Sunday, April 1

Story Telling: Through Literature, Music, and Drama

 "Some people walk in the rain, others just get wet."
- Roger Miller


Bibliotherapy is used to provide insight into one's own life, stimulate discussion, communicate new values and attitudes towards certain circumstances, and provide realistic solutions to problems.  It can consist solely of reading, or it can be complemented with discussion or play activity. For example, a child might be asked to draw a scene from the book or asked whether commonality is felt with a particular character in the book. The book can be used to draw out a child on a subject that he or she has been hesitant to discuss.

Have you ever wondered why Romeo & Juliet is usually read in 8th or 9th grade? Romeo is fifteen and Juliet is thirteen, therefore, students at that age can identify with them.  The purpose of bibliotherapy is finding a story that is age appropriate to give the child or youth a better understanding and relation to the characters.  Many people find that the opportunity to read about their problem outside of a 'therapy' session facilitates active participation in their treatment, and promotes a stronger sense of personal responsibilty for recovery.  

 Bibliotherapy has three recognized stages:
1. Identification: when a reader associates themselves with the character or situation in the literary work. 
2. Catharsis: when the reader shares many of the same thoughts and feelings of the characters in the literary work and experiences an emotional release.
3. Insight: when the reader realizes that they relate to the character or situation and learn to deal more effectively with their own personal issues.

When asked to consider which books have had the greatest impact on my life, two come to mind instantly.  The first being 19 Minutes, by Jodi Picoult.  "19 Minutes examines a school shotting in a riveting, poignant, and thought-provoking novel that asks a haunting question: Do we ever really know someone?"  Throughout the novel, we experience the story via numerous viewpoints, including those of the victims who were shot, the lawyers involved, and the shooter himself.  This novel does in no way encourage teen shootings, but it does make you take a second to consider the reasons that lead to someone being pushed too far, and whether or not he was truly in the wrong.  If I was working with a youth who was acting out by bullying others, I would most definitely recommend that he or she should read this book.  

Jodi speaks about a typical school shooter.

The second book I consider to be life changing is Little Princes: One Man's Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children, by Conor Grennan. "About to turn 30, Conor Grennan planned a year-long trip around the world. He started his trip with a three-month stint volunteering in the Little Princes Orphanage in war-torn Nepal. Conor learned the truth about the kids he’d come to love. Many of the little princes were not orphans but rather had been taken from their homes and families by child traffickers. Conor’s life changed in those moments, as he decided to commit himself to these kids. After arriving home, Conor received a devastating email reporting that the seven kids had disappeared, snatched once again by the same trafficker. Soon he was back in Kathmandu, riding through the chaotic streets on the back of a local’s motorcycle, searching for his kids, seven needles in a corrupt haystack. And that is where Conor’s story begins."  I have actually dedicated an entire blog post to this cause, personally taken an interest in joining one day (if only temporarily), and have been in contact with the author himself.  This novel simply teaches us that if we believe in something enough and have the determination; we can change this world for the better, one man at a time.  As Child and Youth Care workers, I recommend this book to you, for when you start to feel burnt out, ineffective, or simply unappreciated, to know you are still making a difference.   
"Why me?  I was the one who showed up."

Music Therapy

What exactly is music therapy? Music therapists assist clients upon improving their cognitive functioning, motor skils, emotional development, affective development, behaviour, social skills, and quality of life by using musical experiences such as singing, songwriting, improvisation, listening, and discussing music to achieve treatment goals. Music can relax, stimulate, or open up channels of self-expression at a deep personal level.  The effectiveness of music therapy is based on transference and self-expression, not musical skills or ability.  Basically, it is a nonverbal method used to facilitate self expression.

"I'm just glad to be back and be back to work again, just doing what I love to do is like therapy."
- Jennifer Hudson, Academy and Golden Globe winning recording artist, speaking on how she dealt with the sudden death of three family members

Which type of music is used?  Infinite music can be used through these therapy sessions.  It is important to use music with the ability to enhance an emotion state, change an emotional state, and act purposely within the auditory environment.  One should also be actively listening, and experiment with music that may not be within their comfort zone.  Music therapy with children can be conducted either one-on-one or in a group setting.  My Own Song as a therapeutic method, is when one asks their child or youth to create a song of their own that describes something that may be bothering them.  Consequently, this will increase their self-awareness, emotional release, problem solving and coping skills.  Another method used is Television Themes.  This is accomplished while listening to selected theme songs from various known television shows.  The main plots of the shows are briefly recalled and then a discussion about the shows' characters is facilitated, and how or why the child may relate to these characters. 

“The power that music holds to impact people emotionally, spiritually and physically never ceases to amaze me,” 
- Matthew Morrison, Emmy and Golden Globe-nominated performer and star of FOX hit Glee

How do we use it?  Improvisation in adolescence music therapy is done in 3 simple stages.
1. The stage of interest: An adolescent becomes interested in music therapy through peers, the support of a music therapist, and an atmosphere which supports self-expression and youth culture.  The unconscious fantasies and hopes of the adolescent are central to this stage.

2. The stage of learning: Adolescent begins to experiment with different musical methods, along with the music therapist.  This may lead him or her to a feeling of being small and a very amateur player.  This is usually a very difficult feeling in adolescence, as one must face so many fundamental developmental issues which cannot immediately be mastered or understood.  If the therapist is able to find some means to help with that experience, the adolescent will begin to have faith in the therapist.   Learning music provides a means of coping with powerful emotions and fantasies.  Well-known musical structures create a feeling of safety as well as providing a frame for adolescent regression.

3. The stage of improvisation: The secure and supportive atmosphere provided by music therapy allows adolescents, even those with a limited musical ability, to freely experiment with instruments and sounds.  Thus, the adolescent takes part in creating music with others. It is this, which allows them to work spontaneously together.  The stages of interest and learning combined with the length and content of which vary with each adolescent, prepare them for actual improvisation.  The improvisation is always new and different and expresses the feelings of the adolescents at the time. It can be free and furious ‘noise’, a search for a gentle, common theme, or it can simply lead to listening to music and to discussion.

"Music therapy can promote wellness, manage stress, allecviate pain, express feelings, enhance memory, improve communication, and promote physical rehabilitation.  Music Therapy is also used to improve neural plasticity- allowing the brain to re-wire around injured areas."
- The American Music Therapy Association

Theatre, Drama, and Film Therapy

Can be defined as a systematic and intentional use of theatre, drama, or film process to achieve therapeutic goals of symptom relief, emotional and physical integration, and personal growth.  Such therapy is used to tell a story, solve problems, set goals, express feelings appropriately, achieve catharsis, increase interpersonal skills and relationships, and strengthen the ability to perform life roles.

With addicted clients, this creative arts modality helps them express emotions more openly and envision a drug-free future. Due to its active nature, drama therapy allows clients to act out negative behaviors, without consequence, while facing them directly and truthfully.
Often the with the use of puppets and dolls, drama therapy with children and adolescents taps into the appeal that play has for young people, assisting them to overcome feelings of isolation and gain control over conflicts and anxieties. 

Theatre Therapy helping veterans cope with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Drama therapy gives a client the opportunity to change their life's narrative.

"In the aftermath of September 11th, I witnessed the enormous benefits of these creative arts therapies in helping people to express their emotions, illustrating the meaningful gains through artistic process."
               - Hilary Clinton

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Lauren Kent

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