Alumni Spotlight — Keisha Martinez

Keisha Martinez, Graduate Certificate 2015
Music Therapist — Prisons, Juvenile Detentions Centers & Orphanages
Trinidad & Tobago

Watch a video interview with Keisha taken at the 2016 IIRP Latin America Conference, where she presented a session on her work.

Working in challenging settings in her home country of Trinidad & Tobago, Keisha Martinez needed to supplement her practice as a music therapist. Restorative practices have provided the missing piece, enabling her to effectively address the most difficult situations.

Keisha discovered restorative practices at a training in Trinidad and was immediately intrigued by their potential for her work. She travelled to the IIRP campus in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, to participate in the in-person portion of a hybrid course, then enrolled in online courses. Soon she was integrating restorative techniques into her music therapy sessions.

“Something to address the whole child.”

“I work at a home for children with a wide range of physical, emotional and developmental disabilities, including children with HIV, who were abandoned,” Keisha explains. “I needed something to address the whole child. I have to be more than a music therapist.”

Combining restorative questions, narrative processes and talking circles with music therapy, Keisha works to develop the children’s social skills. One boy behaves in a manner typical of autism; his disruptions upset everyone. Keisha employed restorative questions to enable him to explore what he was thinking about and help his classmates express how his behavior made them feel. No one had approached the boy this way before. It affected his behavior in a very positive way.

“Not one-size-fits-all.”                                        

Keisha relished IIRP Graduate School courses, finding them creative and innovative, incorporating a wide range of cultures and disciplines. “They’re not one-size-fits-all,” she notes. “The faculty truly honor the experiences of people in the class. They’re respectful to everybody, not condescending.” She was impressed by her classmates, whom she found to be very experienced in their fields, and noted their diversity: “They’re not just people from the states, but developing countries, as well.”

She also found the courses’ research aspects useful. “When you’re in a new field like music therapy or restorative practices, you need evidence to get people on your side,” she comments, “especially in places where it’s new and different and you’re trying to change the culture.”

“Restorative practices is changing everything I do — for the better.”

In her work in prisons, Keisha brings together various disciplines, combining restorative processes with music therapy and mentoring. She employs problem-solving talking circles to help the inmates share ideas on how to deal with people in their lives, and she facilitates forgiveness exercises.

Her goal for the future is to open a residential home for juvenile offenders to help them become upstanding citizens.

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