Monday, April 26, 2010

Another Week

It is the beginning of another week of music therapy sessions. Today is "long music" day #1 - basically, sessions last for 50 minutes each rather than the 30 minutes on "short music" days. Students always ask, "Is this long music day?" I'm not sure if they are happy or disgruntled about the change in session times. It's a mystery.

Today's sessions are with my younger kids, with my more challenging behavior-oriented kids, and with my more severely involved kids. Mondays and Wednesdays tend to include basic academic and preacademic concepts, general movement, and lots of sensory experiences for the clients. We will start with an opening song (of course, and if this marks me as an "activity therapist", so be it!!), move into a motor task, and finish with more cognitive tasks. As my primary focus is to develop impulse control skills and appropriate expression of emotion in my kids, I can fit almost everything I plan under the treatment umbrella.

I literally have no idea what I am going to do with my students today - other than the basic outline presented above. I use this style of client-directed therapy almost to the exclusion of everything else. I go with the flow probably more than I should, but I feel that one of the marks of a good therapist is the ability to change plans as client needs change. I also feel that it is important to engage client interests any way possible, so sometimes my plans have to change to accommodate the best interests of my kids.

One of the advantages to being an old music therapist is that I have a large "bag of tricks" that I can use to engage the interest of my clients. I have thousands of ideas that I can tap at any time. I am getting more organized with how I access my "bag" - transferring music and ideas into a uniform computerized format is taking a VERY long time - but reviewing my old ideas and the music resources that I have available is a good thing to do every once in a while.

Off to work I go.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Finding your center

I am starting to work out after work with several of my work friends. This is a big step for me because I have, until now, felt that exercise was difficult to fit into my schedule. The lack of interns has offered me some extra time, so, being a typical Type-A personality, have had to find something to fill that extra time.


I am doing Tae-bo and Biggest Loser tapes with my friends, and I am trying to do yoga DVDs on my own. I have always enjoyed the thought of yoga, but the balance required will probably always be a challenge for me. I am trying to find my center in my balance centers as well as in life.

How do you find your center? Do you schedule in different activities? Do you just live in the moment?

I find mine in several ways. I read. I read lots of things that are not related to my professional life. Quite frankly, music therapy texts put me to sleep. I play with my cat, and I talk to my family as often as I can. I craft, I write, and I develop things to do with my clients. I go on trips when I can afford them, and I eat gooey desserts.

The center is a good concept. When I am centered, I feel like I know where I am in the universe.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


I received notice that my professor friends are no longer teaching their music therapy students to refer to music in their treatment objectives.

All I could find to say is, "Ergh."

How can we be music therapists if we do not refer to music in our treatment objectives????

If I write an objective that does not refer to music, there is no mandate for including a music therapist on the treatment team. Anyone can complete the objective.

Monday, April 12, 2010

What's This?
So, I just reviewed some comments about writing goals and objectives where a professor stated that she teaches her students to write objectives without referencing music. This concept really confuses me. If we do not reference music, what makes music therapy objectives uniquely music therapy objectives?

When I attended the same school, we were told that music was a requirement for writing objectives. I feel the same way to this day. How can we justify music therapy services if we are not demonstrating the unique nature of music as a therapeutic medium?

Here is the objective in question...

When cued by song lyrics, the client will play the instrument 2 out of 5 trials for 3 consecutive sessions with no more than 2 sung prompts.

Now, what I am not sure about is, do I remove all references to music or musical equipment or both??

Again, why would I want to remove all of those references? One of the fundamental issues in music therapy in special education services is the question of necessity. Therapists have to ask themselves, "Is this service educationally necessary?" If skills can be gained in any other environment, then justifying music therapy treatment is often difficult. School districts are not often open to spending money on music therapy if a speech therapist can address the goal as effectively as the music therapist. So, if the music therapist is not demonstrating the use of music in his or her objective writing, then how does he/she show that music therapy is educationally necessary?

Aaargh! I really wish that professors would talk to practitioners about the realities of doing therapy rather than following trends that others dictate. I am sure that this change in writing was spurred on by some obscure article about what music therapists SHOULD be doing rather than what actually has to happen in the real world to justify services.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Balance in Everything

This can be a challenge...finding the balance in all things. I find myself constantly shifting from one side of life to the other. Overemphasis on work leads to neglect of the schoolwork. Focusing on the schoolwork often leads to neglect of the personal life. It is difficult to find the perfect balance.

This week has been Holy Week in the Christian calendar. As a church choir director as well as a music therapist, my life has been tipping towards work more than anything else this week. I am trying to find the balance rather than getting focused on the lack of time that is available.

My focus for Lent this year has been to try to find the silver linings in all situations, especially those that hurt my feelings or make me VERY cranky normally. The amount of cognitive retraining that this effort has taken recently has been enormous. I have found that my attitude, my outlook, my relationships with others have greatly improved during the past 40 days. I have also been able to find some balance between work and home - schoolwork, however, is a different story.

Balance in a music therapy session requires several things from the therapist. The first thing is an open attitude towards the client. I have to be able to accept my client at face value - his mood, his attitude towards me, his attitude towards the music, and his attempts to direct the pattern of therapy. At the same time, the therapist also has to remember that she is the professional in the relationship. The client may not direct all of the interactions in the music therapy session - otherwise, there would not be a therapeutic benefit to the session. The therapist must determine how to engage the client's interest while making all interactions make the client progress towards his goals.

Balance is important when planning a session as well. Too much sitting leads to nervous clients. Too much movement leads to cranky clients. There has to be a balance in type and form of session events and experiences to assist clients in moving towards their goals.

My new buzzword is "balance."