Showing posts from November, 2012

Slowing Down, and Not By Choice

Recently, I posted thoughts on mental health days. Today, I am on my second consecutive sick day away from my clients - right after Thanksgiving break - and am starting to have some cabin fever! (If you are unfamiliar with that phrase, it epitomizes the restlessness that you have when you must stay in one particular place - often used when settlers spent lots of time snowed in during long, cold winters.) So, today's post is regarding sick days - keeping our germs to ourselves!

We have a responsibility to our clients and to ourselves to be a bit selfish when it comes to germs. Some of my kids are medically fragile and do not need to have me sharing my coughs all over the music room. While I do not like being sick, I have come to the conclusion that it is better for me to take some time away from therapy than it is to push through the germs to offer inadequate experiences.

I still feel guilty about it though.

I have bronchitis. I am running a temperature, so have been told not to retu…

Rude Awakenings

I was part of a domestic disturbance yesterday morning. I did not start the disturbance, nor was I a big part of the situation, but I called the police and got things going. The girls next door started screaming. Apparently their mother was under the influence of something and attacked her boyfriend. When I saw them, he was trying to throw her out of the apartment, she was scratching him, and the girls were screaming! I called 9-1-1 and reported the disturbance.

In the end, the mother was taken away in the back of a cruiser. When the police arrived, she didn't show any emotional affect and simply asked for a chance to smoke a cigarette. The kids were picked up by their dad, and the police informed the man that the woman was not allowed back at the apartment without a police escort.


As I was sitting in my apartment somewhere between panic and hysteria, I started thinking about my clients.

I work with kids with psychiatric diagnoses in addition to developmental and intellectual d…

Mental Health Days

We've discussed lots of things over the years, but one of the things that I feel is most important (and an issue often glossed over in education and clinical training) is the mental health of the therapist. Now, we talk about mental health in terms of transference and countertransferance, we talk about burn-out, and we talk about making sure that we keep our clients' goals in mind always, but we rarely talk about those times when we are not able to give the type of attention to our clients that they need and deserve. In those cases, it is time for the therapist to take a mental health day!

Now, I am a person with a strong work ethic for which I thank my parents every day. I enjoy most things about my job, and I love being a music therapist for and with my clients. I drag myself to work on days where the weather is nasty. I am constantly looking for new ideas and experiences to share with my kids, and I try very hard to make my work environment a pleasant place for all who enter…

Giving Thanks

It is that time of year, here in the United States, for all of us to stop and think about the things that are in our lives. For several years, I listed something that I was thankful for every day on Facebook, but since that is now the popular thing to do, I refuse to follow a trend! So, here are all of the things that I am thankful for in one fell swoop!!

I am thankful for this sweet face that yells at me, frisks around our home, sleeps on top of me, hogs the covers, bites me when I'm trying to play, and is obsessed with white plastic bags! There are lots of things that pets bring into our lives. Bella definitely enriches my life in many ways.

Her purr (especially the monster purr) makes my bad days a bit more bearable!
This is a mandala that I drew in 2011 for one of my family members. I don't know which one yet. I kind of matches my sister's decor, but it seems more like my mom's type of thing. Anyway, I am thankful for the creativity that my mother and father fostered…

Thankful Things

Over the past two weeks, I have enjoyed working with my kids around giving thanks for what we have in our lives. I have started a piggyback song to the tune of Soon It's Gonna Rain (from the musical The Fantasticks, Music by Harvey Schmidt, and lyrics by Tom Jones) which allows my kids to fill in their own thankful things.

Here is my current version...

I am thankful for my patient family. I am thankful for Bella-cat as well. I am thankful for the end of each workday too.
I am thankful for each student in my class. I am thankful for making music. I am thankful for the time we spend together too.
My students have made some very interesting statements about what they give thanks for this season. One person stated, "Barbies." Another stated, "Shelter." Yet another said, "God." Their written products are more involved and more positive about their current situation. 
As you probably know, my students attend a school contained within a center for persons with develo…

Enough is Enough!!

Have you noticed a trend in my posts lately?? Here is a conscious effort to change all that!

Typically, my Novembers are fast - there is AMTA conference followed by two days of work and then the Thanksgiving holiday. I do not often have time to engage in Thankful themed TMEs with my clients. This year is very different.

With the AMTA conference already over, this year I have the entire month of November to work with my kids. We are starting to focus on being thankful for what we have - whatever that is.

Last Monday I placed the words, "Thankful Things" on my large bank of cabinets. I made two half sheets - one for narratives and one for drawing - and got out the markers and pencils. Kids came in, we did our opening TME, and I then asked them to write or draw about the things for which they were thankful. The response was wonderful!!

This week we will be singing or rapping about our thankful things.

I am enjoying the opportunity to spend some time thinking about being thankful. I …

Going on a Squeegee Hunt

One of the songs that I sang over and over and over again as a song leader in Girl Scouts was "Going on a Squeegee Hunt." Now, you may be wondering what a "squeegee" is - good question! It is an imaginary creature that was probably invented by some obscure girl scout in Southern California many, MANY years ago!

Anyway, similar to the traditional children's song of "Going on a Lion/Bear/Tiger Hunt," the song takes you through a sequential process over, under, around, and through various obstacles towards a goal.

Today, as I am sitting here writing, I am thinking about the poor squeegee being hunted. It is just in its cave, trying to do its squeegee things without interruption, when suddenly, BOOM! Some Girl Scout arrives to poke it! The poor squeegee does what it can - it jumps up and chases the Girl Scout all the way home!!

This has not been a good work week. It is amazing how people will make mountains out of molehills. Here is the deal. I sent out an e…

Small Things Lead to Bigger Things

Today I am taking a brand new, 3-ring binder into work.

There. How is that for thrilling news?? I am going to use the 3-ring binder to organize my internship stuff. All the stuff that I give to interns will be freshly organized into a new folder. The old folder is worn out and cracking at the seams. It needs some updating, so out with the old, in with the new. Sometimes, it's the little stuff that really makes a difference in someone's life.

I have a young man who has finally started to realize the importance of communicating what he wants and needs. He has experienced the "A-ha" moment when he realizes that what he signs is meaningful to others. If he doesn't know the sign for harmonica, he is able to mimic what he needs to do in order to play the harmonica. COMMUNICATION! He is a signing sponge right now - pulling out pictures and looking to me to give him words (which I can do with my 20-year old ASL vocabulary and a signing dictionary!). He seems thrilled when …

Those Challenging Groups

There are times when every group of people becomes a challenge for the person tasked to be the leader. In my opinion, the mark of a great leader is the ability to find a way to bring the group of distinct personalities into cohesion - by any means possible. You cannot just shrug your shoulders and state, "That's the way this group is always going to be."

I currently have one EXTREMELY challenging group (fortunately, the other 10 groups that I work with are currently pretty cohesive for the moment). Here is the situation:
Four students - three males, one femaieDiagnoses - Pervasive Developmental Disabilities; Classic Autism; severe emotional disorders; severe behavioral disordersLots of staff support - this sounds good, but sometimes it's more of a hindrance than a help!Group session - the attitude is that kids MUST have group treatment in order to give teachers planning time.50 minutes - always broken into short therapeutic music experiences (TMEs)Group members accusto…

The Importance of Music Theory

Many years ago, I sent out an informal survey to interns asking them to identify the advice they wish they had been told before they started their internship. Almost every single one (there were only 9, but still...) stated, "Don't sell your theory books back! You will need them!!" I laughed when I saw that comment on survey after survey!

It amazes me how many music therapy students do not realize why they have to take music theory as part of their music therapy education. Music theory is the foundation of all of the things I do in my sessions - ALL OF IT!

I spend most of the time that I am in music therapy sessions actively engaged in making music. Sometimes I engage in musicking with my clients, other times I am the only person making music. All of my songs, chants, raps, and improvisations are rooted in the things I learned in my two and a half years of theory as well as my additional theory study over the past 22 years. Playing by ear? Helps if you can narrow down the …

The Wee Small Hours of the Morning

This has been a strange week filled with anxiety dreams, headaches, and full-time therapy! I am really hoping that all of these things are not related since I love doing full-time therapy and, well, you know...

Anyway, I fall into bed exhausted every night and then dream all night long. 
This is not typical for me - I rarely remember my dreams. These dreams are directly tied into my work - I am dreaming about being switched from one place to another, about secret meetings, and about needing to be in 14 places at once to get the job finished. It interests me that none of my anxiety dreams have anything to do with my clients or music therapy, but that just indicates to me that music therapy sessions are the things that are right in my life right now.

Now, you may be wondering why I'm writing about this.

Me, too.

This is one of the phenomena that happens when I am not sleeping the way I want - seven straight hours and under lots of covers - I start to obsess about non-issues and they star…