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Showing posts from October, 2011

Conflict Resolution

Have you ever been in the middle of a sticky situation that you are unable to get out of?

How do you get yourself out of the situation?

I have spent many hours in conflict resolution training as part of my various jobs as a music therapist. This has gone along with training on workplace violence, blood-borne pathogens, and many other topics. Of all the training that I have had over my 18 years of music therapy, I think that conflict resolution training has been the most valuable of them all.

I work with children and adolescents that are under-served, unserved, or difficult to serve. They often show up at our facility in full combat mode - fighting over everything. Any question you ask is answered with a resounding "NO!" There is a conflict with any suggestion, any experience, anything that is perceived to be something that will lead to a fight.


In my music therapy sessions, clients are allowed to refuse to participate. I do not mind.


I know that music is not always a happy experi…

Getting Ready for the AMTA Conference

It is October.

This month of Halloween is also the month before the annual American Music Therapy Association national conference. I am a habitual presenter and now, as a member of two committees, I always have to get ready for the conference this month as well. 

I always have this realization that time is running out at about this time of year.

This year, music therapists from the United States and other countries around the world will be converging on Atlanta. This is the second time in my career that we will visit the state of Georgia, and I am looking forward to both the conference and the opportunity to visit my family members in the greater Atlanta area.

I highly recommend that music therapists attend the national conference. It is an opportunity to meet many like-minded people - all interested in the use of music to affect change in the lives of others - and it is an opportunity to remember that we are not alone in our ideas, interests, and professional lives. I am always overwhelm…

The Journey of Therapy

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This is a picture of the San Francisco Peaks by Flagstaff, Arizona from the Meteor Crater Complex outside of Winslow, Arizona. It is one of my favorite pictures because of the winding road that took me from the interstate all the way to the crater itself. The landscape is the desert (another place I love!) and looks so barren.

I like to think of this picture as a representation of the journey that we therapists take with our clients.

We start from a place where we are comfortable (the buildings in this picture). We know where we are, and we know where we are heading (the mountains). The path between the two is often winding, sometimes treacherous, and sometimes not clearly defined. While the way to the goal is not always clear, when you reach the goal, you can see where you have been.

I closed the therapeutic relationship with a client this week. He was a young man with a tragic history of physical abuse and neglect who came to our facility about 11 months ago. He really started to bloom…

Closing the Therapeutic Relationship

Today, I will have to say "Good-bye" to a client who has blossomed in music therapy. "Q" is leaving today after about a year of time at our facility. "Q" is a young man who has a horrible history of neglect and physical abuse. He arrived with no communication or social skills and is leaving a young man who can indicate what he needs without biting or screaming. He is truly a success story for the people who work at my place of employment.

"Q" has been featured in several of my previous blog posts. He interacted with me through the music way before he interacted with others. He responded to music in ways different than any other stimulus. He is a young man who deserves music in his education because he truly does perform his educational objectives more when music therapy is the primary form of intervention.

Did I ever mention that "Q" has gigantic blue eyes?

Today I have to say "Good-bye" to "Q."

Ending a therapeutic rel…

Boomwhacker Aftermath

So, with the experience of the Boomwhacker party resonating in my head all night, I awoke to several new ideas. Most of these are not Boomwhacker ideas, but what the hey - I thought I'd share...

My clients have developmental and psychiatric diagnoses, so many of the things that I saw last night were not things my clients can access easily. The chants, the songs, and the organization skills were valuable, so I will use them (with LOTS of adaptations) with my students.

Now, on to my ideas.

With the upcoming Halloween event arriving, I suggest using the Boomwhackers in minor keys. A and C, E and B, D and F are all minor tonalities that can be used as the format for "spooky" songs using the Diatonic set. I often use the exact same songs that I use during the rest of the year on Halloween, but I change all of my major tonalities to minor tonalities. The change of mode increases the eeriness of the music and really makes me think about my melodies and pitches as well. It's a …

Boomwhacker Party?? What??

I just finished a webinar with Kat Fulton, electronic media guru! She sent out an invitation for anyone who was interested to attend an online Boomwhacker Party. I thought, "Why not?" and signed up.

Now, I am very interested in offering online CMTE courses for music therapists who share my interests in persons with developmental disabilities, persons with psychiatric diagnoses, and music therapy interns. I am always interested in how others offer information online, so I signed up for both the Boomwhacker ideas and to see Kat in action.

I was not disappointed.

We used an online conference meeting platform called MeetingBurner. I logged in and waited for the others to arrive. The platform did not allow us to see each other, but we could see Kat and see her powerpoint presentation. It was a bit difficult to contact Kat while she was presenting, but we chatted amongst ourselves without an issue.

Now, the boomwhacker ideas were things that I would have to adapt quite a bit for my st…

Seeing the Entire Picture - Part 2

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Working as a music therapist often means that you have the privilege of seeing clients in a different way than other professionals.


In my music therapy room, kids are often engaged, looking happy, and participating actively in the therapeutic experiences. They will stop screaming when they know that it is almost time to sing, dance, and play. They will hold their behavior in the "acceptable" range for the duration of the session and, many times, for well after the closing song.


Why is this the case?


We know that music affects the brain differently than other stimuli. There are many researchers who study the effect of music on the brain, and there is lots of research that helps us, as therapists, to explain the mechanisms that occur in the brains of our clients.


Now, I don't know exactly what goes on in the brains of my clients since I don't have a fMRI machine or a PET Scan machine. I can only see their faces, their movements, their responses to music and therapeutic mus…

My Life as a Musical Sherlock Holmes

Today's last session was one where I was at a loss.

My child is 9 years old, diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder in the pervasive level of involvement and with various and sundry psychiatric diagnoses. When I entered his classroom, he was curled up on the floor, screaming. I offered him his schedule card, and he walked with me, screaming all the way. We successfully retrieved his music card and headed towards the classroom door.

Once outside, he tried to pull me the opposite direction. When I told him we were going to the music room, he threw himself on the floor and kept screaming. He hit his head on the floor until I placed my foot between the floor and his scalp...then, he hit my foot a couple more times.

Eventually, he stood up and walked with me to the music room, still crying and screaming.

Once inside the room, he and I walked over to the window in the corner. I offered him the gathering drum (which he likes to sit on), and he sat. The screaming continued.

I pulled out my oc…

Therapeutic Music Intervention Planning

I am getting my head ready for session planning for the upcoming week. I have two different types of sessions - kids with severe involvement and kids with less severe involvement. I see every student in the facility for group treatment - 50 minutes per week - and about 30 of them in individual or small group treatment. In addition, each child receives 60 minutes of multidisciplinary educational enhancement services on Friday (themed discovery learning and problem-solving experiences that involve LOTS of movement).


My session planning is very different from what I was taught as an undergraduate music therapy student. When I was a fledgling, I was required to plan sessions, memorize those plans, and follow my script perfectly. This was a difficult thing for me to do as I have always been more willing to follow where a client leads me than to make a client do what I say. I had supervisors who would check off when I would say what was on my plan, and they would challenge my decisions when …