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Showing posts from 2009
Where are we going?
I often wonder what the professional of music therapy will look like 40 years from now. Why 40 years? I figure that the last of my generation of MTs will be dying and in assisted living facilities, and I like that number. That's all. I get an insane giggle that bubbles up in my throat when I think of the music that MT students will have to learn as "typical repertoire" for working with folks my age. Early Madonna, Guns and Roses, songs by Tiffany and Debbie Gibson. No more You Are My Sunshine for my crowd!

I also wonder about how technology will change our profession. Will MTs have to be in the same room as their clients? Will we have become isolated to the point that all interaction will be electronic and remote? I think we will lose lots of skills as humans if we get to that point. Can therapy occur if there is no human contact? Will we get used to the idea of isolation? Is this making any sense at all?


Just some musings for this Thanksgiving Weekend.
Crossing the Line
I think that we, as music therapists, must be aware of habits and attitudes that interfere with our growth and development as professionals. One such attitude is that of "if a music therapist isn't present, then others cannot use music as a medium for therapy." This attitude is often presented when we feel threatened that another professional can do our jobs simply by adding music into psychotherapy or into speech-language treatment. I feel that any use of music in any form of therapy is a good advertisement for music therapy - familiarity with the power of music as a therapeutic medium often opens the door for a music therapist.

The issue for me comes when professionals from other disciplines state that they offer "music therapy." I am often approached by educators on how to incorporate music therapy into their educational programming. When I talk to them further, they reveal that they do not want to pay a music therapist to facilitate therapy,…
AMTA CONFERENCE 2009
I am in San Diego, on day 2 of the AMTA conference.

I love conferences as they are generally a time for me to reflect and celebrate the reasons that I became a music therapist and reinforce the dedication that I have to my job and vocation. I often find myself absolutely exhausted after the 6-day event, but I also tend to be renewed by the opportunity to share "war stories" with others who go through the same hassles, issues, joys, and musical collaboration that I go through. There is comfort in knowing that other music therapists experience the same kinds of things that I experience daily, whether it be the excitement that a client gets when they learn how to play their first chords on a guitar or the frustrations that can also occur when trying to explain or adapt that same set of guitar chords for a client who is having difficulty with the motor component of guitar playing.

The camaraderie and social aspects are wonderful, but there is lots of work to be…
Bongo Barry I heard yesterday that a colleague, Barry Bernstein, passed away on Wednesday morning. Barry was an acquaintance of mine from my undergraduate days who remembered me 15 years later when we met at Camp Encourage this summer. We played a little music and led a campfire over the 4 days of camp. I was impressed and inspired by the things that he did with the campers. My thoughts and prayers are with his family as they mourn the loss of their father and husband.
Iso-Principle
I am challenged by having to explain Altshuler's Iso-Principle to someone who is a music therapist, but who has never heard the term before. This challenge is one that I will undertake, mainly because I think the Iso-principle is one of the most essential tenets in music therapy theory. It amazes me how many music therapists have never heard of the principle or who have not heard about Altshuler.
The iso-principle, as I understand it, explains that people will pay attention to music that best matches the mood they are in at any given time. An agitated person will respond better to music that he or she associates with agitation (e.g., "angry music") better than music that does not have an association with that particular emotion. Engagement in the music therapy procedure or technique will be quicker if the therapist shapes the music to the individual's emotion rather than attempting to shape the individual's emotion to music the therapist thinks will b…
Pipe Dreams I bought lotto tickets today. The jackpot is up to $213 million, and my dad likes the idea of buying chances when the jackpot gets that high. So, I have been escaping into fantasies of what I would do with a portion with the money.The first thing I would do is give my parents a portion for their retirement. They could pay off the house, take a trip, and stop working! Mom could finally craft and garden all the time, and Dad could drive her crazy!!!The second thing that I would do would be to split up the rest of the money into retirement accounts for myself and my siblings. With my part, I would buy this gorgeous complex that is for sale across the street from my facility. It is an old convent with beautiful buildings. I would like to turn it into a conference and retreat center. We would offer CMTEs on a monthly basis. It would be a good challenge.Aaah. Now all I have to do is win tomorrow. Won't happen, but I am having fun dreaming about it.
Creative Flow There are times when I have a rush of ideas that just come flowing out of me. It usually coincides with the full moon - imagine that - but I become almost manic when it comes to creating interventions, cleaning my home, and thinking of new things that I "should" be doing during my time away from work.I am currently writing this blog entry, but I did many other things today. I washed dishes and cleaned off my countertops in the kitchen, washed my bedding, made homemade cards, learned about my new music notation program, wrote a couple of Therapeutic Musical Experiences, emailed my academic advisor with several projects, enrolled for field studies at school, paid tuition, and annoyed the cat. My day is not finished. For the first time in weeks, I did not feel like I wanted to take a nap at 3pm. The downside of this upswing is the new moon period. I have always (according to my mother who has known me the longest) had mood swings that followed the waxing and waning…
CAMP I love camp. I love everything about it. The mosquitoes, the sunburns, the shaving cream fights, the interrupted sleep - it's all good! I spent four days in the company of 45 campers and approximately the same number of staff at Camp Encourage. This camp is a place for kids ages 8-18 on the Asperger's side of the Autism Spectrum and some typically developing peers to be away from their family, to act like kids, and make friends.I have to say that I originally thought that I would be going to camp to run music therapy sessions. When I attended the orientation session, I found that that was not so. I was assigned to "assist" the other music therapistst that were attending camp. I was disappointed, but was able to get the camp director to agree to let me lead one session during the last day of camp.Once I got to camp, I found that, in addition to music therapy and arts and crafts, I was a general go-fer. I spent lots of time taking things from here to there, trackin…
Camping I'm going to camp tomorrow. This camp is for children and adolescents on the Autism Spectrum. While I have worked with kids on the spectrum for many years, and while I have camped in all types of situations, I have never combined the two experiences. I am thrilled and VERY excited about going to camp this summer.I leave tomorrow morning for the 4-day, 3-night camp. I am lugging craft supplies, visual file folders, musical instruments, my digital camera, and my equipment for the week. I have been assigned to "assist" the music therapists who will be running sessions. This will be an experience. I have difficulty "assisting" and will have to remain in the role of "assistant" while taking pictures. I am in charge of sensory stimulation, assisting with field games, and leading arts and crafts.Camp has always been the best environment for me. I've been to day camp, overnight camp, survival camp, science camp, church camp, and snow camp. I have a…
Refreshment 'Tis the season for school therapists who get to work an extended school year to rest and rejuvenate. So, here is my time to relax. Now, I have a VERY strong work ethic, so I relax for a bit of time and then get back to work. I slept all of today, but now am ready to start problem solving and getting things ready for my next challenges.I am now faced with a change in treatement philosophy for one group of students at the school where I am the therapist. While the new philosophy is not all that new for the Autism community, it is VERY new for the teachers that I work with on a daily basis. They are excited and are trying to incoporate my treatment into their new format. This is fine, but there are some things that will not work within the format easily that I have to adapt to make music therapy effective for their students.I like this process of working through a potential problem until it is not a problem any longer. By the end of my Fall break, I will probably have a s…
We Evolve or We Die
There has recently been lots of controversy in some music therapy circles about how things are not being done the way that the circles would like to see. This is generally in the form of complaints about the national association and includes discussions about advocacy, protection of perceived professional "rights," and the "Us vs. Them" mentality that still figures in the now united, formally split association. One of the things that struck me as interesting was the perception that the association should drop everything to address my needs on my schedule. If I have a complaint, it needs to be addressed immediately!
This has started me thinking, which is never a good sign. I wonder if it is possible for any professional organization to be all things to all people. I know that it is impossible for any person to be all things to all people. Why do we expect our association to be able to cater to our every whim? Having said this, I find that the assoc…
Summer School Sonnet The heat is strong, the students are playing,Sounds in the hallways echo through the air,Teachers are working, their students complaining,About the work which won't go anywhere.Music room down at the end of the hallLends melody to the school atmosphereDrumming and singing and that is not allPiano playing is what you hear here.All people counting the days and the weekUntil the end of the extended yearLooking for solitude, quiet they seek,The end of the session is drawing near.Fourteen more days until two blessed weeks.Refreshment, renewal, and rest we seek.
Musical Preferences I love learning about others' musical preferences. It fascinates me what folks like and why. The extramusical associations are wonderful and enrich my own experience of musical selections. I often ask why someone likes a song, and there is always a story.Personally, I am a lyric-centric person. The musical structure grabs my attention, but the lyrics are what pull me in. For me, the poetry of the song is just as important as the music. I do love music without lyrics as well, but songs are my favorite.I thrill to the Beach Boys because they sing about familiar places - all of the beaches that I spent time on during my youth. I love Chicago's eighties music because the words illustrated many situations in my life. I thrill to Andrew Lloyd Webber's musicals - all of them - for those moments of emotion that suck me in and keep me there. I can only listen to or watch The Phantom of the Opera every so often since I end up in thrall around The Point of No Retur…
Disappointment The big event in my fall break is camp. I have volunteered for a camp for kids with diagnoses on the Autism Spectrum. When I heard about the camp, they were asking for a music therapist to lead the big campfire. I volunteered and was told that, in addition to the campfire, I would be in charge of music therapy, arts and crafts, and sensory experiences. I was up for the challenge and ready to go.Last night was orientation. Imagine my suprise when I found that I was going to "assist" with music therapy rather than lead it. As that was not AT ALL my expectations, I had to do some quick mental rearranging. In one fell swoop, I went from being the therapist to being the aide. The kicker,...no one bothered to mention that I was no longer in charge of that portion of things until I saw it on the schedule. Then, I felt like such a dink for asking if I needed to plan to lead therapy. The camp director looked at me with surprise on her face and offered a session on Satur…
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When a therapist has to serve others first...
This week, we received word that one of our clients had passed away. For some music therapists, this is a more common occurrence, but for us, it is a rare occasion. This young man had severe multiple disabilities and had stopped breathing several times in his short life. He had always responded to resucitation in the past, but this time the episode was undetected. We heard on Monday morning at the beginning of the school day.
I was bringing another student into the classroom from the bus. The support service staff get kids off the buses in the morning and take them to class. I walked into the class with the student to find all three of the staff hysterically sobbing. They had just found out about his death. The students, all of whom have multiple disabilities, were just sitting where they were, waiting for staff members to come and interact with them.
I helped out, getting kids ready for breakfast, fielding questions from others about why sta…
The Art of Listening This week I have had to do lots of listening. I have been listening to co-workers as the grieve the loss of a student, listening to interns as they work on their relationship with each other, listening to my family as they are off on an adventure that they want to share with me, 1500 miles away. The act of listening is not easy. It is an art.I was taught to listen (as well as many other things) by Sandy Rudder, now a Ph.D. Apparently, I was part of her dissertation project - an assertiveness training program for 6th grade girls. My parents thought that I was a good subject - I had some difficulties making friends and sticking up for myself - the products of many moves in few years - so I was pulled out of class to attend assertiveness training.I remember lots of things that occurred during that time. I have used it many times over my years. The things that I use everyday, however, are the tips on listening. Here are as many as I can remember:Active listening means …
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Teaching a complete stranger about music therapy...Possibly priceless??
So, I was at the baseball game the other night, crashing the hospitality suite of a major telecommunications company, when two guys from San Francisco started up a conversation. They asked how we were affiliated with the telecommunications company, and we admitted that we were guests of someone who worked there but was unable to be present. That started the conversation about what we actually did for our livings. They thought we were all teachers, but I piped up and stated that I was a therapist.
Eventually, I got into a conversation about music therapy. The gentleman who was most interested in my job made the conversation completely about himself...how he used music in his life to do different things.
I started thinking about the conversations that I have had in the past about music therapy. Most of the time, you can connect with someone who has no idea when you use their own experience as examples. The song they l…
Back to music therapy So, the current flap on the listserv has settled into a VERY LONG discussion about updating to a blog or wiki. Because of this, I am returning to my favorite topic for a blog, MUSIC THERAPY!I find it interesting when I hit creative dry spells. I am currently in one. I am spending lots of time watching interns work with my clients, and I am doing little active therapy. I am, however, making visual aids like mad. Of course, I am not using them yet, but that will come. Everytime I hit this part of the schedule, I start to have therapy withdrawals. I have decided, therefore, to not accept interns for the January 2010 position, so I can give myself a hiatus from teaching and really get back into therapy full-time.I really enjoy my chosen profession. It is difficult, sometimes, to justify to accountants, why music therapy is an important treatment modality, but once they see a session, they understand the power that music has in our lives. I have to justify my vocation …
Airing our Laundry in Public...Sorta So, the flap on the listserv has gone from NAMT/AAMT to male/female. Interesting how email cannot always convey the intention of the authors. Sarcasm and snark often translates into personal attacks and hurt feelings. A very good reason not to participate, in my opinion.There are many different ways of viewing the current issues and discussions that are happening on the music therapy listserv right now. I have come to the conclusion that the actual discussion is going on on many different levels. We are arguing apples and oranges. Some of it is a pity party - poor, poor, pitiful me. I am a member of the minority and feel like my opinions are right but ignored. Some of it is a mutual admiration society - poor us. We are the persecuted ones. Let's get together and secede from the Association. Some of it is like North Korea - nobody is actually paying attention to what is going on with us, so we will threaten something drastic so everyone will have…
Forever Young A good friend of mine just made a comment that she was starting to like songs by Hannah Montana (AKA Miley Cyrus) and the Jonas Brothers. While the comment made me laugh, it reminded me of a pivotal A-HA moment in my own development as a music therapist.I was in a session at a National Conference - can't remember the year or the location - where the primary topic was not centered around geriatric music therapy, buy was led by a person who worked primarily in geriatric settings. The leader wanted us to practice some vocal techniques so he/she asked us to sing "In My Merry Oldsmobile, the song that everybody knows." I started off singing with the rest of them, belting out the first line of the chorus, and then realized that I did not know the rest of the song.In utter humiliation, I stopped singing and attempted to look busy taking notes. I also started my usual self-defeating inner talk."I SHOULD know this song. I'm a failure as a music therapist. Wh…
AAMT/NAMT Split The latest listserve flap is that there is a difference between old AAMT and NAMT. Shocker! You mean, there are different ways to be a music therapist???!??? What a shocker! Seriously, the time has come to bury the hatchet, so to speak, in the old crap that has taken place.There is a mystery that folks do not want to talk about, but the hurt still exists. I find that I can be carrying on a wonderful conversation with a person, centered around competency-based training, experiential learning, qualitative research - all things that I am passionate about - when the person asks me where I live. I state that I live in Kansas, and the other person states, "oh." They then walk away from me. I actually had one person say that she was glad that she talked to me before knowing that I live in the bastion of "those people," because she would not have spoken to me otherwise.What a mess.There were certainly disagreements in the sixties and seventies about training…
Anxiety I guess everyone feels anxious about some things. I admit that I get anxious when I have to send things into my academic advisor - not that she's mean, but I cannot seem to feel comfortable sending her my work. I don't know why. On the other hand, I know a woman who is so anxious about getting anything wrong that she ties herself up in knots throughout her sessions. This worries me.I guess I have a pretty realistic viewpoint about myself as a therapist.I am human.Therefore, I am not going to be perfect. I will make mistakes. I will solve some issues and create others. There will be days when I am not able to sing or communicate with someone else. I also know that these failings are part of the human condition, and I embrace my humanity.I have a very good friend who is a perfectionist. He stresses himself out with the thought that he MIGHT make a mistake that he cannot function in his job. He is an extraordinary organist and accompanist. His anxiety was taking over his l…
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Time to get back to work...
It is almost time for my return to the music therapy clinic. I have enjoyed my time off and would, naturally, take more time off if offered. On the other hand, I think I am about ready to get back to my work routine. I enjoy the daily grind - seeing lots of clients everyday, supervising interns during their sessions, talking to co-workers, and trying to keep up with e-mail.There are lots of things that I enjoy in my job. I love making music - that should be a given for someone in music therapy. I especially enjoy watching my clients make their own music. I love the days that we focus on performances, talent shows, holiday programs, and the like. My clients are not shy. The inhibitions displayed by many folks when performing are simpy not present for my clients. I also enjoy developing innovative therapeutic music experiences for my clients. They appear to enjoy new songs. I like thinking up ways to teach them new concepts through music. It keeps the job fres…
Sigh... It is time for my summer break. I have a respite from work responsibilities for the next 12 days. I have no place to go, but plenty to do. It is time to organize my thoughts and physical environment. This is my ongoing quest, but I continue to strive towards the impossible dream... an organized place to live and work.Tomorrow, I will start to clean out the closets at home. I will strive for 3 bags of trash or donations before I finish the process.By the end of 12 days, I hope to have steam cleaned all of the carpet in my home. Knowing myself, I will probably find other things to do to avoid the steam cleaning, so, I also hope to write songs, design visual aids, and do some recording over the next 12 days. We shall see...
Taking a Deep Breath It is almost time for the end of the school year. When you are a school-based therapist, you wait for the end of the school year like others wait for their vacations - counting down the days. I have 5 days left.I relish my times away from the clinic, primarily because I get to the point where I feel like I am singing the same old songs while working on the same old skills. I can only sing "Elimination" so many times before I am LONGING for new musical interventions and interactions. The break allows me to clean my house while clearing out the old and bringing in the new. I have trends when it comes to refreshment of my therapeutic self. I enjoy listening to music that does not include rapping or Britney Spears singing. I make compilations for use in my car - my favorite songs from a variety of genre. I take time to play my guitar and my keyboard.I spend lots of time breathing.I think I often forget the power of a deep, cleansing breath. I use breathing wi…
Thinking about the music I mean, duh, right? I am a music therapist, therefore, the music should be the primary thing that I think about. Interns give me a good perspective on how far I have come in my profession - many times, interns are focused on the activity level of music therapy - music accompanied educational applications. The music is not the driving force of the session, it is the thing that should keep the client paying attention.The therapeutic use of music is something that I find interns have studied, but do not really understand. They have sat through psychological influences of musical behavior but have not internalized the important ways that music can be used to shape behavioral responses. They do not understand the iso-principle, the concept of entrainment, and the ways that therapists can change the music to affect behavioral changes. It is also difficult to express this concept to novice therapists who are just worried about finding the correct chords to their chose…
Interns I remember being an intern and hoping that I would get along with my fellow interns. As an internship director, I pay special attention to the personalities and habits of interns, hoping to get the best match for each person who comes to my facility. Difficulties with your fellow interns can be very distressing during an already stressful situation. Sometimes, however, the relationship is that of kindred spirits.My current interns are two such souls. They have bonded. They are deep friends at this point, sharing experiences with clients, with me, and with each other. They are learning from each other daily and are starting to sound alike. This form of bonding is rare, lasting, and important. They are also the second set of interns that I have had that have found this type of relationship.I hope for them that they can keep in touch with each other throughout their careers. There is something comforting about a fellow music therapist who shared a common experience out there in th…
Blogging is an art... ...and I am not the best at it. Okay, updates are in order. Since the word "me" is in the title of this blog, I'll focus just on me for a time. I know, egocentricity rears its ugly head. Indulge me, please.I have been sick since November with a brief hiatus in March. I have decided that sinus infections are cruel and unusual, especially when followed up by tonsillitis and bronchitis. I am tired of being on medications and then getting sick as soon as the meds are gone. Boo-hoo!My job has become much more challenging as of late. The students have changed, but music therapy is still the job for me. The actual work keeps changing. I find that the changes make me constantly reevaluate my own growth as a therapist. I am now finding myself in the position of relearning music therapy from a different perspective. It is interesting. My population has dual challenges - developmental as well as psychiatric. The typical psychiatric platforms do not work well wi…