Throughout our years of helping others through music therapy interventions, it is rare that music therapists find themselves on the client end of the equation. That is truly unfortunate because it is in receiving therapy that the therapist can appreciate and empathize with their clients. I have personally been a client of GIM (Guided Imagery and Music) as part of my training and wouldn't give up that experience for anything as I know it has helped me be a stronger therapist. However, I have not had the opportunity to be a client of a more "typical" music therapy experience. Not until two days ago, that is.
...it is in receiving therapy that the therapist can appreciate and empathize with their clients.
"Physician, heal thyself" is an old proverb that is found in the Christian bible, among other places. Depending on what website you search, the proverb has various meanings, from "we won't believe you until you can take care of yourself," to "prove it - words mean nothing until you do what you say," to "charity begins at home," to "before attempting to correct others, make sure that you aren't guilty of the same faults." It's not as simple as telling someone to take care of themselves, it is a demand that they know what they are doing before attempting to care for others. Not an insignificant or irrational ask, in my opinion.
Many times, I have "preached the gospel" of music therapy, specifically with pain management, knowing what the research has shown and what I have witnessed with my own eyes, but never fully experienced for myself. Does that make me a hypocrite? Maybe, but how many male gynecologists are actively practicing medicine who will never fully experience what their patients go through every day?
I've just known it works, so I do what I know.
Anyway... I have actively engaged clients in pain management interventions throughout my years as a music therapist, and have even stumbled upon music helping my own migraines from time to time. But through all this professional work with others, I have never engaged the help of a music therapist to assist me with my own pain management because I've never really needed it. I've just known it works, so I do what I know.
Then comes this past 6 months or so when a personal medical issue came up and I was suddenly finding myself staring surgery in the face. Not only was I dealing with impending surgery, but having to wait for surgery and having to manage the pain that accompanied the medical issue that wasn't being managed by medications. So, what do I do? I use this as an opportunity to put my knowledge to the test!
I use this as an opportunity to put my knowledge to the test!
I set up two playlists on Spotify: a pre-op playlist to help me relax and a post-op playlist to help manage my pain (in concert with the lovely pain meds the hospital was going to give me). I discussed my desires for music with my surgeon and he was on board, stating that he would make sure my headphones would be in and the music playing before I woke from anesthesia.
I "practiced" with my playlists in the week or so before my surgery to help train my body and brain to what was going to happen. Listening to the pre-op playlist as I was falling asleep to associate those tracks with calm, relaxation, and falling asleep. Listening to the post-op playlist when I was in pain to help distract myself from the pain and pay attention only to the music. While I realize this is not technically music therapy because I didn't have a music therapist helping me through it - a trained therapist would have been able to read my non-verbals and adjust the music to whatever I needed in the moment - it was as good as I could do for myself.
How did it go? Well, I was so totally mellow during pre-op (I'm sure the meds they gave helped here, too) that I nearly fell asleep waiting to be taken back to the operating room. And I was waiting for nearly 2 hours. Nothing bothered me. My blood pressure was as good as it always is and I was just totally chill. Post-op... well, I don't remember a whole lot, but I do vaguely remember hearing my music and I don't remember being in pain at all. Like no pain at all. Zero. So, yay for meds and music!
If I ever require surgery again in the future, you can bet I'll be implementing this musical procedure again. And I highly recommend it to others as well.
So, yay for meds and music!
I can now say that I have experienced the pain management side of music therapy(ish) first hand and would love to help others experience this for themselves. While my process may have seemed pretty easy and straightforward, remember that I had the background knowledge of the mechanics of music and how it works to help manage pain as I was setting up my own playlists. It actually took me weeks to set up my playlists.
If you want help with something along these lines, please let me know. I would love to help!
If you're at all interested in what I chose for my playlists, here are examples from each:
Post-Op (pain management)