Sunday, January 27, 2013

Having Some Fun

Yesterday, I had some time to do something that I absolutely love to do. I created something new!

My mom got me a CuttleKids Shape Maker(TM) for Christmas along with two sets of die cuts. The first set is the caterpillar that you see here. The second set is flowers, stems, and leaves. When I saw the device and the die cuts, my mind started going into creation mode. What could I do with these things??

 I am a big fan of visual schedules for my clients with autism. I also like them for my clients who tend to be bossy. I use picture schedules, word schedules, mystery schedules, you name it!

So, when given an opportunity to make something, I go towards schedules!

The caterpillar seemed to be a good structure for this project.

I opted for five spots on my caterpillar, a mini file folder for use with one client at a time, and a blue color scheme. I also decided to use a silver Sharpie (TM) once I saw that the blue of the caterpillar needed some contrast to be easily seen.

Here is the caterpillar schedule. I have left lines to write choices for Therapeutic Music Experiences (TMEs) and boxes for checking off when the TME has been completed. In retrospect, I realized that this caterpillar could be laminated as one piece rather than having pieces to move around, but the next one will be more thought through and will look a little bit different. I'm thinking I will make one that uses pictures instead of words. Ooh, maybe even slots to put picture cards or word cards into to see the schedule! The ideas keep on flowing...

I love the opportunity to create. Whether it is a schedule, a song, a craft, or another piece of creativity, I enjoy the process of making things. I also enjoy teaching others to make things. If you are interested in a project sheet on how to make this scheduler, send me an email at and I'll send you a copy of the project sheet. I'll even throw in a pattern that you can use to make your own caterpillar (not the CuttleKids pattern since that is a copyrighted image). Just let me know, and get the creativity going in your own life.

Now it is time to write a song about my caterpillar friend, and how he will help us finish all our goals.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Music Therapy Moments

This week was crammed full of music therapy moments - those times when you just say, "This is why I love music therapy!"

This week was a short one - we had Monday off in recognition of Martin Luther King Day, so kids and staff were a bit rattled as we do whenever our schedule is changed or interrupted. Influenza has also hit our area of the world, so staff members have been away while under quarantine, kids have been in and out, other kids have started to look a bit green around the gills indicating that they are getting ready to succumb. It was a strange week.

As I was sitting down to plan my week, I thought about all of the things that were going on and tried to find something that I could use with all of my groups. So, the light FINALLY went off in my head!

Drumming with Splash Balls!!!! Ta-daaa!

Let me explain. I take out all of my large drums, the spare bass drums, unmounted toms, and large paddle drums, and I place them in the center of the room. I throw all of my Splash Balls onto the drums and the floor. Group members have one instruction - they have to bounce the ball on the drum before it goes any place else. (This one rule keeps kids from hitting peers on purpose - they have to figure out the geometry and physics of bouncing the ball on the drum using appropriate force and angles in order to hit that person using the bounce - that is acceptable to me!). I turn on some music with a steady and predictable beat at a low volume, and off we go!

This week was full of memorable music therapy moments. One client figuring out where to stand in order to bounce the ball into the trash can every single time. Another client laughing so hard he was crying. Yet another client saying, "I was crabby when I came here, but I feel better now." My vice principal watching during one of my groups and stating, "That was so much fun!" (We will see if she was able to identify some of the therapeutic reasons for engaging in this experience later.) The change in group attention to task once the balls were put back in the bag and the focus of cognition in clients who have difficulty attending to any and all tasks after the experience was finished.

At the end of the week, I was exhausted. So were my clients, but we had absolutely NO behavioral issues in the music therapy room this week. No one had to or opted to be removed from the session. Everyone laughed and seemed to be happy to be around one another. The music therapy room was a place where we could all be together.

This is not the case in each and every session, each and every week, but when it happens, it's a memorable music therapy moment...and, the reason I am still a music therapist nearly 20 years after getting my first music therapy degree.

I hope that you have some significant music therapy moments this week! Enjoy and rejoice in those times!


Monday, January 21, 2013

The Best Thing About Music Therapy

What is the best thing about music therapy?

For me, one of the best things about music therapy is that moment when one of my kids looks at me and asks, "Do I have music with you today??"

I love that moment. I love that my students look forward to music therapy during the week. They want to be in music therapy. They want to see what we are going to do. They want to work on their therapeutic goals using music. They want to make music.

The best thing about music therapy, bar none, is the client.

I often talk to my interns about "the therapeutic triad." The triad is made up of a client, a therapist, and music. Of all of these things, the client is always most important. Without a client, there cannot be music therapy. Simple thought, right?


I have been trying to figure out a good visual for this therapeutic triad concept. All I can really think of at this time is a Venn Diagram - three overlapping circles that overlap in several places. This picture helps me sort out what is and what isn't music therapy.

In the place where all three circles overlap is where music therapy actually occurs.

The interaction between therapist and client is a form of therapy - both parties are focused on the relationship and the therapeutic goal of the client, but not in a musical format. Without music, the interaction is not music therapy.

The area where the client and the music circles overlap is the place where the therapist has faded his or her interaction with the client in favor of client independence and function. This is the place when the therapist realizes that the client is able to complete his or her therapeutic goal reaching the end of the need for therapy. When the therapist is no longer necessary, it is time to reevaluate whether the client needs music therapy. Sometimes it is easy to determine that music therapy is no longer needed, sometimes it is not. So, as a result, the therapist and the client head back into a time of assessment and evaluation to see if there are new goals.

The last area of overlap, that of the therapist and the music, is the place where the therapist interacts with the music itself, for personal and performance purposes. I know very few music therapists that do not listen to or make music on their own for the purposes of practice, relaxation, enjoyment, or for other reasons.

In all of these interactions, the best part about being a music therapist is interacting with clients within musical environments and experiences. I love being invited into musical interactions with my kids. So, I am looking forward to getting back to work tomorrow to interact with my students in their music therapy sessions.

The best thing about music therapy??

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Time Management and Organization

I am getting ready for the second webinar that I am offering for music therapy interns - Time Management and Organization. The webinar will start next Tuesday, January 22, 2013 at 7pm my time, and I hope it will be a dialogue. We will see!

I enjoy making seminars and presentations about organization for the simple reason that I am always striving to be more organized in my personal and professional lives. I am not that organized at home - more of a packrat than a minimalist (even though I would LOVE to be a minimalist) - but I have managed to be pretty organized in my professional role as a music therapist.

[In all honesty here, I have my ups and downs when it comes to organization even in my music therapy clinic, but I am MUCH better at organization at work!]

I've been thinking about what types of things I try to show my interns about organization and time management when they arrive at my facility to start their internships. I try to let them know that they will have times when the requirements of being an intern will be overwhelming. There will be times when they simply have too much on their plates, and they will need to engage in very specific time management skills. I also try to remind them that being an intern is very different from being a student or a full-time professional.

In traveling around the internet looking for resources, I found that most of what I know about time management is recommended by others. Set goals. Prioritize those goals. Manage interruptions. Avoid procrastination. Make and keep schedules.

Now, I am the first to realize that everyone has a different way of getting things done. What works for me does not necessarily work exactly the same way for others. It is important for each of us to figure out what works for us and then make those procedures into habits.

I'm off to finish my presentation for Tuesday evening - imagine, a task completed three whole days before it has to be! Huzzah!!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Random Thoughts About Stuff

Being out of the music therapy clinic (and not by choice, but due to diverticulitis) for some time makes me realize how much I love the act of singing, dancing, and making music in the company of others! 

I have told you before about how I found music therapy at the University of Evansville in August 1984 (Wow, almost 29 years ago!!!). I am thrilled that I was paying attention on that day to that anonymous college professor who said, "There is something else here that's called 'Music Therapy.' Have a brochure." I heard an audible click in my head and that was it.

Once I decided that I was going to be a music therapist, I was ready.

The top things that I love about my job...
  1. The moment when a kid realizes that he or she is the one controlling the music
  2. Echoing strange and unusual sounds
  3. Finding new ways to make new sounds with old, familiar stuff
  4. Entire classes singing silly songs together
  5. The times when original songs pop into my head fully formed and completed
  6. The times when I relax into the improvisation and create something beautiful, meaning, and real for both my clients and myself
  7. The vibraslap
It is time for me to get out of this antibiotic-ridden, shrinking four walls that I call home, and get out into the bigger world.   

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Oh, The Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me...

Tonight, I am starting a new adventure - a webinar series for interns (and hopefully, interns ONLY). I am excited about using this tool as a way to interact with interns as they are moving into the last bit of their education and into the first bit of their professional lives.

I was led into this series through several of my life paths. The first, and most important to me, is my path as a National Roster internship director. (If you don't know what the National Roster is, don't worry - it's not important to this blog post - comment and I'll be happy to give you more information!!). Being an internship director to twenty wonderful women over the years has given me a perspective into what we do and do not know about being a music therapy intern. The second was my path as a volunteer for the American Music Therapy Association on the Association Internship Approval Committee (AIAC). The last path was my personal path as a music therapy intern. I would have LOVED to have a group to talk to about my internship - just to see if what I was experiencing was normal or not!

What do you wish someone had told you before, during, or after your internship??

Once I had an idea to use webinars as a form of group supervision for interns, I started to brainstorm about what could be addressed in this format. What are the things that we don't really learn about in school? What are the things that we need to know about being a new professional? My last question was, "What do I wish someone had told me about being an intern?"

That got my creative juices flowing.

This first webinar will focus on the rights and responsibilities of every music therapy intern. There is also a bit about what we are not guaranteed - for example, we do not have the right to a good supervisor. We'll also go over all of the documents of AMTA and focus on what we have to do as music therapists.

Other sessions will cover time management, organization, leadership, self-care, the therapeutic triad (my favorite topic!), and marketing - all things that I try to cover with my own interns and things that I had to learn for myself.

I hope that the people who have signed up (some who are not yet interns, some who started their internships within the past week, and some who are almost finished) will have as much fun as I intend to have.

Off to this new adventure... 

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Music Therapy Advocacy - Introvert Style!

Have you noticed? January is music therapy advocacy month! From now until January 31st, you will be seeing the phrase, "Music Therapy Advocacy," on blogs, in emails, on articles, and in print. It is a time for us music therapists to toot our own horns (Sorry, this cornet player couldn't resist!).

How are you an advocate for music therapy?

I am not often comfortable putting myself out into social settings or situations amongst strangers for the sole purpose of being an advocate for my profession. I am not the first person to volunteer to go talk to my congressperson or to make cold calls to strangers. I do not feel that I am suited to going to the local shopping center for a Boomwhacker flash mob. These are just things that make me feel uncomfortable and just plain old crabby!

I am a quiet advocate for music therapy.

I am a music therapist who goes to work and tries to be the best therapist in every interaction with clients. I try to present an exemplary example of a music therapy professional in my dealings with co-workers, administrators, and strangers. I strive to continue my knowledge of the effect of music on human development. I try to be the best example of a music therapist that I can be at all times.

I advocate for music therapy through my work with students, through being an internship director, through serving on AMTA committees and boards, through being a member of AMTA year after year, through maintaining my board certification, and through talking to people about music therapy when I have a chance.

How are you an advocate?