At the heart of the Beyond Trauma – Youth Music Therapy program is “slow and steady relationship building...building trust,” our Andie Koplik Residency music therapist in New Haven, Cyd Slotoroff, explains. Recent research highlights the central role that a trusting relationship with an adult has in the process of healing from trauma. “It's not fast or glitzy, it is a series of small improvements, small victories.”
How is progress identified? “I see the impact of my work as I witness students who are in distress using language to articulate their feelings rather than blaming, or fighting, or withdrawing. That skill will impact their lives in other relationships: with a significant other, with children, with bosses and co-workers. Every day I see students learning to take more initiative and to trust themselves more in small ways... this is what victims of trauma need to do,” she added, about her music therapy with urban high school students.
A middle school student in New London, working with music therapist Courtney Biddle, has endured witnessing domestic violence at her home, yet has made significant strides in staying in class as well as being where she is supposed to be in the building during the school day.
“She came to my room one day, very upset, about a problem she was having with another student. She stated, ‘Miss, I’m either going to come in here, or I am going to fight.’ She stayed in the room, we worked on some calming techniques, and she didn’t fight. She was able to stay in school, not have the trauma of another fight, and not miss instructional time. Also, she learned valuable skills about how to handle conflict and stress.”
On another occasion, Courtney was asked to step outside of her office for a moment. She was met by one of her students, “who explained to me that I was the teacher at school who made her want to come to school every day.” Reflecting on that day and the impact of the program, Courtney reaffirms that “all of our efforts are so worth it for these amazing kids!”
“Teachers all over the building report that their students are telling them about how they are learning to play the piano, and how proud they are of all of the accomplishments they are making in music therapy,” she adds. “Throughout all of this, the theme is really safety and stability. These students have little to none of this in their daily lives, and the music therapy program provides this.”