Behind the Music

adam ficek

Posted: 20th April 2021

We spoke to psychotherapist and musician, Adam Ficek - from Music and Mind - to hear about his career and what lead him to become a therapist working within the music industry.

Read time - 8 mins

How would you describe your day-to-day role, what are some typical tasks for you?

It is kind of atypical due to the lockdown and the pandemic, so now it's slightly fragmented and all over the place. Generally in the ‘real world’ I divide my time between three things professionally: one is music, one is client therapy and the other is studying, I'm just finishing off a doctorate, which is just working at amalgamating these strands.

In terms of the psychological work I will sit down one-to-one with clients, who can come from two different fields that I work in - either musicians or people who are struggling with addiction. Then there’s the music side of things, either producing my own stuff, recording my own songs ready for an EP, or just practising! I like to play music. I like to do at least one thing musical every day. In a sense for me I need that musical part of it, it might be some drums, guitar or piano or even just singing some bits, it may lead to me recording or I might just play for fun, but I definitely need that element of musicking.

Pre lockdown I would also be DJing or gigging, and in that case, I’ll start to create some playlists and look for new music or work through my set. Ultimately, a typical day for me is balancing these 3 professional aspects as well as having a family and doing regular day-to-day tasks.

How did you get into your current role?

I think I got into it through my own journey in therapy. When I was struggling the most, I really found it difficult to find a therapist that understood what it was like to be a musician with media exposure. I don’t think that’s something that just anyone can do really, it’s a unique experience so to understand that without living it is quite a challenge.

Through my ongoing therapy I discovered a real passion and interest within the discipline. Originally, I planned to side-step into music therapy, but I later realised that  I wanted to psychotherapeutically with people but use music within that, so there I had my goal. The next step for me is to try and facilitate my research into what it’s like to be a musician and how that relates to our narrative wounds, both the good and the bad via my doctoral studies.

I study personal experience. It’s important to find the positive and negative correlation in experiences through working with individual artists and reflecting over their unique experiences. There are many different strands to the industry and it’s not as simple as many people perceive. The perception is that music = good, industry = bad, but it's much more involved and complex than that.

Have there been any particularly challenging times for you in your career?

No not really, I think that some therapists feel that they have to limit their exposure so they try to be as confidential as they can, but I’ve never had that luxury. I suppose I could’ve marketed myself under a different pseudonym or as someone else, but my objective in therapy is about integrating your past and learning to live with that past, including our own shadows, bringing them all together compassionately.

I think that on one level a difficulty has been the exposure because people may search for me and they’ll be able to find all this online content, some of which may be fabricated from previous negative media exposure of our band. Some people find it very reassuring to them that I’ve ‘been through the mill’- as it were- and some people are put off by that but the ones that are put off I’ll never know about. I thought that initially that would be a difficult thing, but I’ve learnt to accept it for what it is really.

The training has also been difficult, there are different stages you can do – there’s a 2-year counselling training course or there’s a 5-year psychotherapy training course, which I did. That was a challenge, doing 5 years of studies, placements, accruing hours and lots of NHS work and that is difficult. It’s a long endeavour and a commitment, you must really go to the depths of your own wounds, however having been in therapy myself for so long I didn’t really think that this was as much of a big deal.

Aside from that, I really enjoy the day-to-day. I like that I can go and see a client and then pick up something else, maybe I’ll run a workshop and then go and play some drums. It’s a creative way of making life more fluid.

Has being in therapy yourself been the sole factor in your path into this role or has there been anything else that lead you to this point?

My own experience has prompted me to see the value of it and I, personally, think that going into therapy should be encouraged for all of us but I am aware it’s easier said than done. In this country we often see therapy as seeking help but in most European countries it’s seen as more as an exploration of yourself akin to getting a personal trainer.

I think that in the beginning I was reluctant to actually start going to therapy, it was only because I was not in a great way that I ended up going, and then from there I’ve continued to go because I believe that it’s ethical for me to be in therapy, if I’m seeing clients and they’re on that side of the chair then why shouldn’t I go through that exploration process? I do think that my journey was predominantly influenced from sitting on that side of the chair and going through the process myself.

"having music is a great way to make my work more fluid and not carry some of the heavier stuff around with me."

What would you say are important skills for a role like yours?

I think that reflection plays such a big role in what I do undoubtedly. Being able to reflect on your own part of what you do and what you engage with, you can’t think about helping someone else do something if you can’t do it yourself.

I would also say that if you want to work in a particular industry – music for example – it'll help to have had that previous personal experience, like I said before I struggled to find a therapist that understood what being a musician was like and what I was experiencing. Of course, there are people working in the field that haven’t and they are doing a really good job but to really be able to understand the person and what goes on within the music industry you need to have had that experience especially as a musician. The music industry is only a tiny part of being a musician, some people see the industry side as the all encompassing giant. This the view of many non musicians that haven’t spent the hours in the practice room shedding the blood, sweat and tears of becoming a musician.

Being able to have an open mind is also such a key part to my job. Ultimately everyone experiences their own reality and blueprint, that’s half of the battle. Subjectivity.

What is the one thing you love most about your job?

Working with people and seeing a development in individuals. I see people that have come in struggling then through exploration of their own narrative and reflection, they become willing to experiment with their way of being and, as a result, become able to help themselves.

What is the biggest thing you’ve learnt through your role?

That everyone is different; it doesn’t matter how you perceive someone it’ll never be the same as how they perceive themselves. We’re in this world now of social media, Instagram and I see people post out these big self help ‘I can heal you’ quotes and I just think you can’t condense someone’s experience into this when everyone has such a different story. For me I see therapy as being unique to each person, there aren’t these pre-set steps to follow because everyone that comes into the field from a different position, even if on the outside they appear the same, the narrative, the process and the end result of how to deal with it will all be different for each individual.

Ultimately, I hold an intention to not make any assumptions.

If you had to describe your job in one word, what word would it be?

One word… rich. I get such a richness from musick-ing  - playing, performing, writing, recording – but also through working with people, developing these relationships. Those two things together I find extremely nourishing.


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