Originally, my aim in music therapy was not so much altruistic as to experience engaging musically in a safe space with another person. I was petrified of my peers hearing me play, due less to my lack of musicianship as my fear of being “heard”, exposed. Music therapy was a new way to engage with another person that felt safe. I was inspired to improvise with my clients, who would not judge my music and had a great time no matter how I played.
Thankfully, once I worked as a music therapist for some time, I realized that connecting through music was not actually about me at all. It wasn’t even about the client. It was about the space between us, the connection we felt that could not be quantified or even be described. And yet, there it was: tangible, almost solid.
I write this knowing that it can be controversial in the music therapy community to talk about the abstract concepts of connection and relationship. I am grateful that some aspects of music therapy can be described scientifically, and I know that I benefit from the tireless hours music therapists have conducting valuable research (often on their own dime). But I must confess that I find it equally exciting and frustrating that we can’t explain so much that happens during music therapy sessions, and that often the treatment does not affect groups of people consistently.
I think my relief in lack of total explanation is that this leaves room for the spiritual. My most profound experiences have been in the music therapy treatment room. I learned there to trust my gut, even when it made absolutely no sense, and it was usually right. Further, there is power in music to bring us to our most vulnerable and then build us back up, and doing this with another person can be a rare gift. My last thought: if this experience could be fully explained, would it actually lose any of its power?