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Music Lessons

Music Lessons - Clark Young 143623 Unsplash

This blog is a bit of a tribute to someone who transformed our attachment. I don’t think it was the music therapy that did it; I think it was the therapist herself.

I’ll call her Jill. Jill taught us how to play. Not piano or guitar, but how to let go of our inhibitions, interact and enjoy our time. And she taught me a lot about love. The love that she gave to my son, the patience, the commitment, the belief, were unwavering, deep and real. 

I would trawl him there, every Friday for two years. For the first year, this meant enduring a non-stop barrage of wind-ups and low-level abuse all morning, and I would arrive feeling little more than animosity toward him. I look back in astonishment at myself offering (asking) to ‘sit out’ of sessions, or taking in a coffee to keep myself awake. I was a mess. A tired, beaten up, discouraged mess. Jill never, ever offered me anything but empathy. Even while the focus was always on my son, she recognised my needs and feelings too. There was no judgement (which we adopters become so used to). No impatience, no ‘Why don’t you do this? Or ‘All kids do that!’ In the gentle surrounds of her respect and empathy, I was able to trust, to learn from her and to bond with my child.

My son, as we confirmed when we watched back the videos, was completely confused by therapy at first. A room full of instruments and toys with him in control of two adults seemed (and was) new and bizarre. Seeing this, from early on, I told him what therapy was and why we went. I wanted that confusion to end so that he could access the therapy. Bear in mind that he was four when we started going! Another huge challenge in his short life. But he rose to it. He now knew that we were going there to help his heart stop hurting. And now, he started to access this therapy in amazing ways. He played in metaphor, bringing us along and casting us out of games and songs in ways that we adults began to read together. We could tease out themes, challenging him in non-threatening ways to dare to change his patterns of trust and attachment.

Once, in the middle of a particularly tempestuous ‘game’, he commanded me to die. I had to lie down, still and dead and not move. And he began to cry. He cried and cried over my dead body, stroking my hair and mumbling, ‘Mummy.’ He wouldn’t let me ‘un-die’ for ages but at last I had to – I couldn’t bear it anymore. I held him and he let me take his pain and comfort him for the first time. The music therapist played the piano while he sobbed and clung on. We understood that this little boy was playing out his trauma, re-experiencing the primal wound.

Jill was masterful at knowing when to steer us and when to leave us ‘alone.’ She played music that echoed our feelings. We knew that we were in the safest, most understanding place imaginable. And, having been with him to experience his unbearable pain, the bond between my son and I began. This was where we began to talk about our ‘special glue’ – nothing could stop us being together, no matter where we went or what happened. This was where we admitted to needing and trusting one another.

Going to music became a wonderful morning together for us. We would enjoy the train, go for cake and coffee and arrive at music. Miraculous when you consider how challenging feelings could be in that space – Jill let my son play, but every session was emotionally charged. My son told me several times that he was scared of going because his ‘heart might break again’. We could never have carried on if it hadn’t been for Jill. The way she remembered every detail of what my son and I had said the week before. The way she set out the room exactly as he had left it. The way she added in little extras, such as squirrel puppets when he said he liked squirrels, or blankets to be wrapped up tight in when it all got too much, or the way she would look deep into his eyes with real, unconditional positive regard. Jill never had an off day, she was never late, she never forgot anything. And this respect, this highest of regard, was what helped my son to understand his value and understand that he could, indeed, be loved and cherished.

The final video, in contrast to the first, showed a boy standing on a huge drum, draped in a ‘cloak’ and singing the Lion King theme at the top of his voice. Triumphant.

When I tuck him into bed these days, I say that he’s my treasure. He doesn’t argue any more, or insist that he’s rubbish. He likes it. He hugs and kisses me. He looks into my eyes. He says he loves me. We recharge our glue, if we’ve had a difficult day. This is a complete transformation and it is because of music therapy or, actually, Jill.

Comments

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  • Jay Nicol

    What a wonderful uplifting read this is! Thank you for sharing with those who have not yet discovered a suitable therapeutic space for their child, it fills me with hope that there are Jills out there bringing a safe space for children and parents. I’m so pleased to have access to this blog.

  • Paul Parker

    Can I pls get Jill’s details?

    • Rosie

      Sadly, I don't think we can give her details. But when seeking therapy, I'm going to bear it in mind that the therapist, not just the type of therapy, needs careful consideration!

    • Rosie

      Try enquiring at creativetherapyadmin@coram.org.uk

  • MandMs

    What a beautiful blog! Thank you so much for sharing this. It has made me cry it is so touching and what a journey you have both been on. This therapy sounds amazing! Can you send some info to WAF to find out more about it please.

    • Rosie

      You can ask your adoption agency or local authority about music therapy. I hope you find a great therapist. https://www.coram.org.uk/music-therapy/impact-music-therapy?gclid=CjwKCAjw3azoBRAXEiwA-_64OotYJlc0s1ygd2JqDoZwIVUFJxgJ1TbWSHQu5uVVNqhWpWW_v-pPPRoCVYMQAvD_BwE

  • Dot

    What a wonderful blog, tears were streaming down my face.
    As a mum who is hoping to start some therapy soon I can only hope that our Jill is waiting out there. I would be over the moon if I achieved a fraction of what you described.

  • Tricia

    Beautifully written and so positive. I would like her details too if possible.

    • Rosie

      I don't think that we can, sorry Tricia. But the best of luck in finding the right therapist.

    • Rosie

      Try this, I found when searching for music therapy, on the Coram site. creativetherapyadmin@coram.org.uk

      • Julia

        Coram are amazing! I was part of their Adoptables group- it's for young adopted adults/late teens.

  • Tricia

    Thanks so much. Will try them.

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