Steady On Playlist: Therapist and Client Describe How Music Can Help the Therapy Process.

Beth Fehlbaum and Dr. Jaremko’s “Duet” About the “Steady On” Playlist

The powerful combination of music and metaphor adds greatly to the behavior change process, and it was no different in Beth’s recovery journey. Opportunities for healing that carefully chosen music can inspire are compelling. Early in Beth’s therapy, Matt gave her a CD of 11 songs designed to help her understand her problems and be motivated to take the steps to improve her life. Here we  explain why each song on the CD was meaningful to her—a seriously damaged person at the time—and Dr. Jaremko indicates his reasoning for including the song on the playlist. From the day Matt gave Beth that CD,  she felt less alone and more confident that she was working with someone who knew what he was doing.
Dr. J. has since pointed out that he used music tapes/CDs for decades as an aid to help others cope with life difficulties and create new histories of healthy behavior. He estimates that he created nearly a hundred mixed music tapes, each individually tailored to clients and students with whom he worked. Music aficionado that he is, Dr. Jaremko has an innate ability to choose just the right song. His expertise calls to mind the main character in Nick Hornby’s book, High Fidelity, which was made into a movie. In it, John Cusack, as Rob, experiences/evaluates his life—and shares his emotions with others, in the context of insisting on the just-right songs to communicate what he was thinking.

“Steady On” by Shawn Colvin

Beth: The message is, “I hear you. I see where you are. I get it.” Dr. Jaremko acknowledged how hard this journey is and that because of the trauma I endured, I would never be the same again—but I could find a new way of being if I stayed the course, which I interpreted as choosing to stay alive. The song’s tempo and percussion fit in very well with the metaphor of recovery being a barefoot walk from Texas to Alaska and back again.
Dr. Jaremko: The email I got from Beth clearly showed her to be suffering and desperate.  She needed to be heard and acknowledged. A few years before, I had been on a trip driving along the Missouri River in South Dakota in a violent rainstorm. The rain was thick and horizontal; the wind was violent. I was terrified, in the middle of nowhere, with no choice but to keep going.

Not long after that, I heard Shawn Colvin’s song, Steady On.  It described perfectly what I had to do to get through that rain storm in my travels, and it also described ideally what Beth had to do to get through her own storm. It was the exact centerpiece for the music of her recovery.

“Unfinished Life” by Kate Wolf

Beth: This song told me that my support system (Dr. Jaremko and my husband, Daniel) could not do the work of healing for me. I was the injured creature that the lyrics speak of, and they reinforce the metaphor of recovery as a journey. Further, the words give a shout-out to the truth: I’ve spent a lifetime running from myself, but the only way I will reach “Alaska” is to stay the course, even when it’s scary.
Dr. Jaremko: Kate Wolf wrote some of the most beautiful songs I have ever heard: great lyrics, minor cords, tender presentations. Unfortunately, this talented songwriter died at age 44, due to a long battle with leukemia.  Kate knew she was dying and continued to write great songs. Beth thought her life was over and incapable of change. I added this selection to remind her that no life is finished, regardless of the pain level. Hope could be manufactured by the decisions one makes and the efforts one puts forth.