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Showing posts from March, 2012

An Anniversary... of sorts.

Yesterday I welcomed my new intern into the music therapy program. I started counting up interns and discovered that this one is #20! Therefore, I am going to count this as an anniversary! I, as a part of this anniversary and new intern thing, have been thinking about the interns that have been at my facility over the past 13 years. They have been the source of great joy, frustration, and challenge over the years. I enjoy this aspect of my clinical life, and I hope to continue over the years as an Internship Director (ID). 10 Things I Have Learned About Being an ID Being an ID is always interesting. There will be days when you are thrilled about your intern's growth and competence. Sometimes an intern has to be "deserted" in order to grow as a therapist. Interns are creative people, offering great ideas to your setting. Remember to give them credit for their work. There will be times when your intern challenges your own clinical skill development. This is good. 


I enjoy improvisation with my clients. My attitude towards improvisation was not always positive but was extremely negative while I was a teenager. My jazz band director always expected us to improvise. As soon as it was my turn, my mind, usually full of notes, scales, and modes, would turn to absolute mush!! I had an improvisation block for many, MANY years. My turning point was during my internship. My very wise Internship Director, Sheryl Kelly, at the Center for Neurodevelopmental Studies in Phoenix, AZ, stated that improvisation was merely reflecting the behaviors of my clients in my musical interactions. Simple as that, I was no longer blocked when it came to improvisation. Today's improvisation came in the form of a serendipitous happenstance. I had a group of teenagers with diagnoses on the intellectual and psychiatric spectra who have varying levels of communication skill as well as varying levels of involvement. I had taken out my Five Senses visual aids - simple


Every time I spend some time around other music therapists, I recognize the importance of being part of a community of like-minded professionals. So... I tend to write about it during and after the conference. I am currently attending the Southwestern regional conference of the American Music Therapy Association. Now, I do not live in this region, but I know lots of folks here, thanks to my conference roommate, Christine. Now, the Texans are a pretty tight-knit group, but they have always been very welcoming to me. I have a bit of an "in" since I was born in the great state of Texas, but left in the midst of my childhood. I digress. Sorry. Anyway, I started this discussion thinking about the importance of community and will get back to that topic right now. I sat in two sessions today focusing on the development of students as they move from one area of professional interaction to another. I enjoyed the presentations as both were focused on children and adolescents wi

A Flash!

I am very interested in how music therapists get ideas for what to do with their clients. How do you figure out what to do with your clients? Do you use ideas from other people all the time? Do you develop your own songs and experiences? Do you enter a session with a scripted plan, or do you improvise everything? I tend to do a combination of the questions above. I often have a sketch of a session plan in my head, along with all of my previous experiences, improvisation formats, and my equipment. I go where my clients take me, wherever that may be. My ideas for Therapeutic Music Experiences (or TMEs as I will refer to them from now on) often come to me in a flash of creativity. The flash comes and goes, and I have learned, the hard way, that if I don't capture that flash immediately, it is just plain old gone. The flash is an elusive thing. Sometimes I wake up in the morning singing a fully formed song - everything falls into place without effort. Other times, I get stuck i

The Power of Making Music in a Group

Yesterday, I was leading music at my church job. I have been a church music director for many years now and am always interested in how the members of the congregation make music. If asked to join the choir, many of the members of the congregation refuse stating something along the lines of "You wouldn't want my voice in the choir. I'm not a good singer." No matter how many times I reassure them that singing in the choir is not about individual voices but the group as a whole, they appear to worry that their singing will bring the group's musical prowess down. In the many years that I have been the leader of the music at this church, all of the folks outside the choir still focus on the product of our singing rather than the process of singing. As a music therapist, I focus on the process of music making rather than on the product. Now, that's not to say that I am not excited when my choir members conquer a particular passage or piece, but I am more inter

When Life Intrudes

I woke up this morning to find a flood in my guest bathroom. Don't you love it when you find things happening that were unplanned, unexpected, and that interrupt your plans? I am being very sarcastic right now. One of the things that I have been talking to my current intern about is how to be a therapist - self-actualized, confident, healthy, and giving without giving it all away. We discussed that being a therapist does not mean that you have to completely give up on a personal life, but that it does mean you have to be able to compartmentalize many of your personal issues. When you can't compartmentalize, it is time to take some time away from the clinic. There are times when I am unable to focus on being a therapist. I have other things that are running through my head instead of what the client is doing during our musical interaction. On days like today,with a flooded bathroom, I would be wondering about the maintenance call, about the cat and whether she was being ni

Strange Things are Happening to Me

I have always loved the song from Toy Story when Woody notices that things are changing around him. He is happy with the status quo and cannot really seem to understand that change leads to growth. I am in the midst of lots of changing situations right now, and this song seems to be the best descriptor of what is going on. I beg your indulgence as I elaborate. For me, personally, my changes are not earth shattering but there nonetheless. I am getting ready to host my first webinar on Thursday. I am getting more proactive at work, and I am getting ready to add another intern to my music therapy clinic. These changes are not large, but they change everything in my world pretty significantly. There are other things happening right now for me as well. The culture of music therapy as a health profession is changing. This past year brought several examples of music therapy in the media, increasing our visibility in both the public eye and in the health care industry. Music therapy


I like to call what I do in sessions, Therapeutic Music Experiences or TMEs . I got this highfaluting series of words from an intern I supervised a long time ago, and it really seems to fit with what I think I do. The other words that I have used over the years included activities, applications, and interventions, but none of these terms ever really seemed to encapsulate the purpose of music in a therapy session the way TME does. I use specific TMEs as parts of larger music therapy interventions. The experiences are designed carefully to address multiple goal areas at the same time. If we are addressing impulse control as a common goal for all group members, I ensure that every TME has an element of impulse control to fit within the use of music therapy as an intervention. Within one single TME, however, many different goal areas can be addressed. This week I used a simple Orff improvisation with a group of students with diagnoses on the severe end of the Autism spectrum. These st

Anyone want to make some mallets?

I am going to try something this month that I have never tried before. I am going to offer a webinar through a program called Meeting Burner. The webinar is NOT CBMT-related and will not be eligible for CMTE credits for those of us certified through the Certification Board for Music Therapy. It will, however, show you a technique for making mallets. Now, I am sure that many folks out there are perfectly fine with purchasing mallets, but I have always been someone who prefers to make my own materials, so I was thrilled to learn how to make mallets that look and feel like the ones I can purchase. If you are interested in learning how to make mallets, please register using the following link: . This meeting is limited to 10 participants. After you register for the webinar, you will receive a materials list and a bonus tool! Thanks for considering it!! See you on the 15th of March from 7pm to about 8:30pm Central Standard Time (or GMT -6


Today, I was manipulated by a master. I must admit that he took me in, spun me around, and got exactly what he wanted. Shame on me!!! This young man is 11 years old and has a diagnosis on the severe side of the autism spectrum. He has never been an individual client of mine, but has been in group music therapy for quite a time now. He was on my list of students to start in individual therapy and then was discharged from the facility. He returned after approximately a month at home. Today was the first time we were going to the music room for individual music therapy. I handed "P" his name card and directed him to get his PECS icon off of his schedule. He grabbed the music card and threw himself on the floor, screaming, "No music! No music!" He attempted putting his card back on his schedule. I persisted and made him get his music card again. I finally persuaded him to move towards the door, ushered him out where he appeared to revel in the wonderfully live acous