Cultural Identity in Music Therapy

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    IAMT AdminIAMT Admin

    How does your own cultural identity affect your relationship with music/your clientele/your overall practice?

    Deborah SoszkoDeborah Soszko

    As discussed in this module, our cultural identities are made up of so many facets; my age, sex, gender, where I grew up, spiritual/religious affiliation, primary language spoken, education, etc. affect how I interact with my clients. When I walk into a session, the part of my cultural identity that I feel affects my relationships most is my intense curiosity and Midwest hospitality-type personality; I want to built a rapport that helps us connect in a way that will make the therapeutic process most successful, and I LOVE learning about people’s hobbies, pet peeves and more. I find I often first want to know what makes my client smile/laugh, how they like to high 5 or greet someone, what their favorite artist is, how are they most comfortable sitting; asking questions (verbally and non-verbally) – in MY cultural identity – is considered okay, genial, and almost always an excellent ice breaker for the children I work with. However, this behavior isn’t considered genial. I’ve encountered clients and staff that felt asking questions was intrusive and rude, for cultural, generational, or religious reasons. I had to quickly hone my ability to read the room, adjust my behavior, and either apologize and/or redirect the conversation in a way that conveys to the client/staff that I respect them and look forward to getting to know them in whatever ways they are comfortable.
    This same part of my cultural identity is also my most beneficial trait as I find immense joy in learning clients’ favorite music, dance, culture, and language and figuring out how to combine those with the interests of others in the group. I work hard to model an inviting, safe, and enthusiastic curiosity so that client’s feel comfortable sharing with me, knowing that their thoughts and delights are just as valued as mine, their peers’, and the staffs’.

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