Anna Fowke Counselling
I spent many of the early years of my life studying Western music traditions and skills. I played in chamber music ensembles, on my own and in small and large orchestras here in Australia and in Europe. It was a wonderful part of my life and one that led to immense satisfaction, a lot of teaching and travelling. I became reasonably good at my instrument and could have kept playing and teaching. However here in Australia, work for a classically trained bassoonist was not plentiful. As a single parent, I needed to retrain. I went back to the beginning rather than studying for a qualifying master’s because I thought I knew nothing about counselling and needed a good grounding.
As I studied, my weary old, middle-aged brain creaked and groaned slowly back into action. I discovered I was quite good at studying, but it still seemed like there was a long way to go. Some years later after finishing that degree, I find myself working with lovely clients and discovering that there are many areas of my life as a musician that come into play each time I sit with a client. I have realised that deep listening is part of my way of being, listening for nuance, watching body language, feeling into what someone is really saying, hearing the true emotion beneath the notes they are speaking. I lean into the spaces of silence between us as they are part of the music, and I sit with calmness, co-regulating with my clients as one does in an orchestra. We breathe as one and begin the piece of music, listening deeply and adjusting according to the nuances we hear.
I see my work with clients almost the same as playing a piece of chamber music with them. We are equals engaged in conversation together aimed at an outcome which is helpful to them but also to me as I learn from each person I work with. I am not the conductor or the expert, I am just a rank-and-file player seated beside them in conversation. It is dynamic and relational; what happens between client and therapist is where the real healing, the real music, happens. Therapy is not about doing something to someone or being an expert. It is about relating to your fellow humans in a deeply connected but highly structured and ethical manner which leads to realisations and changes in their feelings about themselves and the world they inhabit.
I needed my grounding when I returned to study to really understand this second career, and I will continue studying and learning every day. This is what keeps me alive and vibrant, full of energy and able to give a safe amount of my energy to others. However, it has been interesting to understand the transferable skills that I use from all parts of my life. I wonder if you also have transferrable skills that you once dismissed as not very important, but as you age, they come to the fore?