Friday, July 29, 2011


My life as a school-based music therapist is generally one of routine and constant thinking. I spend lots of time each day analyzing behaviors and adjusting musical interventions to shift behaviors. I have a certain amount of interpersonal contact during the day, and enjoy going home to refresh in solitude.

I am an introvert to the highest degree. I really need alone time in order to get ready to interact with others. This alone time helps me to think about what I do each day as well as to pursue activities that I love.

My problem currently is vacation. I spend lots of time on vacation alone. This is a good thing, for a time, but eventually I need to be around people. Now, I have been around people, but I don't have friends in my town. All of my friends live away from here, so I am not able to see them when I want to do so. I go out to the theater, to the movies, to the shops to be around folks.

I am bored. I need opportunities to be bored. Once I hit this stage, I start to look around my home, and I start to make plans about what I will do with my music therapy clients when I get back into the full-time routine. I am to that point now with 10 days of vacation left to go. 

There are many things that I should/could do at this time, but I am not motivated to do any of them. I am reveling in my boredom, but am also chafing against it.

I need a problem to solve.

Let's look around my current environment to see if there is a problem that engages my interest.

Hmmm. I am currently sitting at my desk, watching television. I have some music therapy texts within reach, a weather bear waiting to be cut out and Velcroed, my SPSS texts, and electronic bits and pieces. My digital camera is within reach, and I have an adaptive cuff that I made out of plastic canvas.

So, thoughts on how to keep myself from escaping into the morass and depression of boredom based on the materials within reach right now...

The music therapy texts are out. I don't want to get involved in reading Gaston, Bruscia, Jorgenson (actually, a Music Ed text), or other theoretical writings right now. I am not in that type of mood.

Weather Bear is definitely a possibility. I made a large version of a file folder Weather Bear that I developed. The finished bear will be about 2' tall with a variety of clothing options to illustrate different ways to dress to accommodate weather conditions. I can use some of my scrapbooking papers to make some funky clothing for my bear. This could work and would keep me entertained while I watch old tv shows. I'll post a picture when I'm done with the Weather Bear. I'll also post the plan on how to use the material as a music therapy experience.

Thanks for reading as I put this together. Tomorrow, I will be cleaning out my bedroom so I can steam clean the carpet in there. Doesn't that sound like fun??

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Looking Around

I'm into vacation mode right now, so I'm spending lots of time thinking about my music therapy practice. I enjoy this time off - it's one of the best perks about being a school-based music therapist - and try to use them as periods of time to refresh my creativity as well as to organize things.

I am currently trying to organize my intellectual "bag 'o' tricks."

Over the years, I have been collecting ideas of things to do with my clients. This habit was started by my professor during my undergraduate education who required a file of applications for my second ever music therapy class. I continued the pattern and habit throughout my 18 years of clinical work and practice. I have a shoebox full of note cards that contain music, ideas, half-finished thoughts, and things that I like. Now, when my interns started to go high-tech and place their Therapeutic Music Experience (TME) file on the computer, I decided it was time to abandon my cards and use the computer as well. I am now playing "catch-up" by scanning all of my cards into the computer.

As I take breaks from scanning cards, I am also continuing my quest to organize my life and all the stuff that I have collected over the years. It is amazing what I have stashed away in boxes and containers over my practice.

All of this, of course, is a way to avoid writing my research papers, a task that I MUST complete this week. I think I am almost ready to start my next round of revisions, but I am not completely sure.


Today's tasks are to scan the "B" section of my card box and sort the four boxes of novelty instruments into categories for taking to work, leaving at home, and using with specific clients. Then, the results section of the SCANS paper... 

Friday, July 22, 2011

That Perfect Music Therapy Moment

There are times when the therapeutic triad comes together into a perfect music therapy moment. If you are lucky, you can see the pieces come together to form that moment. If you are lucky, you can track how the moment starts and replicate it at a different time. I had the privilege of having such a moment this week.

For consistency's sake, I will be referring to all of my clients by the initial "Q." I have chosen the letter "Q" because of its long status of neglect when it comes to names. There just aren't that many "Q" names. So, I hereby christen all of my future references to my clients as "Q."

So, "Q" transitioned to the music therapy room without an issue. He hummed and chirped the way he always does, entered the room, and got out the spinning chair. He has fallen into a routine of manipulating my musical product (improvisatory) using movements of the chair. "Q" recognizes that I change the music when he changes something about his own movement in the chair. For a kid who did not engage in ANY active communication behaviors just 4 months ago, we are making progress!

He was spinning, and I decided that I did not want to sit at the piano. I wanted to change our dynamic a bit, so I picked up the guitar and sat closer to "Q" than I ever have before. He kept looking over at me while I strummed. Rather than changing my musical pattern when he changed direction, I started stopping the guitar strum when he stopped his movement. I used a slap-stop on the strings, producing a percussive sound. (I am sure that there is a more technical term for the slap-stop, but I don't know it.)

He started giggling. Every time he would stop, I would slap-stop, he would look at me, and the giggling started. We carried on this way - stop, slap, eye contact, giggle - for quite a while.

Then, suddenly, he changed the game.

All of a sudden, I found myself in a new interaction with "Q" and the music. He started freezing until I slap-stopped a second time. He gave me some of the power that I have given him over the past two months (the length of time that we have been in individual treatment sessions together). We laughed for the entire session, and neither of us wanted to leave when our time was up.

I was struck by his generosity in allowing me to have some more control over our interactions. This was the first time that "Q" ever treated me as more than just a music source and keeper of the spinning chair. We played. We connected. We shared a perfect music therapy moment that we recall every time I do a double slap-stop on the guitar.

Next session, it's his turn to play.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Sometimes Things Don't Work Out

There are times when things just don't go as all.

I had a day like that last Friday. I was already tired but everything else did not go as planned either. Kids were cranky, I was cranky, and I ended up crying all the way home.

I don't know what was at work, but on days like that I spend lots of time trying to figure out what I did wrong.  

This week has been better. Sessions have flowed smoothly, even though some of the students have been pretty wild. People screamed all day yesterday, until they started laughing hysterically. It was strange, and not at all what I expected.

I am a big proponent of the THERAPEUTIC TRIAD. (Did you hear a trumpet fanfare when you read that? I heard one when I wrote it! Does that make me a music therapy geek??) I firmly believe that the therapist, the music, and the client work together in order to create a therapeutic environment. There are days when my contribution to the session is minimal. There are days when I try so hard to pull the other two elements in my direction that I am not an effective therapist.

The trick is finding balance between all three elements of the triad in order to participate in the most authentic therapeutic exchange. The client and the music should be the two most important parts of the experience. The therapist contributes, but the therapist should not be taking over all of the music while expecting the client to just go along.

I expect that my sessions that have gone all wonky lately have been due to a disconnect between my plans for clients and their own plans for music. I have spent time watching and listening to my clients as they make music this week. I have tried to pull away from "guiding" and have just experienced. 

Many times, I think new professionals have the concept that the therapist has to know what is going to happen through the entire session. Hence the focus on session planning rather than improvisation in many plans. I have grown in my intervention styles and find that I can plan strategies rather than specific interventions for sessions. It is more genuine and authentic when I plan to observe behavior patterns and link them into an iso-principle experience rather than charting all of the songs that I am going to sing.

When I consciously take a strategy method to sessions, I feel that the sessions are more beneficial to my clients. I just have to be reminded every once in a while that I am not the center of the universe...or the music therapy session.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Yoga and the 41-year old Body

I am not someone who shies away from my actual age. I am proud of being 41, and I tell people my age when asked. I am not one of those people who wish to go back to high school to do it again.

Having said all that, I am trying to improve my health through changes in my diet and exercise patterns. I would like to be around for much longer than these 41 years that I have had.

My new exercise of choice is yoga. I like the philosophy of breathing, self-awareness, and stretching that permeates the discipline of yoga. 

Now, let me be completely honest with you. I am VERY overweight and need to lose about 80 pounds before I am EVER considered sleek and toned. I have chronic asthma, allergies of all kinds, and strange medical issues popping out all over and through my body on a regular basis. So, exercise regimes have not been very successful for me in the past. By the time I get into a routine, I get very sick or sprain something or have an asthma attack and am advised not to continue.

I decided on yoga because it is something that I can start on my own without having to go to a class full of perky aerobic goddesses. I have three yoga DVDs that are starting me off in an abbreviated manner. Yogi Marlon is about my age, has a soothing voice, and offers me practical tips for putting myself into the positions that she recommends.

Last night was my first session in a long time. I set out the yoga mat (much to the surprise of my cat) and started the DVD. Yogi Marlon and I lasted for 17 minutes of breathing, stretching, and balancing. Oh, did I mention my diagnosis of Meniere's Disease which affects my balance? Another reason to try yoga with an emphasis on balance in all areas of my life. The cat joined me on the mat for some perfect Cat poses (show-off) and to watch me as I tried to do the same.

I ended up sleeping deeply throughout the night and woke up still tired, but able to move pretty well. It is amazing how I can feel many of my muscles that were just muscles yesterday but today are demanding to be noticed!

The yoga mat will come out again tonight. I'm hoping to make it through 20 minutes of the workout this evening. I know that the breathing techniques (remarkably similar to those that I use with my students to assist them in attention to task and calming) are filling my brain and body with oxygen, increasing my blood flow, and helping me with my asthma. I will continue my quest to become more healthy and will continue my yoga practice. We will see how it starts to affect me and my music therapy practice.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Back to Self-Esteem

I continue to have feelings of inadequacy surrounding myself and my profession choices. I look at people and think, "I should be doing that." I need to submerse myself in what I am able to do and what I do better than anyone else!

So, here goes.

I am a creative person. I enjoy making things with my hands and watching others use those things.

I love the effect of music on behavior. I am good at finding the music that will help people get to their goals.

I am a good supervisor. I help my students get to entry-level professionalism by blending my wishes with their wishes. I can see their skills realistically and can get them to the next level of development.

There are many things that stand in the way of becoming the best person that I can be.

I can be jealous. I work on this continuously.

I hold grudges.

I take on more than I can feasibly do at any one time.

I want to do it all!

There are many more things that I need to work on throughout my existence here.

I will do so.