Reflections on my first day of group music therapy as a trauma survivor
Updated: Jun 4, 2019
While I've frequented solo therapy throughout my adult years, group therapy is an area I lack experience in. It's always been something I've wanted to try, though.
In fact, I was rejected from a group last year, after my intake interview with the facilitator, because I disclosed my use of drugs as self-medication to deal with my traumas.
That rejection was one of the hardest I've ever had to swallow, and became a partial impetus in my decision to develop healthier coping mechanisms for myself.
Today, I attended my first ever group session—one that utilizes music therapy and is led by a Music Psychotherapist (let's call her Mary). The dynamic was a lot more interesting than one-on-one therapy, for obvious reasons.
Although music is not really my "thing," I currently plan to attend the rest of the sessions (8 weeks total). I'm curious to see how close we can get to 100% safe zone, as a group. This is something one-on-one therapy provides rather quickly, that group therapy cannot.
The general format of today was:
Brief intros. Everyone speaks and shares what they want.
Guided meditation by Mary.
Guided group movement grounding exercises. Reminded me of improv class.
Tour of instrument options. There were two full rooms to choose from.
Group improvisational music for ~30 minutes. Completely freestyle.
Group discussion and processing of the music session.
While being mindful of others' privacy, I'd like to share some reflections on today's session.
Guards were way up. Understandably, people were vague about the specifics of their traumas. I noticed this in myself, as well. I shared that my traumas involved domestic violence, the criminal justice system, and the resulting criminal case, but I did not divulge my arrest as a wanted suspect. On reflection, it is likely because said arrest was peak trauma for me. So, I'm more comfortable disclosing all the lesser traumas that took place before and after being taken into NYPD custody.
Collaboration came quickly. This was surprising to me. Besides Mary, none of us presented as trained musicians, but we were able to get in rhythmic sync in minutes. For brief periods of time, we actually sounded good playing random instruments together.
Comfort in shared goal. Speaking for myself, I took immediate solace in the fact that everyone was willingly present for therapeutic value.
Unspoken understanding. THIS is actually why I've wanted to try group therapy for so long. Since my severe traumas, I've not experienced feelings of mutual understanding in a social setting. Today was the first time, since my assault and arrest, that I've felt everyone around me "get it," even though specifics were not disclosed. That feeling, in and of itself, is deeply therapeutic.