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Using the GUITAR as THERAPY

mrmiyagi

A few people lovingly refer to me as the Mr. Miyagi of guitar because my approach to teaching the instrument is holistic in nature, dealing with the whole person.  An instructor who is…

Several years ago, a student, who I’ll call Sean, entered my life. Sean was painfully shy, passive, and rarely spoke or made eye contact. He had a melancholy personality and was an extreme introvert. However, over the course of about two years of study, he learned to be more assertive, developed self confidence, and made eye contact during conversation. I’m convinced that this was a direct result of studying the guitar. How is this possible?

Not to toot my own horn, but it takes the right teacher. A few people lovingly refer to me as the Mr. Miyagi of guitar because my approach to teaching the instrument is holistic in nature, dealing with the whole person.  An instructor who is keen to the unique personality type of the student can use that knowledge to not only maximize the student’s performance with the instrument, but to make the student aware of his or her tendencies, which are born out of their approach to the instrument. You have to be able to understand the unique makeup of a student and how to use the guitar as both a diagnostic tool and a therapeutic tool.

For example, struggling in key areas, like performance, forced  Sean to the realization that a lack of confidence and poor self image were, largely, the reasons for his poor execution. Often, he would quite literally curse himself when he made a mistake—calling himself stupid, etc. This kind of negative “self talk” reinforces a negative self image. Once this was pointed out, Sean was able to utilize a positive script when making mistakes, thus boosting his self image and reinforcing a positive approach not only to the guitar, but his entire life.

Additionally, Sean became much more comfortable and patient with the process of “becoming,” as he worked on his imbalances and negative scripting. He became at home with the process, instead of being obsessed with falling short of his long term goals. He also learned to implement other positive strategies for self improvement simultaneously. One such strategy involves the use of visualization. (I’ll talk more about the visualization process in a later post.) During our early sessions, when Sean was having the most difficulty, I would have him stop and visualize the technique I wanted him to perform. After about two to five minutes of visualization, he was able to perform the technique with improved facility. Students are often skeptical when I suggest using this technique, but the immediate results always make believers out of them. I’ve even extended the visualization process with students to help them with overall “concert” performance, seeing themselves in their mind’s eye as confident, proficient, and at ease while on stage. Once a student learns to use this technique, they can use it for self improvement in other areas of their lives, seeing themselves as strong in an area where they are struggling or weak.  This approach is just one way in which a student can add value not only to their own lives, but to the lives of others. And that, my friends, is just one aspect of using the guitar as therapy.

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