Bluegrass Therapy

Written by:

Here’s a paper I found while rifling through my therapist’s desk while she was out of the room.

Therapeutic approaches to the treatment of bluegrass addiction

Bluegrass treatment programs are in their infancy and as yet poorly understood. As a small contribution to the psychological literature, let me describe the four-stage program that I pursue in helping bluegrass addicts overcome this tragic affliction.

The patient population is primarily people between the ages of 25 and 95 who have spent so much time picking bluegrass tunes that their families and friends have driven them out to live in the henhouse. Many describe this lifestyle as lonely, depressing, and smelly. Increasingly, they turn to even more bluegrass picking to cope with the alienation and the scratching, in a tragic cycle that inevitably leads to wailing and gnashing of teeth..
The practical approach to treatment that I have adapted for use with bluegrass pickers begins with an examination of childhood development. This is the context in which temperament and personality traits interact with family and social surroundings to usher in the emergence of an individual’s musical tastes.

I have divided treatment into four phases. Please note that as with all therapies, the patient must have a degree of despair, must come to understand the origins of his weakness for bluegrass, and must be really want to be cured.

During Phase I, I assess the patient’s degree of tone-deafness, standoffishness, neurasthenia, and of course loneliness. Emphasis during this phase is placed on the patient’s status as a social outcast in middle school. (An ill-considered decision to play the baritone horn in the school band has been known to lead ultimately to a predilection for bluegrass.)

The goal of Phase II is to help patients organize and stabilize their lives. A clear majority of these patients are “out of control.” We use behavioral strategies to help them gain some control — for example, by staying home from a bluegrass festival once in a while.

The emphasis in Phase III is to help the patient break the cycle of instrument buying. We begin by questioning whether a banjo player really needs both a mandolin and a Dobro. Gradually we begin to confront even the urge to buy more banjos. We use cognitive interventions such as relaxation, guided imagery, and taking away credit cards.

During Phase IV of treatment, a combination of individual, group and family therapy approaches may be used depending on the needs of the patients. The patient’s family may be brought in to terfully beg him to leave his banjo alone for just a minute, for crying out loud.

Frequently, during this phase, I introduce each patient to a non-bluegrass musician who serves as a sort of chaperone. After the chaperone has accompanied the patient to a variety of classical, classic rock and smooth jazz performances, the patient may learn to associate music with total and unmitigated boredom and never want to come near it again. This hasn’t happened yet, but we’ll keep trying.

(In my next paper, I shall discuss the relative effectiveness of specific therapeutic techniques, such as journaling, guided imagery, and ridicule.)

Read about: