Therapist. Client.

Two well defined roles.

But what happens in music therapy when you switch up those roles?

When the therapist feels what it feels like to be the client, and the client feels what it feels like to be the therapist.

This idea came to me a few years ago when I was working with a group of teens with autism in Miami.

I was facilitating a musical experience around the idea of being brave and each client was sharing  a time they felt afraid and had to be brave.

After everyone had shared, one of the teens turned to me and said “Ms. Amy, when was a time you had to be brave?”

I was more than a little caught off guard. It took me a moment to gather my thoughts, but I remembered how earlier that week I had gotten blood drawn and that was definitely a time I had to be brave.

Looking back, I’m grateful for that moment – and for many moments like that that have followed in subsequent years – where I was asked to be vulnerable, share something about myself, rap lyrics I’d just written, or improv on a drum.

These are all things we frequently ask our clients to do and we often take for granted how open and willing they are to answer, share, improv, and sing.

I always think back to that moment before I ask my clients to do something in front of me or a group.

I remember what those butterflies and nerves felt like, so I can have empathy and understanding for how hard it may be for them to be vulnerable.

The role reversal benefits work the other way, too.

Have you given your clients the opportunity to stand in your shoes and lead the group, conduct a song, or facilitate a discussion?

Have they had the opportunity to choose what musical experiences you’ll be doing next time, what songs you’ll be singing or what goals you’ll be working on?

The feelings of empowerment that come from this kind of role reversal are significant.

Just some food for thought before you step into your next session.