Sunday, May 29, 2011

Cleaning Out
I am in the process of cleaning out my 41 years of accumulated crap. Now, I am not just a pack rat, I am almost to hoarder status. I can honestly say that I like my crap. I enjoy the prestige of having lots of things. The problem is that I have a finite amount of space available to store said things. There come times when something has to go. For my sake, I hope that I can be motivated enough to get rid of lots of things in the next 5 days.

Fortunately, I have a timeline. The church is having a rummage sale next weekend, so I have to get things sorted and out of the apartment by next Thursday. After that, stuff needs to be donated to one of the local thrift stores. I have eight more days to get things done.

In a stretch, I feel that my pack rat nature makes me a good therapist. Now, I know there are folks who would disagree, but my need to collect things extends to my need to collect ideas, theories, and techniques. My bag of tricks is like my apartment's current state...full to the brim. What I haven't figured out in my physical environment that I have figured out in my therapeutic environment is that there are times when you have to purge the old or take it out and update it a bit. I have done that as a therapist.

I remember the old days of believing everything that a professor told me without questioning. "If Dr. ** said it, then it MUST be law!" I have "grown up" enough in the profession of music therapy to know that professors do not have the only answers. I am actualized as a therapist and can sort through the information given to make appropriate decisions for me and for my practice as a clinician. I throw away the old ideas and make ways for the new ideas, or I revamp the old ideas into new ones.
Back to cleaning up the stuff that invades my physical life. The therapy idea is out and exposed, now on to the more practical aspects of life.

Happy cleaning!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Thoughts and Musings...

After a two day forced hiatus from blogging (Thanks, blogger!), I have several thoughts about things. Forgive me as I indulge in some random thoughts and musings about music, therapy, and me. Probably mostly me. Sorry.

I have been on vacation for the past nine days. I have ten days to go. While I feel that vacations are essential for the health and well-being of every therapist, I find it difficult to be away from the music therapy world for long periods of time. I always make a list of things that I want to do, and I never get those things done. This vacation's goal is to steam clean the carpet in my bedroom. I am almost to the point of being able to move furniture to clean the first half. I had to do the great laundry mountain first.
A friend of my family died this week very unexpectedly. This has hit my father hard as this friend was one of his best friends. He was shocked and deeply grieving. He was not able to talk to me for long periods of time when he found out because he was upset. My father is not ashamed to cry - he cries whenever he is proud of his children, he cries when movies turn sad, and he cries when his friends die. I have been grieving this friend from 1500 miles away. Dad has worked through his initial shock and is able to talk about George now. I grieve for both George's family and for mine as we go through the grief process.

I am an introvert - a STRONG introvert. I need time away from people, but I also need to around people. I heard an interesting definition of introversion - an introvert enjoys being around people but refreshes his/her enthusiasm and energy away from big groups of people. I have had enough time on my own and now I need to be around people. I do not have to interact with those people, but I do need to be around people. So, I am heading to the big outlet mall to see a movie (I have a coupon ;-).
Silence is something else that I crave at times.

I do not think that I am alone in my craving for silence. Many of the music therapists that I know look for some silence in their days. I do not listen to music outside my therapy clinic. I am more likely to make music rather than to listen to the performances of others when I am outside my clinic. I listen to NPR talk radio on my commutes from home to work with the occasional foray into prepared playlists. I use the iso-principle every chance I can get - I change music to fit my mood, often going through an entire CD not finding what I want to find. I make Favorites CDs - for my own personal use - of music that intrigues me at the moment of creation. These CDs often gain the criticism of others who find the abrupt changes of music jarring. I will often change from Fanfare for the Common Man to U2 to The Shirelles to music from Star Wars. I choose the music because I like it. There is no rhyme or reason to my choices, except for the reason in my own head. I do not make my choices for the comfort of others, but for myself. 

Therapy for the therapist. Time for a new Favorites CD.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Tempo and the Music Therapist

I think that tempo is one of the most powerful therapeutic elements of music. I also think that it is one of the least emphasized in our music therapy training.

Dr. Michael Thaut, an eminent researcher on the effect of music on the central nervous system, emphasizes that motor functions occur within a temporal framework - coordinated in time. If you can find the client's initial tempo, you can change the speed of motor function through subtle changes in the tempo of the music presented.

I believe that the same function occurs in domains other than the motor domain. I believe that there is a cognitive processing entrainment node for each person. Now, I have NO proof of this. I do not have the ability to use sophisticated imaging machinery to see if electrical impulses change to accommodate the musical stimulus or to see if matching the music to the electrical impulses can increase cognitive function, but I feel that there is something to the idea.

There are times, when I am running music therapy sessions and experiences, that I can feel a change in how clients are attending to the stimulus I am presenting. Many times it is only one client who has the shift in response, but I occasionally hit a "golden tempo" for an entire group. When that happens, the music therapy experience becomes more meaningful for the clients. There are shifts in behavior that indicate a connection between the music and the client as well as increased connection with the therapist during those moments.

One of the most difficult aspects of tempo as an important therapeutic element of music is that many clients in one convenience group do not share similar tempo preferences. How can you coordinate a group of diverse tempi into one experience? I submit that you cannot provide all tempi for all clients simultaneously. The best you can hope for is to coordinate the tempo for clients with the greatest need at the moment.

Monday, May 23, 2011


Thoughts about being a music therapist often intrude into my vacations. This is the situation right now. I am currently vacationing from my school job during summer break. The break lasts for two weeks, and I will be spending it in glorious solitude at my home. This time away from work and work issues will make me a better therapist when I return. 

I enjoy some time away from being a therapist. There are times when being a therapist is difficult. I firmly believe that all therapists have to take some time out of therapeutic relationships to refresh and renew. I look forward to these times. I try not to think about work or work issues during my vacations, but thoughts of and about music therapy often intrude.

Today is my fourth day of vacation. I have fourteen days to go before I go back to work. I was ready to be on break and now I am ready to be away from work for a short time.

My plans are to clean, sort, and throw away. My house is a pit at this point. There are things everywhere that have piled up since my last vacation. I am going through things one box at a time, making decisions about what to keep. I have found many things that I have started to do but have not completed. This is a time to complete some of those things.

I often tell my interns that they have to remove the words, "need" and "should" from their vocabularies. I often have to do the same thing. Right now, I will practice what I preach about those particular words.

Right now I want to rephrase the things that I am thinking.  

Statement #1:I need to clean, and I should be doing that right now rather than typing on this blog.
Rephrase #1: I will empty three boxes today and remove the trash from the house so it will never return.

I will use this break time to reflect on my professional life as well as my personal life.

I will have some fun.

I will keep moving towards my personal and professional goals.

There will probably be lots of time to blog over the next two weeks, so be prepared for lots of rambling discussions full of sound and fury signifying nothing.

Signing off -


Sunday, May 15, 2011

Narrow-minds and Ethics

So, I have got myself into some trouble with the music therapy listserve again. I seem to do that quite a bit when I open my big fat mouth. I hate when people with opposing OPINIONS start to argue with each other. There is never a winner, especially when the opinions are contentious to begin with.

The music therapy listserve has been abuzz with comments about a book featuring a music therapist as the protagonist. The book also concerns a lesbian relationship, something that was not highlighted before the book was published. One MT asked for some opinions about the book, and another MT stated that she felt that marriage should be between one man and one woman, not a lesbian couple. This opened up the floodgates for calls to remand this MT under the code of ethics. She was told to seek supervision to assist her in removing her bias towards people who were in homosexual relationships.

I decided that some of these conversations were appropriate, but I started to get incensed when people started making ethical judgments about the behavior of the MT who stated an opinion different from their own. I happen not to care about the definition of marriage, feeling that all people should have equal rights regardless of any form of differences. I just find it unethical for some people to state that this person was unethical in not accepting the values, attitudes, and opinions of others as different from her own when they are guilty of the same behavior. She should not be censored for stating an opinion when they are not being censored for stating their opinions. The conversation strayed from the original intent of the post into a series of arguments about who was right - the GLBT community or the conservative Christian community.

I posted a comment that was intended to ask everyone to first maintain some professionalism when responding to comments, and to respect the opinions of others as opinions. This led to some pretty heated exchanges with a "music psychotherapist" who appears to think that I have been accusing her of unethical behavior (which, I kinda have since she called the other person unethical for expressing an opinion that has the potential to hurt others - personally, I think that some of her opinions have the same potential). I took the conversation off-list due to the initial personal nature of her response to me - she used my name in the email. She keeps reiterating that she will stand up for the GLBT community when no one else will. This was not my point with my comment - I don't care who anyone sleeps with - IT IS NOBODY'S BUSINESS - but she will not let it go.

I have decided to be the bigger person and leave the conversation. She will not concede that I have a point. I have conceded to her points many times. She apparently just wants to attack, and I am a convenient target. More power to her.

I will just add her name to the list of people that I do not value as colleagues and move on.

My question is, "why do we even have to go through this pointless exercise?" In my OPINION, two factions as divisive as these will NEVER accede that the other has a point. Why continue to try to persuade each other to the opposing point of view. Each is firmly rooted and will not budge. So agree to disagree and GET OVER IT!

There - that's my rant on my own private space. If you don't like it, tough! This is my opinion and that's all you need to know.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Life speeds by...

It is May.

This is one of my busiest months as a school music therapist. The talent show is next Friday, graduation is six days later, and summer school plans have to be made before school is finished for summer break. All of this in addition to the normal pattern of music therapy sessions and work responsibilities. I am slowly losing my mind since there are also papers to write, treatment plans to coordinate, visual aids to laminate, AMTA work to be done, and many other things to do. In addition, I have been sick for the past three months and am finally starting to feel better, but am still requiring LOTS of sleep.

I got so caught up in the flood of things that have piled up that I forgot to pay my rent this month. So, here it is on the 6th, and I have just now paid my rent. This is an unusual situation for me - just the rent portion of this particular rant, not the lots of things part.

In moments like this, I have to simplify my life. 

In the next days, I will be writing down all of the things that I need to do. (I really like lists.) Then, I will assign a priority number to each item. This task helps me to carve out time for each and every thing that needs to be done. When I have finished an item on my list, I get to cross it off!

This may sound simple, but it is one of my coping strategies.

Once the list is made, I can plot my timeline for the next two weeks. I identify when each task will be addressed.

Some things are easy to prioritize. My paper will be finished by tomorrow evening. Other things are less easy. The AMTA work will be done when I can fit it in. Graduation song rehearsal is happening on Tuesdays and Thursdays for the next two weeks. The plans for summer school have to be finished by next Tuesday. The formats for sessions for summer school do not have to be addressed until after school is on summer break. Visual aids can always wait until other things have been completed. With the list, I can do anything!

The one thing lacking in this blog diatribe is the musical aspect.

I have to find ways to put music into my life other than what I do for my clients. At times like these when I feel overwhelmed, my personal musical processes are often shoved to the side. So, on my list, I will place times for either making or listening to music as part of my self-care plan.

Off to plan the next 14 days. Wish me luck!

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Bickering with the Rest of the Music Therapy World

Well, the music therapy world is rocking with a discussion about listserve etiquette this weekend! It amazes me who chimes in on certain topics. At issue this time is long messages clogging up the mailboxes of certain therapists. There was an initial request for folks to delete the earlier emails when responding. This led to a series of requests from others to:
  • keep little comments from the entire list
  • stop using the list to elicit activity ideas (proffered by one of the "holier-than-thou")
  • use the blog
  • and to just delete things
I started to laugh.

There is something funny about how we can take these comments from one another so very seriously. In addition, it just reinforces the current attitude of my generation which consists of "it's all about me." Damn the consequences for someone else - I want things my way or no way!! What is going on in the world these days??

I just laugh at the absurdity of us all as I delete the messages.

I have made some proactive decisions surrounding the listserve for my own sanity. They are as follows:
  1. There are some people that I only read if I want to engage in a fight;
  2. There are some people that I think are idiots, and I delete them immediately;
  3. There are some people that I respect so I look to see what they write;
  4. and I rarely respond to conversations unless I feel passionate about a topic.
I do not feel it necessary to publish these thoughts and decisions to the world on the listserve. The discussion has gone on far too long, so I will publish this on this obscure little blog and move on.

I wonder if anyone else finds this as absurd?