Music Therapy Clinician: Supporting reflective clinical practice 2 - Page 8

Letters to the Editor

I ’ m writing in response to Allison Vovk ’ s article “ Facing Reality : an honest discussion about the clinical implications of beginning motherhood while working in long term care as a music therapist .”
I work in an all-male state prison , and in the period of my employment there , three mental health staff members on my unit became pregnant and essentially did not return from maternity leave . Each circumstance was different , but since the inmate / patients (“ clients ” moving forward ) were never privy to the reasons they did not ultimately return , there seemed to be a perception that once a staff member went out on maternity leave , they were not coming back .
At the time I became pregnant , one of the process-heavy groups I was running had several members with borderline personality traits , and the majority of group members had experienced some form of abandonment . As Allison did , I informed them of my pregnancy early on so they would hear it from me and also so we would have plenty of time to process their responses to my news . I would not promise that I would be returning because in my own life I have experienced events that were unexpected and have learned we really can ’ t make promises about the future . What I did tell them , instead , was that it was my honest intention to return . I felt at this stage I had prepared myself and my clients as well as I could .
What I was not prepared for was how my personal boundaries would shift . I have generally felt that sharing details about my life could detract from the client-therapist relationship , and additionally , by virtue of working in a prison ( and an all-male prison at that ), I have always been very conscious about boundaries . When asked personal questions , I would politely defer or use humor to shift the focus away from myself . I discovered , however , that with an ever increasing waistline , it became impossible to keep my personal life entirely private .
While , previously , I would generally not comment on my marital status , I found myself mentioning my husband from time to time . Subconsciously , I think I was concerned about how I might be viewed if my child was “ illegitimate ,” despite the fact that many of the inmates had fathered illegitimate children themselves . Still , working in part with pedophiles and child molesters , I did maintain some boundaries and refrained from sharing details about the baby such as the gender .
In the time since returning from maternity leave two years ago , I have found myself openly making mention of my child ( though still not using gender-specific pronouns ), and otherwise talking about my family structure when I never would have done so previously . Even though the majority of the clients I work with now were not on the unit when I left for maternity leave , since there are a decent number who were , I guess , in my mind , there is no point in keeping my child a secret . Yet I find myself on a slippery slope . Due , I believe , to body image issues following childbirth and struggling with a new “ mom ” identification , I find myself wanting to be liked by my clients much more so than before . I want to be the therapist running the “ fun ” groups that clients
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