"It was not always easy..."
One of my favorite reasons to work as a board certified music therapist with BuildaBridge is their focus on strength-based work. We believe each and every person has powerful inner resources that promote resiliency. Marilyn Rodriguez, MFA, and I, along with music therapy intern, Mariana Ruiz, recently completed a 7-week program for Latina women who experienced domestic violence. We integrated art activities, such as using recycled materials, painting, and collaging, with music therapy approaches, such as improvisation, lyric analysis, and songwriting, to explore themes of emotional expression, coping, self-esteem, self-efficacy, flexibility, and empathy.
The art and the music experiences each brought out unique explorations and expressions of one’s self. A woman from Colombia, who we will call Teresa, explained how she felt the art-making was relaxing and therapeutic. It offered her a way to express herself through symbols, such as shape and color, while also honoring the people most important in her life. One project she worked on was a heart ornament. She shared that the rhinestones symbolized her family members, adding in the word "family" in English, and talked about how they are everything to her. She also explained how she used accessories that complemented the red color, because “red is warm, it's love”. Through this heart ornament, she identified personal supports and learned how to use art for emotional expression.
Teresa also found meaning in telling her own story, identifying her strengths, and considering visions for the future through songwriting. She took a favorite song of hers, “Brindis” by Thalia, and re-wrote the words to express how every experience got her to where she currently is – “it was not always easy, but I am happy and strong now.” As her lyrics shared (translated from Spanish to English):
On a beautiful moonlight night The memories will not hurt me I love my guitar I will always sing Nothing will make me cry I embrace the music I will always say what I feel Nothing will make me drift Tears will be strong
To find hope, strength, support, and expression through art and music is to build resiliency in one’s self. Teresa beautifully and courageously showed Marilyn, Mariana, and I how she did this, and we express deep gratitude for being able to share in meaningful experiences like these.
Kate Myers-Coffman, PhD, MT-BC