I was an undergraduate student in music therapy the first time I encountered Carl Rogers’ writing. It was the summer holidays and I was reading “A Way of Being” outdoors in the sunshine. I remember feeling uplifted and affirmed by the ideas in that book: that being with someone and really listening to them could affect change. Today, my understanding of being with continues to expand while remaining foundational to my work.
In this blog post, I share some of my engagement with being with in music, and how it can serve our mental health and well-being.
A Way of Being as a Continuum
As we know, Rogers (1995) was talking about a specific way of being with people that would create the conditions for change. This way of being involves three main elements:
- Unconditional positive regard
- Congruence (also known as Authenticity)
I view each of these elements on a continuum rather than a switch that turns on or off. This means that rather than asking myself questions like, “Am I offering unconditional positive regard?” I inquire instead, “Where am I on the continuum of offering unconditional positive regard in this moment?”
A Dynamic Landscape
In my clinical work and daily life, I find that understanding the elements of this therapeutic way of being on a continuum allows me to:
- View this way of being as a dynamic landscape that I travel within;
- Recognize nuances within this way of being;
- Be open to compassionate self-inquiry around my engagement within this way of being;
- Do the intersectional (Crenshaw, 1989) work of recognizing and attending to how my lived experiences and social locators inform my way of being with clients, and becoming curious about how the combined lived experiences and social locators of myself and my clients inform how we engage in being with each other.
Music Listening as Being-With
The music that we appreciate is connected to our thoughts, feelings, experiences, cultures; in short – the music that we love is connected to our identity and experiences (Belgrave et al., 2021; McFerran et al., 2019). Listening and attending to another person’s music therefore offers a profound way of being with them, often in ways that go beyond words.
Rogers wrote about the role of listening in being-with, stating that “there is a particular satisfaction in really hearing someone, it is like listening to the music of the spheres…” (Rogers, 1995, p. 8). I am grateful for the holding act that music listening experiences provide in sessions with my clients, for I find that when I listen to clients’ music within the way of being that I have been describing, my clients feel deeply heard, that they are appreciated, and that they are more connected to the therapeutic relationship and process.
I have created a short Guided Music and Journaling Experience (available on my Free Resources Page) in the form of a workbook that offers encouragement to explore music listening as a way of being with.
May you and yours be safe and well.
Belgrave, M., & Kim, S.-A. (Eds.). (2021). Music therapy in a multicultural context : A handbook for music therapy students and professionals. Jessica Kingsley.
Crenshaw, K. W. (1989). Demarginalizing the intersection of race and sex: A black feminist critique of antidiscrimination doctrine, feminist theory and antiracist politics. University of Chicago Legal Forum, 1, 139–167.
McFerran, K., Derrington, P., & Saarikallio, S. (Eds.). (2019). Handbook of music, adolescents, and wellbeing. Oxford University.
Rogers, C. (1995). A way of being. HarperCollins.
Thank you for visiting the Music-Integrated Therapy blog!
Please note that this blog is intended for:
-Mental health practitioners interested in integrating music into their clinical work
-Mental health practitioners who love music
-Mental health practitioners trained in Music-Integrated Therapy
If you are seeking support in your mental health & wellbeing from Seabrook Music Therapy, please visit the client-facing website at: https://deborahseabrook.com/sessions/