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I’m Back! Re-entering the Therapeutic Process

This week marks my first week back to clinical work after a two month maternity leave. I treasured the time I had with my new baby daughter during those intense newborn weeks, and I am a little sad not to be spending all day with her anymore. I am also excited to get back to work with my music therapy clients, but I am feeling a bit rusty after so much time off.  How am I handling this time of transition?

First, I am taking care of myself, since I have to be functioning well to be an effective therapist. I purposefully planned a lighter schedule this week than normal so that I would have plenty of time to get used to our family’s new routines. In particular, I made sure to have my evenings free so that I could give all my attention to my daughter after bringing her home from daycare. I have given myself permission to get to bed earlier and even take a couple of daytime naps. (Goodness knows new parents are short on sleep!) I have also planned and taken time during the day to make sure we have healthy food in the house so that I won’t have to hit the drive-thru on my way to see clients.

After making sure that I am in a place where I can be focused on work, I am spending extra time making sure all of my business issues are in order. This means updating my income and expense reports, confirming scheduling with my clients, getting my equipment together, and ensuring that I have plenty of copies of my documentation forms ready.

With personal and business issues addressed, I know that I am better prepared to be fully present with my clients. The next step has been to consider how to re-enter the therapeutic process with my clients.

In preparing for my first sessions back with clients, I have been conscious of the fact that their circumstances may have changed during my absence. While I was gone, I had other music therapists filling in for me with my clients, so I spent time reading their documentation from the sessions I missed. I am also planning familiar interventions and musical material so that I can be more focused on re-assessing my clients’ current needs and abilities than on a song I haven’t fully memorized. I have been more deliberate with my verbal prompts and musical decisions in sessions this week as part of this re-assessment process. Taking this step back to re-examine my clinical decision-making and my clients’ responses has been necessary, but also may prove to be beneficial in the long run as I figure out what clinical moves I make purposefully and which ones happen by accident. This will help me to improve overall in my work as a music therapist.

As I reconnect with my clients, I may find that the directions we were taking in music therapy last October might need some tweaking as we move forward into 2011. I am also finding a need to brush up on some of my musical skills and repertoire to find what will work in our sessions now. My clients and I are just now getting our feet wet again as we make music together, but I know I am looking forward to seeing how the therapeutic process will progress in the next few months.

Whether it’s maternity leave, summer break, or just a long vacation, many music therapists, healthcare workers, and caregivers have had the experience of returning to work after being away for a while. How have you managed the transition after returning from a long break?

One issue that I have been thinking about a lot as I start seeing clients again is how much to share in music therapy sessions about the recent events in my personal life. This will be the topic of my next blog post. Stay tuned!

2 comments… add one
  • First, congratulations on surviving the transition from being at home to being back to work (especially with a little one at home- that had to be seriously tough). In the many (really many) years I’ve worked with most of my clients, I’ve been out for extended periods two times- the first was because I needed some time to get re-centered, and the second was due to surgery. I was able to prepare my clients the first time, but I wasn’t really able to do it before I had surgery (it was a little unexpected).

    Having said all that, I’d say that what you share when you come back from being away partly depends on what you did to prepare your clients in the first place. I think the relationship you have with your clients also factors into it. When I went on my leaves, I had clients I’d worked with for years and years, and I also had some newer clients, so the level of trust my clients had varied (i.e., trust that I’d be back- which is a big issue for the folks I work with, and trust that I wasn’t going to be away because of something they did/didn’t do).

    I think it’s kind of neat that you had other music therapists filling in for you- what fabulous quality assurance! I did not have any substitutes (except for a group that I co-lead with another music therapist).

    I guess my focus, when I got back, was on acknowledging any feelings that may have come up with regard to my absence and being consistent (which I try to be in general) in looking at the feelings through the music. We were, I think, fairly well able to pick up where we all left off without any major challenges.

    Sorry to go on forever [sheepish grin]. Meanwhile, I look forward to hearing how it goes for you!

    • soundscapemusictherapy

      Wow, thanks for your comment, Roia. It’s always good to hear your experiences!

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