You probably shouldn’t treat your voice lessons like your therapy sessions, and you definitely shouldn’t treat your therapy sessions like your voice lessons. Nonetheless, having participated in both for some time, I realize that the experience, main ideas, and takeaways of both are startlingly similar, even in ways I initially failed to recognize.
Of course there’s much to say about the private, protected emotional bond formed in both voice lessons and therapy sessions. And it’s no stretch to say both bonds are related: both your therapist and your voice teacher see you in vulnerable states, often while you deal with some sort of problem, and both offer suggestions to help you embrace or improve your situation. In both sessions, you have to let some walls down, and that is always a sacred sort of bond.
But let’s not get too sappy here.
Voice lessons and therapy are also alike in the sense that everyone needs them.
Okay, I guess they’re both pretty situational: voice lessons are only necessary for singers, and therapy is only necessary for people who want to be functional members of society. Maybe not for everyone after all, then. Assuming you’re both a singer and hold some sort of childhood trauma locked in the deep recesses of your brain, then you definitely require both of these things.
(Note: As everyone holds some childhood trauma somewhere in their brains, absolutely everyone needs therapy. Everyone. No exceptions. No one gets out of childhood unscathed, this world is SO HARD and full of so much garbage that we just have to learn to deal with. There’s no way to do that without a scar. I’m realizing as I write this that’s also eerily similar to how we learn to sing, too. I guess voice lessons are necessary in the same sense!)
The process of working in either setting is alike, too. Private setting, one on one, you bring some material to work with, and the material in both settings usually does have something to do with your personal issues (like how the issues that would inspire someone to want to sing “I’m a Beast” from Daddy Long Legs are definitely also issues that you could/should discuss in therapy).
Your teacher/therapist listens, interjects to ask some questions, and helps you work on those issues. And in both settings, you totally dictate whether or not you take those suggestions.
In both you usually don’t just straight-up decline to take your mentor’s suggestions. Speaking from experience, you usually agree with the suggestion, and then fail to realize that you’re not actually taking it. What I often do in both situations is go “okay great I’ll do that!” and not realize until later that agreeing to these suggestions actually means making changes to behavior and then feel like the shocked Pikachu meme.
“You mean I have to WORK to fix this problem??”
I think the most thrilling and perhaps most important part of both voice lessons and therapy is learning to get the hang of those suggestions your mentor gives you.
For instance, once you’ve taken enough voice lessons, you start to get a sense for what sort of problems you tend to have while singing. The same issues tend to come up again and again, so you eventually learn to recognize them on your own. You can only have your vowel placement or breathing technique called into question so many times before you become conscious of them yourselves.
The same happens in therapy. Over time, you can spot patterns of repeated events and topics. Something happens with your friends or partner, and you find yourself thinking, “oh, this is JUST what I talked about last week in therapy!”
Through each you develop a mastery of personal troubleshooting. You size up your problem and search for the root. You try out the tools your lessons add to your toolbox. You eventually are able to fix some problems as they crop up in the wild, all by yourself, “look mom, no hands!”-style. Victorious, you brag about your growth and success in your next session.
And sometimes, you’ll get it wrong.
You might think “it’s definitely my breathing that’s wrong here” and get so caught up on breathing through the phrase and worrying when to breathe and how much to breathe and how and when to exhale that you end up making everything worse. Or you might be crying in bed with an adult coloring book thinking, why the fuck isn’t this calming me down? This calmed me down in therapy. Fuck. I am definitely doing something wrong. These two events might be related.
It can take varying amounts of time for the learning to kick in. Quick learners might only need a handful of sessions to solve specific problems, others might keep going back for years just for general maintenance and upkeep. Some need it once a week, some once a month. It’s different for everyone, but ideally you come away from each lesson with another weapon added to your arsenal: a new outlook, or a new breathing exercise to warm up or calm down.
You keep going back, you learn in greater detail your own specific problems and start to understand in greater detail the solutions, and before you know it you can start dealing with them yourself, all while hearing a familiar mentor’s voice in the back of your head.
Sometimes you leave thinking you’ve solved your life’s problems. Sometimes you leave crying. Sometimes you leave crying because you’ve solved your life’s problems. And then you come back crying next week because it turns out you really didn’t solve your life’s problems. (Why, yes, I’ve done all of these for both therapy and voice lessons, thanks for asking.)
Either way, you should probably keep going to both of them.
Just in case.