Saturday, January 28, 2012

Creativity Surges

This week has been a good week for my creativity. While I have been challenged to interact with co-workers, fellow volunteers in several different places, and have just been generally unimpressed with how people have been treating one another, this has also been a very creative week for me.

Do you ever have times when songs just come out of your every pore?

I do, and I love it when it happens.

I have always been interested in how we, as music therapists, develop the strategies and interventions that we use with our clients. I have presented on my own techniques for refreshing my creative juices. I have thought about how I progress through various decision trees for determining what I can do with a specific instrument or item that I have acquired. I enjoy finding multiple uses for something that is unusual. I am always pleasantly surprised when a client or an intern shows me another way to use an item that I thought I had found all possible uses for in the music therapy room. 

I have admitted before that I am a pack rat. I like to have stuff around me. This is not always a good thing, but does offer me a wide variety of materials, instruments, visual aids, and items to incorporate into my music therapy interventions. Unfortunately, this also means that the limited space that I have in my music therapy clinic requires certain rules.

Can you see what I mean?? This is just ONE of my cabinets!

Rule #1 - The MOST important rule of them all - I can only keep something in my cabinet if I can think of 6 separate intervention ideas for the item. If I cannot, then it goes home.

Rule #2 - If I haven't used something for more than 6 months, it goes home.

Rule #3 - I try out visual aids before laminating them. If the visuals do not work, I throw them out rather than laminating them for multiple use. If they work well, I make new versions and then laminate them for use.

These rules have really helped me control the "stuff" in my music therapy storage area.

Yesterday I took my intern through a series of decision trees about how to see possibilities in every thing around her. She was encouraged to choose something from the cabinet that she was interested in. Her choice was a box full of small, squishy circles. I asked her what she thought she could do with these things, and she shrugged. At the end of our talk, she had brainstormed 11 different therapeutic uses for the circles and had started to design interventions using those circles. What a wonderful way to become refreshed...watching someone else start to think outside the box.

Thank you, anonymous intern, for allowing me to see your creativity and for sparking my own.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Specific Music for Specific People??

A music therapy friend of mine recently asked for a list of songs that were good to use with kids with emotional and behavioral disorders. This request started me thinking about specific music for specific people.

I guess I don't really feel that there are specific songs for people with a specific diagnosis.

I like asking my clients to tell me the songs that they like to listen to. Often they are not able to tell me the names or words of songs. I then have to do some detective work, observing their responses and reactions to different kinds of music. I spend time timing their natural movements and patterns to see if they are consistent in their tempi. Often, I can find a tempo preference more easily than a musical preference.

What do you see out there in your clinical experiences??

Do you have specific songs that you use when a client arrives with a specific diagnosis? Do you approach each client as an individual? Do you prefer an entirely improvisatory approach?

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Singing My Song

This week, the American internet has been taken over by discussion about a couple of anti-piracy bills in front of the houses of Congress. As I understand  these bills (I am not an expert by any means), the bills will require that internet service providers block any domains that are violating copyright privileges of persons or corporations. My interpretation is that if you offer a song or a video that is covered by copyright law on your website, the copyright owner can request that your domain be blocked.

This is an interesting concept that I like and dislike at the same time. I dislike it because I do not feel that Congress should be censoring the internet. I think it will be a costly and difficult situation. I like it as a composer and therapist.

Once upon a time, as a young professional, I attended a concurrent session at conference that was led by the person who worked at my internship right after I graduated. I was sitting there, watching her videotaped examples of things to do with preschoolers, when she started to sing a song that I had written during my internship. The students were enjoying the song and it was presented as I had composed it.

After the session, I was standing in line to speak to the presenter when I overheard someone say to her, "I really liked that Wake Up Body song. Who wrote it?" I then heard the presenter say, "Oh, I wrote that song during my internship."

I was shocked, dismayed, and hurt that someone would take something that belonged to someone else and pass it off as their own.

I also realized that I had done absolutely nothing to protect my property.

This was the beginning of my copyright insistence and need to source everything that I present in music therapy sessions.

When I write down any ideas for session experiences and interventions, I look for the author, composer, date of composition, performing artists, music therapists who taught me the song, and any other information that I can find. I want to make sure that I get credit for the songs and ideas that are my own. I also want to make sure that I never take away someone else's intellectual property like someone took mine from me.

Now, I have had times when a song that I composed became part of my interns' repertoire in a way that makes it seem like a "standard" in the literature. One of my interns was walking a client back to his classroom and started singing a melody that I thought I had composed. The words were a bit different, but the melody was exact. I panicked thinking that I had stolen someone's great melody. When the intern returned, I asked her where she had learned that melody. She looked at me with a funny expression and said, "From you, Mary Jane, you sing it all the time!"

I was relieved.

This year I am going to try to release some of my original songs on my website, 

If you go to the website, look for the tab titled, "Therapeutic Music Experiences" to find links to documents on TMEs that I have developed and tested with children and adolescents with developmental and psychiatric disorders. You may use them keeping the copyright information intact. 

Please remember to respect the personal intellectual property of all that you meet - composers, authors, performers, and your fellow music therapists - we will appreciate getting credit for our own hard work.

Hopping off my soap box now.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

January Inspirations

This month has been a challenge. Hence my absence from the blogosphere for several weeks. I have been full of good intentions and have had fleeting thoughts about what to write, but have not been actually able to sit down and accomplish anything yet. This is the day that I break through that wall.

Our January has been unseasonably warm with only a little bit of snow and cold weather. Typically we use winter and snow as our themes for the interdisciplinary groups that I contribute to at work, but there really hasn't been much impetus to use our usual session plans.

So, we have had to develop new themes. On Friday, we had an ocean theme. We played games, a large version of Go Fish, and had an ocean drum relaxation experience at the end. Now, I was initially hesitant to lead relaxation experiences with my students - they do not usually relax easily - but it worked very well. I started by asking the students to find a comfortable place on the floor. They were ready to relax since we had spent 45 minutes running and playing games. I started my favorite relaxation CD, On A Starry Night, a collection of lullabies from around the world. I gave my fellow staff members ocean drums, and I used the ocean drum and went through a relaxation experience focusing on breath and watching the beads in the ocean drums. Kids were able to lie down, sit quietly, or sleep. They did very well and left the gym quietly. It was a good day.

My new year has also been ripe with creativity. I have been composing songs for my therapeutic experiences. The music has flowed. This happens to me occasionally - the songs do not have to be sought out, they find me. These creative spikes are wonderful. I enjoy them and take advantage of the flowing music as long as it lasts.

I also have a new intern. Of all the things that have inspired me during this month so far, the challenges and promise of a new intern is the most powerful. I spend lots of time evaluating myself by thinking about how I am appearing to my intern. I think that being a model for novice therapists is one of the most challenging and rewarding professional activities that I have ever been involved in.

What is inspiring you? Is there a specific song that helps you feel primed and ready to go? Is there a technique that you use with your clients that helps you to be a creative person as well as a therapist?

I am going to try to keep my inspiration going. Check out the website for therapeutic music experiences designed for children and adolescents with developmental and psychiatric diagnoses.

Happy 2012!