined to target the music therapist in particular . As stated above , people who don ’ t know any better believe that being a music therapist is an easy job . Morale is generally poor in institutions , especially among the ‘ front line ’ workers ( i . e ., aides , direct care workers ). They feel , quite rightly , that their own job is hard ; unfortunately , for many of them that translates into resentment toward people they believe have it ‘ easy .’
This resentment may be deepened by the fact that , in most cases , the music therapist works from and / or in a central location , away from where the clients and the aides spend most of their time . You go into each unit / classroom / building for only a brief time . It ’ s not unusual for your co-workers to perceive this arrangement as unfair and another manifestation of how much ‘ easier ’ your job is than theirs . It ’ s not unusual for staff to complain bitterly that they are “ stuck with the clients all day !” ( Yes , they say that in front of the clients .)
Another effect of this kind of arrangement is that the staff view the music therapist as an ‘ outsider ’ whose visits disrupt the usual routine . ( More resentment !) They may also believe that since you are on their ‘ turf ,’ it is up to them to tell you what to do , including how you should conduct your sessions . ( More on this later !)
Another systemic issue that may make music therapists more likely targets for abuse than others is our ( real or perceived ) vulnerability . We do not enjoy the strength of a large department ; most music therapists are the only one in their workplace . We are rarely supervisors or have a music therapist as our supervisor ; it ’ s entirely possible our co-workers have literally never seen a music therapist in a position of authority . Most of us are women . Our profession is poorly understood and usually undervalued . Think about it : When a disgruntled worker feels the need to displace some anger , is he likely to do so onto his supervisor or the people he works next to every day or the professionals he perceives as respected and powerful ( e . g ., doctors )? No . It ’ s simply human nature to be more inclined to attack easier , weaker targets . (“ Oh , look — the music therapist is here !”)
Not all of the negativity will come in overtly hostile ways . But even the friendliest , most professional co-workers will indicate how little they respect your work . One co-worker , whenever he caught sight of the musical instruments , would say , “ You have the best toys !” This same person was partially responsible for the budget ; one day he informed me that the facility would no longer be paying to have the piano tuned . Naturally , I asked what other equipment would be allowed to deteriorate . Would our old copier , which broke down every week or two , no longer be serviced ? Would the nurses be holding a bake sale to raise money for new blood pressure cuffs ? Of course not — the budget would cover those legitimate expenses because those items were seen as essential equipment needed to do our work . But clearly he saw music therapy and its “ toys ” as just frivolous extras .
If this had been the only time this sort of thing had happened -- even if it had happened only occasionally -- it could be dismissed as trivial . But the reality I lived with for over 20 years was that , virtually daily , my co-workers communicated , either subtly or overtly , that they thought what I did was of little or no value . If I had to sum up their general attitude , I ’ d say most considered music therapy a benign diversion for the clients if they had nothing better to do . Staff thought nothing of interrupting sessions or of causing clients to miss their music therapy sessions completely . Some examples of the kinds of things staff considered more important than music therapy ? Smoking . Watching TV . Helping staff move boxes . Finishing the game of cards or ping pong they were currently playing with that staff person .
The use of space — which is usually at a premium in institutions — can also be an indicator of how ( little ) music therapy is valued . Music therapists often struggle to get adequate space in which to work . One of my early jobs involved the entire unit moving several times within the facility ; each time the creative arts therapists were given the smallest , ugliest office available . When we brought in our own belongings ( posters , plants , etc .) to make our office more attractive , our co-workers resentfully protested that we were “ given the nicest office .” Our unit director responded by threatening to take the office from us completely , suggesting that the group room could double as our office ( a not unusual arrangement ). In fact , we were fortunate to actually have a group room , something I would learn to appreciate even more when I worked at facilities where that was not the case . My final music therapy job was at a large facility where most of my sessions were held in the residences . In most cases , the staff expected me to hold sessions in the large , open , extremely noisy day area , which I considered completely inappropriate and untenable . It was an on-going battle to get ‘ permission ’ to use one of the other rooms ; this became another basis for resentment and complaints from other staff . On more than one occasion I showed up for a session only to be informed that from now on the room I had been using would be unavailable at that time ;
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