PodcastMechelle Chestnut, Music Psychotherapist

December 1, 2013by Frank Love0

Podcast Episode:
Are the holidays stressing you out? Do you find music relaxing? Are you open to alternative ways to reduce your stress and anxiety? Well, stay tuned as we discuss healing through music … on this edition of Frank Relationships.



Guests: Mechelle Chestnut
Date: December 9, 2013

Frank: Are the holidays stressing you out? Do you find music relaxing? Are you open to alternative ways to reduce your stress and anxiety? Stay tuned as we discuss healing through music on this edition of Frank Relationships.

Welcome to Frank Relationships where we provide a candid, fresh and frank look into relationships with goals of acceptance, respect and flexibility. I’m Frank Love and you can find me, my blog and my various social media incarnations at franklove.com. You can also download the podcast of this and other archive shows on iTunes or with your favorite podcast app.

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Today’s guest owns and operates a licensed psychotherapy practice in New York City. She works with adults to help them move beyond chronic and acute stress, anxiety, creativity, trauma and addiction issues. Wow, that’s a lot to say for music. I never thought of music being able to touch on all of those issues, but I’m going to learn about it.

She’s also the co-founder of MAR Packages, a musical therapy conference for students and professionals. She is Mechelle Chestnut. Welcome to the show.

Mechelle: Thank you, Frank. It’s a pleasure to be here.

Frank: First question, did I say that right? MAR Packages?

Mechelle: It’s MAR Passages and the M-A-R stands for Mid-Atlantic Regions, which is one of the reasons of our national organization, The American Music Therapy Association.

Frank: And the second word?

Mechelle: Passages.

Frank: Passages, alright. Got it. Alright, what is music therapy?

Mechelle: Music Therapy is the clinical evidence basic of music interventions in a therapeutic relationship between client and therapist with a therapist being a totally credential and trained professional.

Frank: What kind of credentials are we talking about? You took a music class when you were in college or what?

Mechelle: I did happen to take music classes, but the credentials for being a Music Therapist, we go to a program. In our field we offer undergraduate, graduate and doctorate programs. To attend a program-that is credential music therapy program to complete that with an internship and then we also are certified by our national certifying body–the certification board for music therapists. For that we take an exam initially, to receive that. Like many professionals we are up for recertification every five years based on our own research and participation field and current practices.

Then, in each state, each state has different licensing laws. I live in New York and I practice in New York and so I have what’s offered here, which is a Licensed Creative Art Therapist credential or LCAT and that signifies license and all that other work that I just mentioned to you and that I’m able to practice and say that I practice as a licensed *(inaudible) 05:56 therapist in the state of New York.

Frank: I have a Master’s in physical therapy and if I was talking to-which I guess I am right now-if I was talking to a large audience, most of them would know what physical therapists do and at some level have some history, and to be honest, take the profession seriously. Help me in my effort to play ignorant and in some ways, the devil’s advocate, help me take music therapy seriously.

Mechelle: Sure. Firstly, one of the things I love about music and music therapy is that music is everywhere.

Frank: It is. It really is.

Mechelle: It’s everywhere. Of course it’s on the radio. It’s everywhere online. You can buy music. You can download music. When we go shopping it’s-

Frank: In the grocery stores.

Mechelle: Playing.

Frank: That’s right.

Mechelle: Right.

Frank: And it boosts sales.

Mechelle: Right, exactly. In my mind marketing departments and customer service departments, they probably have music playing and certain types of music playing to help customers feel comfortable to purchase their products. My point in saying that is there is some sort of effect. There’s something about the music that touches people in a certain way.

Something that I know personally that I just connect with certain sounds at certain times, certain pieces of music, or maybe sometimes I want to relax and I might put on some music to do that or maybe to dance and to really get fired up. We all have those sorts of connections with music.

For me, the idea to have this part of our human life in existence it’s so natural to us that can help us to grow more and to feel our feelings and to be creative and express it, which is what humans really know how to do. That’s what we’re here to do.

Doing those natural human things can be lost at times, because of just maybe some sort of trauma or just issues that come up, we can get lost and these natural expressions and creativity can be hindered momentarily. So, accessing something that is within us anyway.

Frank: Given what I said in the intro, we’re talking about addiction, clearly companies are not going to reach out to a therapist for dealing with addiction. Would a company reach out to you to change the atmosphere in a store if they wanted to boost sales? Would they contact you for some counsel on what would be the best music to play or the best radio station in a given community where the demographic may be all white or all African American? Would they reach out to you for something of that nature or do you just strictly work with individuals?

Mechelle: Yeah, that’s a really interesting question. I don’t know any music therapist, myself included, who have been contacted for such a thing, but it certainly would interesting to see if that’s something we could help out with. I really work with people in the clinical study and most therapists I know do that. But yeah, it would be interesting to see. It’s something that I thought about and wondered “Who’s creating the music in the background and what is it that they really are trying to go for?”

Frank: Describe your office for me. What’s it look like? What tools do you have in it? In a medical office, you’ve got the stethoscope, but what do you have?

Mechelle: My version of a stethoscope is a keyboard, piano-an electric piano. I have various hand drums.

Frank: Hand drums?

Mechelle: Percuss-

Frank: Okay.

Mechelle: Hand drums, yeah. They’re drums that can be handheld and played with the hands or some of them, like a Djembes, something that can be either held, sort of within the legs or set on the floor and played with the hands. Other types of percussion instruments like tambourine. There’s something called an ocean drum, which looks like a handheld drum, but when you move it back and forth, it sounds like the ocean. Also, I have a guitar and a microphone and the ability to record what we’re doing, record any songs and compositions that we’re creating together.

Frank: Give me your demographic breakdown: children, adults, black, white, men, women.

Mechelle: It really depends on the setting and, of course, the location and what sort of work is being done there. I worked in public schools in an urban area for several years, just outside of New York. The demographic there, I’d say I worked with half boys and half girls, by the end, although, initially it was mostly boys who were referred to me.

Frank: Interesting.

Mechelle: Yeah, I made an effort to reach out more to the girls. I think in that situation, the girls tended to be the quieter ones. The quiet suffers generally, whereas the boys were usually a little louder about it. That said, there were girls who were acting outwardly as well, and boys who were quieter. Also, in the schools, just because of where that school was, most of the children were Latino.

Frank: Got you.

Mechelle: Yeah, it was just a few Asian, African American and Caucasian.

Frank: And do you have a private practice?

Mechelle: I do. I have a private practice here in New York and I’m serving adults with anxiety, stress and traumas. In January, I will be expanding my practice. Actually, I’m offering, a-first-of-its-kind in New York, as far as I know, an at-home music therapy service for prenatal and postpartum women.

Frank: Okay. Very nice and speaking of pregnancy, relationships, how does music therapy and relationships-how do they co-exist?

Mechelle: The *(inaudible) 14:30 and any therapy relationship in my opinion is the therapeutic relationship. In music psychotherapy, music is the added presence and mode and a way of expressing one’s self. It’s also a way of holding the expression and I’ll say more about that.

In music psychotherapy, which is the work that I do, the client and I may improvise together or make any sort of music together as long as they know we’ll sing together. Maybe I’ll listen. Just the very act of engaging in music or playing together, of singing together, of having me as a therapist listen to what the client is playing or singing, being witness to this expressions of oneself, that’s a very intimate exercise. It’s an act intimacy that for people who have relationship issues or feel like it’s a difficulty being with people, that’s a big deal.

The space in music therapy is a great receiving ground for a client to get in touch with this, to take the very steps of getting closer with somebody else. We workshop that. In music therapy, we literally play with getting closer.

Frank: Okay.

Mechelle: We play music and we can reenact the issues or the scenarios from way back when that are still haunting them. We can reenact that in a way that’s safe, without re-traumatizing, without just going through the same old thing again. We do it in a new way that makes it healing.

The music holding aspect of it is that it’s kind of like a bubble in a way that can keep the safety that we’re in this together, we’re in the music together and that it’s a very much contained thing. I think new people who have any sort of trauma, the sense of safety can be lost.

My job as a therapist, as a psychotherapist in music, is to keep that ground safe, to keep the boundaries firm, but loose and pliable and to keep the ground safe, the space safe for exploration and creativity and to offer acceptance as well for this awareness. The awareness is coming up of-awareness of feeling.

Frank: What kind of music do you listen to in your personal time?

Mechelle: I got to tell you, right now I’m listening to 50’s pop and rock music with my 15 month old daughter. We’re having lots of dance parties to that and it’s just a lot of fun. I love listening to anything and I really mean that. I grew up playing classical music. I played viola. I studied viola very seriously. Even though it was not in my culture of my family of origin to listen to classical or play classical music at all, I got into that. So, I love listening and playing classical music and then-

Frank: Well, that takes me into my next-it’s a little game I want to play.

Mechelle: Okay.

Frank: When I’m going to give you genre of music, I want to know what comes to mind and there’s no right answer. So, coming from a music therapist by the name of Mechelle Chestnut, what comes to mind when I say “hip hop?”

Mechelle: I’ll tell you what comes to my mind is fun, toughness. For me, it can be an expression of toughness or anger. And I’m talking about for me personally-

Frank: I’ve got you.

Mechelle: Because the question that I get often is, “What music would you prescribe for a person who is depressed or whatever,” and it’s a great question. It makes a lot of sense to ask that, but that’s not really what we do and so I don’t prescribe a certain type of song or genre necessarily for somebody based on how they’re feeling. But I certainly have my own associations-

Frank: Right.

Mechelle: With all kinds of music. Yeah.

Frank: Alright, country music.

Mechelle: Country. What comes to my mind is earthiness, everyday folks. And that’s something that I’ve come onto more recently actually. A long time I had my own resistance to it and didn’t like it.

Frank: Really:

Mechelle: Yeah, and-

Frank: Where are you from?

Mechelle: I grew up in Philadelphia.

Frank: Got you, so inner city you’d say or suburbs?

Mechelle: Inner city.

Frank: Okay. Alright, got you. So, New York isn’t really a big stretch for you.

Mechelle: It’s not now and I thought it would be when I moved. I moved here when I was 18 and I thought, “I got this,” but after all, it’s New York City and New York City’s got you.

Frank: Yeah, New York can be a stretch for anybody outside of New York.

Mechelle: I’ve been here awhile now and I love it and it’s definitely home.

Frank: Country music, earthy. I’m going to tell you, number one, I am a black male, 41 years old, I grew up on hip hop and R & B. If there’s something in my CD player-and yes, I still own a CD player and that’s primarily my motive of music. I don’t do the iPod like the rest of the world. But hip hop is where I go first, but I have a real appreciation for country music.

I don’t get exposed to it, because it’s not a station-it’s not the radio station I listen to on a day-to-day basis, but when I’m riding across country or riding between cities or something like that and come across a country station, I often find music that I really appreciate in a message that I really appreciate. It’s lot of fun. It’s a lot of fun.

I’ve told different friends of mine about songs that I’ve heard along the way and different messages and they’re often wild that I would bring something like that out of my bag of tricks. But hey, iI appreciate it. What can I say. Alright, next genre: Rock and Roll.

Mechelle: Rock and Roll, what comes to my mind is letting-

Frank: Your 15 month old.

Mechelle: Yeah, letting loose, having fun, being wild, being loud.

Frank: How about Rock?

Mechelle: Rock, well in what way is different than Rock and Roll?

Frank: I consider Rock kind of heavy metal, that sort of thing. Rock and Roll, I think of 60’s and that kind of thing-Chuck Berry. But when I’m thinking of Rock, it’s a little different. So, you scratch Rock and say heavy metal.

Mechelle: Right, right. This is another genre that I’m recently coming onto. Heavy metal and Country, which the two genres-I like everything but that. But now I really do enjoy it and what still comes to my mind, for me when I listen to those things, just aggression and incredible technicality.

The musicians are often so technically proficient and I had no idea about that. But as I’ve opened myself up to that, I’ve gotten to learn that. It’s really incredible to me.

Frank: That brings to mind, I was listening to an interview with Jay Z sometime ago and he was saying for hip hop artists, often the instrument or the most important instrument or some variation of-he was saying some variation of that, that the most important instrument is the actual voice of the artist. But in listening to you talk about the technical skill of heavy metal artists, I’m thinking that the real beauty and the real skill is in the music. Does that resonate with you at all? Am I right? Am I wrong? Do I know what I’m talking about?

Mechelle: I think it’s all right. It sounds alright and this is the beauty of music and music psychotherapy work is that it really depends on the person. For some people the voice through speaking and through songs and through rap is the way that they really can truly express themselves and that is their instrument for being musical and being creative. Other people, they have that experience, but it’s through an instrument, which is an extension of oneself. It’s once removed. But people can really feel that they’re channeling their voice through the instrument.

Of course, singing and playing an instrument can all require a necessity, technical proficiency? It’s just on an instrument, there are different things. You have your fingers involved or your arms involved in a different way or even your feet with certain instruments. It can involve more body parts in a sense. But look, all of us who have the ability to speak and to use our voice, and it’s there.

We all have that instrument in us anyway and that’s a big part of the work that I do. I studied a model of music therapy, like a subset of music there called, Vocal Psychotherapy. A big part of my practice is accessing the voice, using the voice in songs as the way for healing to happen.

Frank: This isn’t necessarily looked at as a genre of music, but I’m going to throw it out there anyway. Poetry. Particularly that, that rhymes.

Mechelle: Poetry that rhymes. What comes to my mind is fun and ease and intellectualization. These are the words that are coming to my mind. I love poetry, because for me, it’s so connected to songwriting.

Frank: Yes, it really is.

Mechelle: In pop culture, of course, a lot of songs rhyme. I think poetry and music and songwriting are very connected and it’s very expressive for people. Poetry therapy is one of the creative arts therapies.

Frank: Classical music, you touched on it a little bit, but I would love to hear, what are your general thoughts about classical music?

Mechelle: What comes to my mind about classical music is depth and richness and etiquettes. There’s a song “My associations,” but my general thoughts about classical music are that it’s so broad.

Classical music is actually a term for a very, very broad set of music and there is the classical music genre or a time period-a classical music time period. Then, there’s also the romantic time period and the Baroque time period, all of which we call classical music.

For us, generally speaking, it’s kind of old music. It’s 50 years old, it’s a hundred years old, it’s 200, 300, 400 years old-this music. There’s really incredible music that’s out there. It’s obviously not so much a part of our pop culture right now. Orchestras in this country are suffering financially and the audiences tend to be much older. And the younger people for some reason, there’s not a connection with the younger crowd that there used to be long ago.

My hope for it is that it survives, because there’s amazing music to listen to and I love it. As I mentioned, I played and studied classical music growing up. It was a lifeline for me. As a kid-I was an inner city kid. It was unusual. People around me were not playing or listening to it and couldn’t connect, but I did. It literally took me around the world and it brought me to people and places and situations that were really touching and that I just would not have had if I were not playing classical music.

Frank: I have heard Baroque music and it is not the kind of music you listen to, to feel good. Do you really see it? How will it “survive?” If it’s alive now, how will it survive? What will it take?

Mechelle: That’s the question. I think that’s the question that people are asking. That people who run orchestras and folks who are playing classical music today-young people who are playing, they’re asking this question, “How can we have this survive?” From my stand point, music is something that’s innate in us. It’s inside us that we just get music. We get rhythm. Even if you’re somebody who says, “Oh, I can’t sing. I can’t play a drum. I don’t have rhythm.” It’s there in some way.

Frank: And it affects us.

Mechelle: Right, arrhythmia and atonality, it’s actually rare. We have that in us. I think it’s somehow–the classical music team connecting with the population in a way that really hooks us, that gets to a part of us and the feeling part of us that classical music can connect with. Because I believe it’s there. I’ve experienced it myself.

But I think whenever I do hear classical music outside-I don’t hear classical music coming loudly from somebody’s car stereo. That’s not what I’m hearing. When I do hear classical music out, it’s usually the background of a store and that is one viable use of that or any sort of music.

So much of classical music for me though, is sitting down in a quiet space and actively listening. In our society of today, we have lots of distractions. We have lots of ways to be distracted and I think the arts and our human capacity actively listen, in my opinion is that, that’s being affected by how busy we are. So, something in a way requires active listening is just going to suffer.

Frank: The last genre-jazz-certainly not the least. But Jazz, let’s hear how it rubs you.

Mechelle: I think of my husband right away, because he’s a Jazz musician.

Frank: What instrument?

Mechelle: My husband, he plays trombone and piano. He is really a wonderful musician. I think of him and I think of family and I think of friends, because we’re surrounded by really wonderful jazz musicians here in Brooklyn. I also think about sort of a raw expression. It depends on the type of jazz.

Avante garde jazz, I think of raw expression and being in the moment. Then, the more traditional jazz, I think of fun and dancing and togetherness, especially the big groups, old time bands that used to be really popular. Social gatherings.

Frank: Do the different genres do different things for your patients? Do you rely on them for a different effect?

Mechelle: The way that I rely on them is through the clients. The music psychotherapy work is client-centered and client-driven, so the genre and the music or anything specific about the music is really coming through the client. A certain genre with one client is going to bring up something entirely different than what it brings up in another client. I would ask them, “What is this saying for you? How do you relate to it? What is this song saying for you and what do you feel when you hear it? What do you feel when you sing it?”

It’s really not so much about me saying, “Oh, I want to help you feel a certain way, so let’s listen to this music.” In fact, I rarely choose songs for clients, because what happens in the psychotherapeutic process, if I’m doing that, then I would be kicking the power away from the client. I really want to empower the client to make their own choices.

Frank: How do they make that choice? Are there five buttons sitting in front of them and you can say, “Press a button and tell me how this particular song feels to you,” and then it leads them into making another selection? How does that work?

Mechelle: I’m so glad you asked that. Actually, I can give you examples of work that I’ve done. When I worked in the public school, I worked with a boy-I’ll call him Chuck, and I’ll change some of the identifying information and our experience just to protect his confidentiality and anonymity.

Frank: Of course.

Mechelle: I’ll call him Chuck and I worked with him for a few years. The way that our sessions went for most of that time was he was referred for attention issues that was later diagnosed as ADHD, attention deficit hyperactivity, and that was identified initially in school through his behavior. He couldn’t focus on school. He was acting out in class and he was aware enough that he couldn’t control it. He saw himself doing these things and he couldn’t stop.

What we did in music therapy since the other types of counseling-the school deems that he needed more and he needed something different. He usually made beats on his desk. That was one of the things that got him in trouble often.

Frank: About how old was he?

Mechelle: At the time of coming in, he was 12.

Frank: Okay.

Mechelle: He got in trouble for using his hands and his wrists and his arms on his desk for making beats. You’d hear the background of a pop song or a hip hop rap song. He came in and we talked. “What’s going on? How’s your day? How are you feeling?” Then, he started making beeps in our session and I started beating along too. I do that, because I want to show him that I’m interested in what he’s doing and that-

Frank: Instead of telling him to stop.

Mechelle: Right. I’m accepting him and what he’s doing. So, now we’re actually playing together and when that stopped, I told him that I had recording equipment and we could record him if he wanted to. He was very excited about that. What he did, he chose to tell me what instrument to play. He chose an instrument for me and he had his setup of where he was going to make his beats, because a desk will give a different sound than the the metal part of a chair, which will sound different than-

Frank: The radiator?

Mechelle: Right, exactly. So, to make all these different sounds, it might replicate different parts of a drum set: the base, snare, the hi hat. We had the orchestration set-the instruments, the sounds were set. Then, he told me, “Okay, I’m going to go first and I’m going to tell you when to come in.” And I said, “Okay.” So, he pressed record and he got started and he played and got the rhythm going.

Then, he gave me hand signals or gestured when to start coming in. So, then I came in. And then, we just improvised. We made up the music as we went along. And he would also conduct like a conductor conducts an orchestra or a band of when I would stop playing to give him solo, when I would come back in when to play quieter, when to play a little louder. Then, at the end, he would also give me with his whole body-give me the gesture for maybe slowing down to the end or maybe speeding up. However he wanted the ending of the song to go, he would show me through his body language.

Musically, what I would do is, I would sort of mimic what he was doing. Maybe echo what he was doing and we call that reflecting. I would reflect musically what he’s doing and the purpose of that is to help the client have a greater self-awareness, to hear themselves. To see themselves, hear themselves and to enhance what it is that they’re expressing and encourage more of whatever it is that they’re expressing-to let it out, so that we can see it and then eventually talk about it and learn more about it, because that’s information about where the person really is. Musically, I reflect what they’re doing. I’m very selective. This sort of improvisation with a client is not time for me to shine. It’s time for me to let loose. I’ve got to take care of that for myself outside.

Frank: Yeah, you play the supporting role. You’re being conducted. As you said, he was the conductor.

Mechelle: Exactly, and that’s where the power is for the client.

Frank: Yes, I understand.

Mechelle: Because whether the client is a child or an adult, people with any sort of really relationship issue, any kind of trauma, whether it’s a developmental trauma, like not having certain needs met growing up or an actual event that has happened, there is some with loss of power that’s happened. This works so great, because we can play with power, literally play with it and have this experimental playground in music that can be non-threatening and its very direct.

Music can go really deep, really quickly and that’s really great, because words, I find, either people have trouble choosing or knowing how to describe it is that they’re feeling, because either they don’t know the words or they don’t know the feelings to even be able to talk about it. Or people are so adept at using words and they intellectualize what’s going on and they can use words to just skirt around their feeling experience.

Music is a great way to get through that rather quickly. With this boy Chuck, we played with power and he had the power and I was there with him through that and containing the experience and keeping it safe. We worked like that for quite awhile and he had a lot of improvement. His grades went up, he was one of the most popular kids at the school and he just loved music. He wanted to get involved in the school band. I think he performed in some talent shows, which he previously he had not, because he was just too afraid to do it.

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You’re listening to Frank Relationships and we’re talking with Mechelle Chestnut. She’s a licensed psychotherapist that uses music as a modality. She’s actually a music therapist in New York City. She works with adults to help them move beyond chronic and acute stress, anxiety, creativity, trauma and addiction issues, by introducing them to music therapy. Mechelle, how can our listeners find you?

Mechelle: Thanks for asking. I can be found online at mechellechestnut.com and mechelle with an “e.”

Frank: That’s m-e-c-h-e-l-l-e. Correct?

Mechelle: Yes, thank you.

Frank: Are most insurance companies willing to pay for your treatments?

Mechelle: This is something that’s in progress and depends on each state.

Frank: Okay. New York?

Mechelle: What’s often happening now is that, music psychotherapists are offering-and this is my stance, I’m not on any insurance panel, which means that I’m not in network for any insurance. But I will submit to the client all the information of the insurance company will ask them, so that the client-

Frank: Can submit.

Mechelle: Can then submit it for reimbursement. Some music therapists are in networks. In New York, the licensed create arts therapist title LCAT is relatively new.

At this point it’s about eight years old, I think, and so it takes some time for a new license to be incorporated into the Medicaid system and insurance companies to recognize it as an actual practice, because there are other practices that they’ve known about for so long, like social work, psychology. But it’s happening.

Frank: Yeah, I see it. I see. Let me hear about the referral process. Who typically gives you a referral? Is it the physician, the social worker, the physical therapist, the teacher? Who gives you business?

Mechelle: Great question. All of the above. Referrals can come certainly from doctors. I make connections with doctors who can see that sometimes patients come in and maybe they have medical issues or maybe they don’t, but their feelings are coming out through their body. They’re having pains that are really from stress.

Doctors are really a wonderful referral resource for us. And yes, other psychotherapists as well, like social workers and psychologists. I oversee those referrals. One referral I received recently from a social worker, she said, “This person just won’t move forward with talking anymore and she likes being creative and I think being creative in therapy is a thing that she needs and maybe wants to pursue in therapy.” My colleagues who are working only in the verbal therapy world, they see that it’s also beneficial for their clients. Sometimes we work together. And then, certainly teachers-I think music teachers are great.

Frank: I can see that too.

Mechelle: Because a lot can come out in a lesson and teachers can see that a student might need a little more support or a different type of support than what the music teacher is really there to give.

Frank: Do you do any outreach to music teachers so that they even know that you exist? Do most of them know you exist or do most of the school systems have music therapists, so you as a private practitioner, really wouldn’t get the referral from the music teacher?

Mechelle: Having had time and experience working in the public schools, I know that relatively speaking, there aren’t many of us who are working in public schools in the country. They’re there, here and there, there are some music therapists and creative arts therapy programs in public schools throughout the country.

It’s happening and while I was working there, I was very connected with the music department and they did send clients to me. Now, with my private practice, now I’m focusing on adults. It’s a little different now, but if I were working with children now, definitely connecting with music teachers in schools would be a great way to be of service to the children of the community.

Frank: Got it. A typical session, is it a half hour, an hour and do you find yourself recommending folks come in three times a week, once a week, once every two weeks? Paint a picture for me.

Mechelle: Sure. The length of the session is 50 to 60 minutes.

Frank: Five-zero to six-zero.

Mechelle: Yeah.

Frank: Okay.

Mechelle: Yes. When someone comes in, I welcome them and just like you would with anyone. “How are you? What’s going on with you today?” And we warm up, sort of like the introduction of a song and we get to know where the person is at today. Then, based on that information I may ask, “What song comes to mind about this,” and then, clients may say, “Well, I don’t know or nothing’s coming to mind.” Then, I know that there’s something there.

There’s usually something there, so I keep probing and eventually a song comes out. “Well, I don’t know why I’m thinking of this song, but it’s just popping up in my head. I’m sure it’s not related.” And I know that in some way it is related and it’s our work to learn how it’s related.

Let’s say, for example, the song, Poison by Beyonce. That song is a wonderful song for therapy and for relationships, because it’s very expressive of co-dependent relationships. A client brought that in once and we listened to it and was *(inaudible) 56:19 it and she just loved it. I asked, “What is it about the song,” and she said, “I don’t know. I just like the way she sings it and I like the way she sounds.” Her standpoint was from a purely musical prospective and this person was very musical. Wonderful voice, musically gifted person actually, which by the way was not a requirement for music therapy. No one has to have a background in music to be a client in music therapy.

People often do, because they’re inclined already in music, but it’s not a requirement. I said, “What about the words? What are these words saying,” and she didn’t know. But we started to comb through them. It’s very long song, lyrically. We just talked-looked at some of the words and over time, discussed how it was indicating co-dependency of losing oneself, feeling poisoned by a relationship with someone else and not letting go of such a relationship, where you keep going back to it. Then, once we had this awareness and she said, “Oh yeah.” I asked, “Have you been in relationships like that,” and then we get to talk about her own personal history, her own narrative of being in a co-dependent relationship. it was something maybe outside of her awareness. It wasn’t her present day awareness that it was still active in her, but it is.

Frank: What about couples? Do you ever work with a couple or you basically work with individuals sometimes about issues related to a couple?

Mechelle: My work is with individuals and we certainly deal with their side of the street, so to speak, and how they are in a relationship. Most of the adults who come to me, one of their primary concerns is either a relationship that they feel toxic that they’re in, or their lack of relationship with people.

Frank: And what about a treatment outcome? Give me an example of a successful goal that’s reached.

Mechelle: A successful goal that’s reached is when-thinking of a client that is long-term, this person had a lot of fear about being expressive about singing, Had a lot of fear about speaking. In general, fear about being out in the world, which is in a relationship in itself-relating with the world. Yet, she wanted to sing and loved singing and it was like this closeted hidden part of her.

Over time, through playing songs and listening to the songs and talking about what comes up from these things and improvising and then even the more-what we call the receptive music therapy-that’s the listening to music and the act of listening and maybe meditating through music. I might guide a client to meditate and have a journey in music.

There are various things we can do in music over time. There’s a gradual opening up and, again, like I mentioned earlier, the whole music experience, whether it’s the music in one session or our musical relationship that we build over time, creates a safety net to receive these parts of herself that have been hidden for so long that they come out.

When people experience this coming out, there’s a real vulnerability. There’s so much courage and their vulnerability and there can be fear. It’s a very delicate time and a very special time, so having the time and space and the safety there for that to come out and to create a flow now of these parts of herself to come out, we did that.

Then, seeing the client, just able to speak and to have stories of how her relationships are changing out in the world and that she’s starting to sing out. Opening up outside of the world and through the work and the workshopping, in a sense, that we’re doing in the therapy session, and the music is also metaphor. That’s a very strong tool for us. The music is a metaphor for life.

Frank: As is any part of our lives. It speaks to the other parts of our lives. If you have one, give me a 10 second take-away message that you want this audience to walk away with.

Mechelle: My message is that using psychotherapy with adults is an expanding field and it’s effective. I’d say it’s worth a try. If you’ve been trying to get through something or to feel better and just talking or just doing what you’ve been doing isn’t working, then try something different for different results, is going to work and music therapy is a great way to do that.

Frank: You’re listening to Frank Relationships. We’ve been talking with Mechelle Chestnut, a licensed music psychotherapist in New York City. She works with adults to help them to move beyond chronic and acute stress, anxiety, creativity, trauma and addiction issues, by introducing them to music, particularly music therapy. Mechelle, last time would you tell our listeners how they can find you.

Mechelle: Sure. I can be found at mechellechestnut.com.

Frank: Along today’s journey, we’ve discussed the profession of being a music therapist, the tools of the therapy that she provides in her office and music and relationship dynamics.

I hope you’ve had as much fun as I’ve had discussing music therapy and its benefits. As always, it’s my wish for you to walk away from this conversation with a heaping helping of useful information that’ll help you create a relationship that’s as loving and accepting as possible. Let us know what you thought of today’s show at facebook.com/relationshipflove, on Twitter @mrfranklove or franklove.com. On behalf of my producer, Phileta Legette, my assistant producer, Anayza Stewart and the man on the boards, Jeff Newman. Keep rising. This is Frank Love.


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