Working through the creative process, learning through the other
As I enter Avi Mazor’s music studio in Tel Aviv, I encounter warm cream colored walls, red curtains, and soft sunlight waltzing through the windows. The studio is equipped with both standard musical instruments as well as instruments that you probably have never seen in your life.Their faces peek at me from the shelves, inspiring curiosity and wonder.
Mazor – who works at the Shalvata Psychiatry Hospital as well as at his own private practice in Tel Aviv - started out as a professional musician before pursuing his master’s degree in music therapy at Bar Ilan. His initial fascination with music therapy grew from a series of lectures at David Yellin College discussing sexual abuse through case studies done with various expressive therapies. “I could hear the unconscious and the feelings of the patient through listening to the music as well as the development in the client’s music over time,” he said.
Expressive therapies base themselves on the idea that there is direct parallel between the therapeutic and artistic process. It provides a way of healing in which the client takes an active role in his own healing process. The therapist is there as a witness and a guide in the exploration of the creative process as it relates to the life of the client, but it is the client who ultimately is the expert on his internal processes. The expressive therapies include modalities such as music, dance, movement drama, and art to treat everything from autism
and PTSD to mental retardation.
On music therapy Mazor notes that: “Music and song lyrics are often connected to emotional states and conflicts in life. When I sing together with the client or work on voice, it makes the client feel more attached to his or her body and soul and helps him to get to something more true, authentic and whole.” Mazor, who uses many forms of music, as well as song writing and improvisation, says, “There are some people who cannot express themselves in other groups such as psychotherapy groups but find ways to express themselves with music.”
“It is amazing to see the diversity in Israeli society. People come from different places and each one comes with their own music. We can get to know each other and communicate through music. But this process is not always easy,” Mazor said, “Many times gaps between ethnic groups and different countries come out, and through the process of music therapy the group learns to listen and respect the different voices in the room.”
“Many times the act of singing, playing and dancing together provides the opportunity to share an experience or feeling that could not be shared in a typical psychodynamic therapy group. For some people music and expression is their way to communicate with others. The group can provide a microcosm for society. People who learn to communicate in the therapy group can take their experience out into the world (Yalom)”
Employing the creative process can enlighten traditional concepts of therapy and community building, allowing many forms of expression and interpersonal learning to occur. Participants ultimately learn to be self leaders with the guidance of the therapist and the meeting of the other in the artistic process and through the interactions with other people.