Wednesday, 4 September 2013

A-one, a-two- a-three .... and ....

It was the end of the session; one of those last-five-minutes that is an open space for anything to come in. The therapeutic work was done (?) , and the conversation drifted onto ... something quite random.... maybe colds or 'flu or something.....

An observation was made that the therapist had a gravelly voice this week.

"Yes...ok for talking, but with this kind of voice, you can only sing one song... and that's 'I Walk The Line'..."

"Hmm?" Puzzled, curiously. "Never heard of that one."

Then came a gravelly but tuneful couple of bars - "Because you're mine..... I walk the line..."

Okay - the song has been changed, and the example is deliberately vague - but this is a description of something that happened to me once, as a client in therapy. It was just a moment in the relationship, but now I'm writing about it, I realize that no therapist had ever sung to me in a session before (and hasn't since). What an interesting experience that was, on many levels!

I realize also that I have found myself singing in a session, more than once. This is usually because the musical world has so much to offer us, in illustrating the breadth of human experience. Songwriters, and composers, are chroniclers of the soul. Heartbreak, ecstasy, loss, disconnection, anger, eroticism, it's all out there - in a nicely distilled form that pools in our unconscious and reinforces our shared humanity.
Singing is also part of my life, part of my history. I guess singing in-session in a kind of self-disclosure, too. I am saying something about myself (or perhaps my inner 11-year-old choirboy is...)
In and out of the therapy room, I naturally reach to song lyrics or music, at different moments..... A friend is telling me about a situation brewing with her husband, and I find myself chiming in - "There may be trou-ble ah-ead....".  Another friend stops for a chat, and for the rest of the morning I am singing or humming a song that uses her name. A fresh brew at the office brings delight and gratitude, and I find myself crooning in praise of caffeinated drinks.

I wonder if any therapist colleagues or clients out there have sung in-session, either 'accidentally' or deliberately, in order to communicate something?

In a spirit of playful curiosity, I invite you to share a story on my blog*, if you wish; let's see who the singers are!   ;o)


"Let's Face the Music and Dance" - Irving Berlin (1936)

"Looking for Linda" - Hue and Cry (1989)

"Java Jive" - The Ink Spots (1940)

 *p.s. Professionals are gently reminded to protect the confidentiality of your therapeutic relationships, current and historical



  1. #radiowisdom is the best.

    Most sessions someone says something that triggers a song. Sometimes I share it, if it seems to be about what the person is talking about. Sometimes I keep it to myself if it is a song that brings back warm memories from my own past.

  2. Hello Jason, and thanks for taking the time to comment here.

    If a song echoes the client's experience, I agree - it feels right to share that sometimes. Perhaps there are other times that the song is a form of countertransference, and needs reflecting upon.

    I suspect we have an ethical duty to protect our clients from being infected with our own earworms..... ;o)

  3. Well this is a nice thought. Since I don't yet have clients, I can only think about my own experience as a client. My therapist never sings during the sessions, and I think I'd be really amused and enthusiastic if she did start at some point. Simply mentioning the songs, on the other hand, is something that both me and her seem to do quite often, precisely for the reason you mentioned. They're like a different language where feelings can actually be put into words way better.

  4. Hi Muffins, and thanks for your comment.
    It reminds me that, as a client, we can sometimes be surprised by our therapist, if he/she does something unexpected. A change in the therapeutic frame!

    With kind wishes, ian

  5. Movies sometimes come up in my sessions. Almost always it's a male client (I have a roughly 50/50 gender split) and I have bloke-ish taste in movies (possibly from having 4 brothers). So a therapeutic theme might be clarified by a client referring to a movie, usually existential themes.
    I have never sung in a session, nor been sung to. I'm envious :-)