Recognizing Power in Therapy Relationships

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Recognizing Power in Therapy Relationships

In setting intentions for the new year, I am reflecting on how I want to feel at home, at work, and how I want my clients to feel. In some roles of a Certified Music Therapist (MTA), clinician, supervisor/ mentor, and entrepreneur, I recognize the responsibility to ensure that we use power and privilege to create a positive impact for our clients and in the community.

As I think about how to monitor and evaluate this influence, I realize that when we are focused on being of loving service to our community, we don’t always consciously think about the power dynamics involved with caregiving or therapy relationships.

In business and in life, I believe it’s important to be aware of these dynamics and to reflect on both positive and negative ways power can be displayed within a therapy context. 

Recently, I read an article, Power by Good Therapy, which says “power dynamics describes how power affects a relationship between two or more people. Power affects all aspects of social life, from the workplace to the home. Power is not inherently negative. For example, the ability of a parent to influence their toddler’s actions can help keep them out of harm’s way.”

This article encouraged me to further explore the power dynamics in the day to day relationships of therapist to client, supervisor to intern, and entrepreneur to community. 

Our Therapist to Client Relationships

When working in clinical and therapeutic spaces, Find Your Voice Music Therapists strive to ensure our clients feel safe, heard, valued, and understood. Formal training through schooling prepares therapists with various skills and strategies to cultivate these spaces. It is a privilege in itself to have access to these education opportunities.

In our therapy sessions, we are able to use the power and status obtained through the training and qualifications in order to best serve our clients. We share our formal skills in a structured, and playful setting, which puts the client at ease and allows them to be open to healing.

For example, the individuals we serve with dementia may have difficulty with planning, strategizing and decision making for their own wellbeing. Using our training as MTA’s, we can guide these individuals toward positive outcomes connected to enhancing quality of life. 

In addition, “informational power” can also be present within therapist and client interactions.  This is defined as the influence that comes from knowledge and information.  For example, an MTA provides recommendations and resources to clients which help them achieve their health and wellness goals. 

Our Supervisor to Intern Relationships

On the journey to become a Certified Music Therapist (MTA) with the Canadian Association of Music Therapists, each candidate must complete an internship alongside a Clinical Supervisor.  For some MTA’s, as they progress in their career, they have the opportunity to engage in supervision with music therapy interns. 

An example of power dynamics that could arise in a supervisor – intern relationship is “connection power.” The ability to offer access to certain people or resources.  For example, a music therapy supervisor introducing their intern to another mentor within a specialized field.   

Supervision and mentorship has always been an area of passion within my work as a therapist.  I am blessed to provide business and life mentorship to creatives, wellness, and health entrepreneurs through Find Your Voice Music Therapy’s sister company Costron + Co. I appreciate being able to share my knowledge and connections with those who are entering the field of music therapy, as well as launching their own music therapy businesses. 

Our Entrepreneur to Community Relationships

Quite literally, if the clients in our community don’t resonate with our therapy services they will not book an appointment or will ask to be discharged from services.  There is some element of power involved to serve a therapeutic/ clinical need in our community and provide the requested support.  

Within business “expert power” comes from influence with having exceptional skills.  For example, a talented entrepreneur may have a lot of power in a community that resonates with their company’s music therapy services and programs. 

I am conscious of how the credibility of Find Your Voice Music Therapy provides the opportunity for deep connections with our community partners and intense healing with the clients we have served over the years. My team and I strive to remain aware of this at all times and to honour the trust placed in us by clients, their loved ones, our facilities, and communities.

In 2021, we will continue to check in with each other and with our many colleagues to ensure that we are living out our intention to empower each person through a relationship that gifts them with value and dignity. We will treat all people with respect and celebrate our differences, enjoying the many opportunities to learn from each other and grow as human beings.

I encourage you to reflect on how power shows up in your relationships within your work as a therapist. Conscious awareness will bring clarity on how your influence impacts your work with clients, colleagues, professional connections, and within your wider community. 

In song,

Mackenzie Costron, BMT, MTA, RCT
Owner and Founder of Find Your Voice Music Therapy
Certified Music Therapist & Registered Counselling Therapist
1-800-827-3120 ext. 101
[email protected]