Monday, September 20, 2010

Visual aids in MT

Many of us have taken those personality tests at some point in our life that tells us how we learn best. Some people need to hear the information to absorb it, some need the information in visual form. The most difficult part of school is figuring out how to best study information so that it is stored long-term (or at least until the test is over).

This can be transferred to your own MT session. I find that it is so helpful to use visual aids, especially when the goal of my session is to teach coping skills, positive thinking, time management, etcetera. Having something concrete when teaching a rather abstract concept really helps to get a message across. Sometimes you just have to lay aside the music to be a therapist.

Today was a day for discussing goals, coping skills, and support. We sang songs and played instruments to begin with: "You've Got a Friend" by Carole King, "What a Wonderful World" by Louis Armstrong, and "Dreams" by the Cranberries. After these songs, the instruments and music sheets were put aside, and our real project began. The group worked together to create a mural, a "Garden of Life." Each person was told to complete one flower, one rock, and two or more seeds for the mural. Each piece had a special meaning:

The flower=goals
The rock=support
The seeds=coping skills

The song "Dreams" talks about how the singer's life is changing everyday. While these changes are often hard to accept, there is a lot to gain from them. We learn from change in our life, and so we grow. Because a healthy flower is always growing and reaching for the sky (ok, maybe not all flowers), the flowers we draw represent our goals; we always need a goal to reach and grow toward.

"You've Got a Friend" talks about how there are people and things in our life that will "take your soul if you let them." You must nurture relationships with people or places that steer you in a healthy direction. Our rocks are strong and unable to be moved. They are always there in rain or shine. Who or what can you turn to in your own life through thick or thin? This may be a friend, family member, the hospital or shelter, a counselor, the church, or something else spiritual.

Coping Skills
In "What a Wonderful World," the singer is taking time to notice all the beautiful things that exist in our lives. A healthy coping skill is something that will lighten a burden and NOT add stress in your life. We need a lot of different coping skills to choose from when life gets bumpy. Seeds are plentiful, and they are necessary to nurture growth. A coping skill may be talking with a friend, playing music, exercising, etcetera.

Each patient drew on colorful paper a flower, rock, and seeds. They identified the three things mentioned above, and wrote them on their pictures. Then they cut and pasted onto the mural.

After the project, we hung the mural on the wall. I mentioned its importance not only in inspiring them during their stay at the BHC, but that the mural will inspire patients that come after them. One of the most powerful goals we had today was a patient who wanted to write: "I want to get better so that I don't try to kill myself or overdose again." She grew tearful, and I told her that this will really mean something to other patients going through similar thoughts. It was really touching for everyone to see that mural. Rather than simply talking about all these important concepts, we put it on paper as a visual aid. There is no avoiding it once it is all on paper. Like a contract, there is a paper that binds them to their words about getting better.

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