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Dealing with Symptoms of Loss and Depression
The theme of loss can be both filtered and processed through clients' own creations. In our experience, several clients have written therapeutic prose, poems, and narratives (Gallant, Holosko, & Siegel, 1997). Without much encouragement, these clients were able to identify major themes and insights that captured the substance of their loss and the gruelling ordeals they sometimes had to endure. Music intervention helps to mobilize ego strengths and coping abilities and facilitates the expression of emotional content. Unkefer (1990) encouraged clients to reflect creatively on their experiences and to write imaginatively as a way to express the deeper feelings they could not express verbally.
The Final Moments of Life
Illustrating such peace is the story of Josie. Drifting in and out of consciousness, Josie was in the final stages of dying. She had a strong belief in extrasensory perception, parapsychology, and the occult. She had once vividly recounted a story in which she heard a knock at the door in the middle of the night. Startled, she asked her husband to see who was there. To his amazement, he saw the hallowed image of a person wearing a captain's hat. He was later notified that his father had died around the same time that morning. Josie often communicated to her worker about her own demise and using the image of the captain, she reassured the worker that she was at peace and that after her death she would wait for her friends and relatives to join her in "her place of peace and bliss." She lived her final days with a tremendous degree of faith, hope, and courage. She found consolation in the belief that those dear to her would eventually be reunited in a joyful feast in "a land full of bliss." Reflecting Josie's attitude, the song in Appendix D contains images of a calling, a ship and its captain in a storm, a journey home, and a bonding wish for friends and relatives to reunite.
A Sense of Celebration after Life
Implications for Counselors and Therapists
To promote healing, counselors must engage various strategies: (a) "test the waters" by using music creatively in practice; (b) incorporate prose, narrative, or poetry writing as an integral part of grief work; (c) ask clients to write about the positive and negative aspects of their grief; (d) ask clients to personalize lyrics for their favorite songs (e.g., "Amazing Grace," popular folk or contemporary music); (e) meet clients where they are in the grieving process and build toward a mutually agreeable direction; and (f) join colleagues with similar interests and use songs that have been tested in the field.
The use of music at the practitioner level is process-oriented, emotionally sensitive, socially directed, and awareness-focused (Gladding 1992b). It can be used as an adjunct to grief counseling or as an integral part of the therapeutic process. Since grief counselors are trained to recognize and understand the unique personalities of clients and their environments, they are ideally positioned to incorporate music into practice.
- Gallant, Wilfred & Michael Holosko; Music intervention in grief work with clients experiencing loss and bereavement; Summer 2001; Vol. 16; Issue 4.
Reflection Exercise #9
Online Continuing Education QUESTION 16
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