…and All That Jazz!

Spring is in the air, and in New Orleans, that means two things: food and jazz! If you close your eyes, can you imagine sitting on a blanket with your crawfish monica, feeling the heat of the sun and watching local musicians on stage? Now, full disclosure is that I’m not a musician. But there’s something about listening to jazz, about watching the musicians in the heart of their craft that is invigorating. There’s unpredictability yet order to it that parallels much of our own lives as well as the work of counseling.

Two things about jazz in particular strike me: the responsiveness and the spontaneity. I love watching jazz musicians play off one another. There’s eye contact. There’s head nodding. There’s a sense of awareness of the others’ movements.  And with that comes flexibility, a willingness to bend and to stretch in accompaniment of the other. A note gets held. A rhythm picks up. One instrument goes solo. This flexibility anticipates spontaneity. Built into the structure of the sound is an openness that encourages the musician to add his own element, to make a unique contribution as fitting to the movement in the moment and to have the rest adapt.

Like the jazz musician, part of the art of counseling is about being in tune with the other. It’s about listening to genuinely hear and to meet them where they are, knowing that people can make unexpected turns. It’s about then responding in a way that dovetails and yet expands. Of course, this applies not only to the therapeutic relationship but to relationships in a broader sense. What does it mean to be aware of those closest to you? How do you balance contributing your own sound while being flexible to allow room for the other to be spontaneous?  Can you see the strength in emphasizing interpersonal relationships and flexibility to create something both familiar and new?

-Brooks Zitzmann, LMSW

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