I'm a Registered Psychotherapist (RP), Accredited Music Therapist (MTA), and a clinical member of the Ontario Society of Psychotherapists (OSP). My work is about offering people a creativity-friendly space where they can strengthen their preferred identities, shrink the problems that get in the way, and grow a stance of compassion and curiosity toward the contradictions that come up in the process.
IDEAS That SHAPE my WORK
My style of practice is most influenced by these models or philosophies: anti-oppressive practice, narrative therapy, dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT), and resource-oriented music therapy .
Whether we like it or not, many of us experience the world as having power structures that keep us from being our best. Whether it's racism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, religious prejudice - e.g., Islamophobia - , or many other -isms, people and systems can work to keep us down. I believe that personal healing is a political act; a way of fighting those systems and affirming that we're all human and all deserve good things. Sometimes, in the ways we've been hurt by society, we can also hurt others. I can be a compassionate presence in learning how to stop doing that as well.
While my training has given me knowledge about mental health, there is still only one expert on your life. That person is you, not me, so my job is to be curious, provide space for you to express yourself, and listen deeply. Many youth and adults come to me frustrated by labels and diagnoses and judgments from other people in their lives. I promise not to do that, but instead let you decide what's a problem in your life. For some people, the problem might be anxiety or bipolar disorder, for others it might be trouble talking to my parents.
One thing that is clear, you are not the problem in your life. Neither are the people around you. As the slogan for narrative therapy asserts, people aren't the problem; the problem is the problem. We can work together to figure out how to "shrink" the effect the problem has in your life. At the same time, we can figure out the hopeful and helpful things that already exist in your life, and look for how to "grow" them.
Resource-Oriented Music Therapy
Therapy can be as much about nurturing resources and strengths as it is about fixing pathology and solving problems....Musical interaction in music therapy offers opportunities not only to explore problems, trauma, and difficult emotions, but also to explore strengths; to experience pleasure, joy, and mastery; and to try out ways of using music as a resource in everyday life. ~Randi Rolvsjord.
The joy, pleasure and mastery of making music itself is a central aspect of music therapy with me. This can happen whether or not we deal with other problems or trauma. You can always decide that the focus of any session is about making music "without going into anything else." I believe that music is healing on it's own, so we don't do more than that, unless you choose to.
Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT)
The D is for “Dialectic,” which means to allow two seemingly opposite things to be true at once. The main “dialectic” about me as your therapist is that I will wholly and absolutely accept you, just as you are; and, I will challenge you to grow more fully into your preferred identity. How can someone possibly do both at once?! Such is DBT’s challenging yet often deeply fulfilling philosophy.
We often have more control than we might be aware of in the playing out of our thoughts, emotions, sensations, actions, and relationships. A number of practices can give us more agency in how we navigate overwhelming emotions, or any other experiences in life e.g., Mindfulness allows us to be fully present in the here and now, without judgement; radical acceptance allows us to accept life as it is, rather than resisting that which we cannot change; wise mind allows us to merge our rational and emotional minds into a state of balanced clarity; finally, chain analysis allows us to recognize and change the ways that our inner and outer experiences reinforce one another, so that we can have more agency in reinforcing our preferred states instead of our problems.
I have chosen to not become certified in DBT because the narrative therapy aspect of my work is too important to me to take on the “pure” approach to DBT that would be required for certification. If you are looking for a therapist certified in DBT or “pure” DBT, I totally affirm that and can connect you with some of my brilliant colleagues who practice the pure model. If on the other hand you’re comfortable with my “DBT + narrative therapy” approach to DBT, I can assure you that I “live and breathe” the principles and practices of DBT: I engage in a daily mindfulness practice, I practice all of the DBT skills personally and professionally, I belong to a weekly community meditation group, I take annual personal silent retreats, and I take ongoing professional trainings in DBT.
Harm Reduction vs Change
You’re the one who decides which personal practices or habits you wish to continue, change, or stop as we work together.
Some people who use drugs and come to see me, for example, plan to continue using drugs for the short- or long-term; if this is the case for you, I’ll take a harm reduction approach i.e., focusing on the information and resources that will help to strengthen your safety, daily living, and the stories that you tell about your life.
Other people who use drugs and come to see me, for example, want to change their relationship with their emotions in a way that will require them to also change their drug use; if this is the case for you, I can help you discern the patterns in your life that might call for change and coach you to make those changes, all while treating yourself with patience and compassion.
If you use drugs and you’re actually not sure whether you want to maintain or change your drug use, I can give you information that might help you to weigh the risks and benefits of each option.
I can't remember a time when I didn't sing. In high school, I sang both jazz and classical music, but focused on classical during my first degree. I'm grateful for the skills I gained in this training - Yet, I have come to find myself more at home performing folk and pop. I'm much more of a singer-songwriter now than an opera singer, and there's little that brings me more joy than playing original songs with a few friends at a local open mic.
As for my musical influences... Leonard Cohen taught me that song is poetry, and poetry is song. Tom Waits and his junkyard sounds taught me that you can make music out of anything. Joni Mitchell's ability to fit any run-on sentence into a bar of music taught me that words can always become a song. Beyoncé teaches me humility, attentiveness, and boldness in music and life alike. Janelle Monáe teaches me that I need music to move my body as much as my heart. Martha Wainwright teaches me the art of the expletive in song-writing. Kendrick Lamar teaches me to wake up in my approach to both music and allyship.
As for life experience... I've been a cis white settler for 37 years, and those credentials are pretty problematic! Therefore I do my best to defer to the lived expertise of people(s) who have been harmed by my privilege or ignorance, so that I can become a better ally. I fail often and persist anyways. As a queer woman and as someone who deals with mental health issues, I have some ideas about what it can mean to try heal in a heteronormative and ableist world. As a reunited adoptee and prospective adoptive parent, I have witnessed the complexities that impact various people who are touched by adoption: from birth family members and adoptive family members to adoptees themselves. For many years, I belonged to a chosen community that primarily includes people who are homeless or who deal with really intense poverty: Friends in this community deal with violence and trauma at every level of the system, and their graciousness and resilience amidst all of this is my strongest foundation in helping me to see the preferred and complex stories of people's lives.
As to my academic career, I completed my bachelor of music therapy degree at Capilano University in North Vancouver, BC, and my master of music therapy at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, ON. Before that, I completed a bachelor of music at UofT, majoring in voice. Having said all of that, my clients and loved ones have taught me more about life and work than an academic institution ever could.
Alejandra Lindan, MMT, RP, MTA
Registered Psychotherapist #001976 | Music Therapist Accredited #0439