“Creating, interpreting and listening to music has always been a human need… When we create music, when we listen, when we dance, we are shaping our inner world,”Enrica Tifatino
The following interview forms part of a series where I invite psychotherapists to each reflect on their personal history, meaning, and philosophy, and how those are embedded throughout their therapeutic practice.
This week I talk to Enrica Tifatino, a Music Therapist, trained in Art Therapy, Dance and Expression of Movement, specialising in theatre dramaturgy.
What can art, music, and dance express that words alone may not?
To speak of art is to speak of a language. A symbolic language, a language that goes beyond words. Art, music, dance, are made up of a set of codes that, when used intuitively or metaphorically, configure a symbolic message whose purpose is to transmit information to those who know how to capture it.
Therefore, we see that at the base of music or dance, there is the need to want to transmit information, a message, which has its origin or reason, in expression and, therefore, in communication.
This information can be related to feelings, events and data or conclusions.
The human being needs to express himself, in any language. He needs to express what he feels, what he thinks, what he needs. Expression is a process of releasing the person’s desire to manifest their needs. A dialectical process between the inside and the outside of the person. But there are times when the expression with words of what happens to us inside becomes complicated.
Either because they are strong and painful feelings or because there is some difficulty in expressing yourself with words (I am thinking of people with Alzheimer’s, aphasia, paralysis, etc.). Art, music or dance thus become the instrument with which the person can express their feelings and their needs.
Creating, interpreting and listening to music has always been a human need. In a therapeutic sense, music, dance and art have always been used to provide people with a way to express themselves at many different levels, to be able to express feelings that often cannot be described in words. When we create music, when we listen, when we dance, we are shaping our inner world, our feelings, our character, our personality. We understand the messages of emotional explosion that exist in a dance, a music, a play.
In Music Therapy, we make use of human creativity to face and overcome pain, but also to extract from it a new way of creating and giving life to beauty.
What were your main challenges in the beginning and how have they evolved over time?
I have been dedicating myself totally to music therapy and dance therapy for almost 15 years, and my skills have evolved over time mainly thanks to practical experience. At the beginning my biggest challenges were how to be able to accompany people from my inexperience and my fears of not being able to offer the other person real help. The role of therapist, trainer or caregiver entails a lot of personal work so that honesty, with yourself and with the other person, always prevails in the relationship. This is why in our profession, we need continuous training, supervision and support. But the initial challenge has become for me an opportunity to grow every day and always give the best of myself to the other person. Or have the honesty to say I can’t, when I do.
Another challenge has been to overcome prejudices about the effectiveness of these techniques. Today there is much more scientific research that confirms the effectiveness of music, dance and art, on the well-being of people. But this was not exactly the case a few years ago. This is why in our profession we have to constantly investigate, with continuous evaluations of each session, each project, each workshop, to give our work a scientific basis.
And finally, but not lastly, the other big challenge is not to forget that you are dedicating yourself to a “helping profession”. But Artemisabcn continues to be a venture, with all the difficulties that this entails, especially at this difficult time. However, your mission and purpose is to offer help to other people.
At the beginning, I had a hard time putting a price on my sessions. I would have liked to help all people and not charge anything. because I believe that everyone has the right to live a dignified and quality life.
What is your take on the idea of the ‘wounded healer’?
In my training I insist on the importance of the opposing healer-wounded archetypes, and I always remember the Myth of Chiron. To be a good therapist, to be able to accompany the other person honestly and to know “when to say no”, we must remember that choosing a “helping profession” comes from deep personal needs and that the therapist (healer) was also “injured”. Inhabiting the role of therapist implies the total acceptance and moral implication of constant work with yourself. Many of us know that we chose this profession out of these deep personal needs.
At some point, I also had to heal my wounds and I continue to take care of my scars. And this is why it is important to learn the balance between the two opposite poles of the archetypes, so as not to fall into some kind of projection on the people we are accompanying.
As a “healer” if I do not tolerate the two polarities of this archetype, I will be able to reflect my “wounded parts” on the patient. As therapists, we have to be open and alert to the “being hurt” of the people we accompany. Our practices focus on the other person. This is why it is so important to keep in mind that our needs are also present and have to be covered. Working with oneself has to be at the base of our profession
Here is a quote from a music therapist that I adore:
“…as a healer I was unable to tolerate my own internal wounds and needed to have them well restrained. “Crazy” people could put off and show me my own craziness, and I would stay sane, though I would pay the price somatically. Until I managed to start working by bringing together the dissociated elements of my “crazy-sane, deformed-formed, violence-tranquility”. I needed to stay in control…” (Extracted from the Book: “Music therapy in context: music, meaning and relationship”, Mercedes Pavlicevic 1997, Jessica Kingsley Publisher)
What does progress mean for you when it comes to music therapy?
As I said before, constant and continuous training is necessary in our work, constantly preparing yourself according to the cases or groups with which you are working. And at the same time our work involves a lot of creativity, sensitivity and active listening or what I call “floating attention”. Progress means listening carefully to the needs of other people, thinking about offering the other person as many instruments so that they can explore and discover the path of healing and growth.
In Music Therapy I believe that progress lies in the fact that today there is a lot of scientific research that supports and demonstrates the real benefits of the arts as a therapeutic and social transformation resource.
What are the greatest lessons you have learned as a music therapist?
I have witnessed so many intense, deep, shocking, moving moments that really every day, with each different person, in each session, workshop, congress, I learn something new and I cannot feel more fortunate and grateful to occupy the place that I occupy. There are so many lessons that I learn every day thanks to this profession, which at times becomes magical, that it really is difficult for me to summarize. But I’m going to try:
1. Dedicating myself to music therapy makes me learn the lesson of HUMILITY every day. A lot of humility is awakened in me in each accompaniment knowing and accepting that I am simply a bridge for the person to connect with himself and, in seeing himself, improve his quality of life and show his soul.
2. The second lesson is NEVER FORCE: everyone has their times, their rhythms and their way of metabolizing events. We cannot force the other person to express, feel or do… I simply offer suggestions so that the person can experience other ways of going through their circumstance and learn from it.
3. And last but not least always accompany, always from LOVE, from empathy and compassion. To build a sincere and deep bond, which is the basis for the true transformation of the other person.