Music Related Sensibilities in Trauma Treatment: An interview with Janina Fisher
Janina Fisher PhD has collaborated with many of the pillars in the field of trauma theory and treatment – including Judith Herman, Bessel van der Kolk, and Pat Ogden – and she is a pioneering force and innovator in her own right. A prominent clinician and consultant, Dr. Fisher is a licensed clinical psychologist and instructor at the Trauma Center, an outpatient clinic and research center founded by Bessel van der Kolk. The opportunity to interview Dr. Fisher stemmed from her participation in the conference Trauma Theory & Treatment: Somatosensorial Implications of Resilience, hosted by the Louis Armstrong Center for Music & Medicine at Mount Sinai Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City. The conference lectures included mental healthcare professionals ranging from a broad spectrum of disciplines, with a strong showing of music therapists with specialties in trauma treatment with diverse populations. As conference co-chair I took the opportunity to interview Dr. Fisher, who graciously agreed to sit down with me and answer some questions. As a music psychotherapist whose work centers on pre-emptive strategies in fragile hospital populations such as newly diagnosed cancer patients receiving radiation therapy, her in-depth and thoughtful responses to my probing questions offered unique insight. At various junctures, I provide some commentary to contextualize some of the salient themes. Her comments expand upon the growth and ‘interdisciplinarization’ of the evolving field of trauma. We are indeed fortunate to have her share her knowledge and expertise on its inner workings and perspectives within these pages. The following is a candid exchange in which Dr. Fisher provides insight not only on her ideas on the neurobiological nature of trauma, but also how musical concepts, and her own musical training in her youth informs her clinical approach in working with victims of emotional trauma. I am grateful to Marija Pranjic for transcribing the interview.
Keywords: Trauma, PTSD, Music Therapy, Dissociation, Safety