Friday, May 22, 2009


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...

Sunday, May 17, 2009

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 with my clients often, especially when they are out-of-control. The deep breath often interrupts their increase in adrenaline, distracts them from the peer who is looking at them the wrong way, and encourages them to be quiet. It is very difficult to scream and breathe deeply at the same time. I have to remind myself that breathing is the center of my musical presence.

I'm going to breathe deeply and often over the next several weeks. Join me.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

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 chosen song. However, I feel that this is one of the most important skills that I can impart to my students.

I call this skill "client-direction." Is is my not-so-creative term for watching the clients and using the iso-principle to engage them in appropriate interventions. It requires flexibility, creativity, observation, and continual client assessment. Many of my students do not understand this concept.

My interns start their tenure with me on the script plan. They are often required to write and follow a session plan during their practica. I remember being chastized by one of my practicum supervisors for not following the plan as I wrote it. I was able to justify my changes. and she listened - fortunately. Many of my interns have had little to no opportunity to get away from a plan during their practica. This leads to therapists who are very plan oriented rather than client-directed. Interns appear to not feel comfortable with deviating from their plans - they also wonder why clients have different behaviors around me then when they lead the sessions.

I have one intern who is in the beginning stage of her internship - she is plan oriented. I have another intern who is in the latter stages of her internship - she is starting to utilize the concept of "session strategy" rather than "session plan." She is starting to adapt her musical structure to accommodate client behaviors - changing her volume, timbre, pitch, tempo, meter, lyrics to engage client attention and participation. This has led to a wonderful change in her behavior management skill. She is changing behaviors before they get started...with music!

I guess this started as an entry for music as a therapeutic agent and ended up as an entry about my interns - music, therapy, and me. There you go.

Saturday, May 02, 2009


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 the world. It is important to have those friends - my junior intern used to come to national conferences, but has not been around for a long time. I miss having that contact with someone who knew me when I was "young" in the profession.

My hope for all therapists is a "Kindred Spirit." Someone who shares a passion for music therapy, a common experience, and someone who is able to see how much they have grown in the profession.