Journey of a Local Partner: Monika's story
Monika began her work with Music as Therapy International in 2002. She was conscious of the fact she wanted to do something new and was fascinated to hear about music therapy in a seminar at the school where she was working. The school catered for children with mild learning disabilities but in 2002 it was in a period of change. The law changed to state that only pupils with severe or moderate disabilities could attend.
“This change was a great challenge for our institution,” says Monika. “The school was now frequented by children with autism, severe mental and motor disabilities and children with attachment disorder from foster houses, or from families where the aggression was the common language. We were unprepared to work with them.” Despite Monika’s experience working with people with disabilities during her student years - when she organised summer camps for them - she had to recognize this was a challenge even for her.
"I think music therapy arrived just in time at our institution, offering us methods and attitudes we needed.”
“In a camp it is easier to accept an avoidant child, or to satisfy his need to move by some games,” she says. “But what to do with them in school, when the teachers expect you to make these children listen to the lessons and be obedient? How to approach them without forcing them, how to motivate them to come closer to you? I think music therapy arrived just in time at our institution, offering us methods and attitudes we needed.”
Monika was chosen to work in a group of 3-4 children aged seven years old with severe mental deficiency. “I worked together with Cathy and Adelaide (the Music as Therapy International volunteers) in a big room, doing six sessions together,” she says. “It was an effort to make them stay around and maintain them in activity. After a while though, the children were accustomed to the musical games and to us.”
At one point, a little girl sat down right in Monika’s embrace and they had a prolonged gaze. The sessions had been recorded and when they watched these recordings back, it was evident there was some sort of maternal bond between them. “At the time I didn’t know about the analogies between the attitude in music therapy and the maternal attitude, but perhaps it was intuitive. Or else my trainers succeeded in developing this attitude of mine,” she adds.
"I have discovered that musical improvisation is a good opportunity for self-knowledge, to reveal the hidden, blocked energies and resources.”
Monika’s self-awareness as both a person and a therapist was developed further during a music meeting with the teachers at the end of the training. “It was a game where I had to beat the drum,” she recalls. “It was a big surprise for me when I listened to my own improvisation; the force and the intensity I used to beat the drum. I thought I was a fragile person but those drum beats exorcised from me a huge quantity of energy. I have discovered that musical improvisation is a good opportunity for self-knowledge, to reveal the hidden, blocked energies and resources.”
After Monika’s trainers went back to England, she remained with the children’s group, her own experience awakening her curiosity about what else could be done with music therapy. She continued to work with the children, taking them into a smaller studio, where they had fewer possibilities to shift away from the activity, and allowing Monika the chance to engage their attention with interesting instruments.
Meanwhile, Monika began training in Ericksonian Hypnosis and family therapy, which helped increase her awareness about what happens in a musical session. Winning a competition organised by Music as Therapy International through Impreuna Review bolstered Monika’s desire to work and brought her recognition. Other organisations began inviting her to take musical sessions.
Working with music therapy has given Monika more confidence in her work. The structure to her activities is an approach that fits with children’s special needs. She believes she has become more empathic and now understands better the communication of her clients, listening not only to what they are saying but also their para-verbal communication.
Having read a book by Tony Wigram - The Art and Science of Music Therapy – Monika gained further information about music therapy sessions. “I found links between the Ericksonian approach and music therapy” she says. Monika went on to present her work at a number of conferences and led workshops at the Music Therapy Conference in 2015 and 2016.
She was asked if she would like to train students in 2007 but didn’t feel ready to do so. Three years later however, she had developed the confidence in her work to give it a go. “I structured a training plan and I sent it to Cathy and Alexia. They were pleased to know I was ready to teach others and accepted my proposal. It was recommended that Monika was helped by her colleague Maia Indrie. “My colleagues were the first students and I experimented my training plan on them together with Maia.”
Monika felt at that moment she was able to offer something special to her school and colleagues. After each training session, she sent a report to Music as Therapy International. At the Training for Trainers, she and Maia felt honoured to participate with Cathy and Jane in training their colleagues. Invitations from other associations to train specialists and the support from Music As Therapy International gave Monika confidence that she was doing a good job. Up until now she has led 15 trainings. It is an intense training - 20 hours in a weekend - but instead of feeling tired afterwards, Monika only feels great satisfaction.
“When they invite me to their institution to introduce music therapy, I feel I have the opportunity of doing something good for this world,”
How to switch from the persuasive model of teaching to the client-centred approach is one of Monika’s big challenges during training. Seeing positive examples of being client-centred during role-play makes her happy. As does feedback after the course, when her students write to her about their work and send questions and sometimes records of their activities. “When they invite me to their institution to introduce music therapy, I feel I have the opportunity of doing something good for this world,” she says. “To build a world where the leader just watches over the development of the child, in his own spontaneity and appreciating the way he is, instead of forcing and conditioning him to assimilate information.”
Monika would like it if there were a culture of music therapy in Romania. This attitude gave her the idea of writing her book In the Way Toward Harmony - music, as resource in healing and rehabilitation. “I felt we needed books like this,” she says. “It must be the case because all one hundred copies of the book are sold out a year after the book launch!”
Her new role as moderator of the ‘Distance Learning Programme - Music Therapy for Little Children with Disabilities’ is a challenge for her. “I feel more responsible because this is the Music as Therapy International course, and in a way I will represent it,” she says. Continuing her learning journey, Monika hopes to find out more through this role about music therapy, and about the way in which a student has to be guided - to maintain the balance between giving the much-needed support and letting them find their own way in how “to music”, as she puts it.