Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Library Update - Week One

It is now the first week (+ one day) of my foray into my personal library. I have spent about an hour each day reading something in my music therapy library, and now it is time to start reflecting on that reading.

First, process reflection...

I set out to read a portion of a music therapy textbook for an hour every evening. Starting out, an hour was very easy to accomplish. As the week went on, though, other things started to intrude - work situations, medical issues, and disinterest in the subject matter started to interfere. CHALLENGE! I expanded my definition of "music therapy text" to include the songbooks that I also have been collecting for years and years and years. This appeared to be a solution for my unrest later in the week.

I read book chapters by Wigram, Baker, Plach, Campbell, Nygaard Pedersen, Hirsch, Jellison, and Bonde. I also found musical inspiration in some of my songbooks from the Wee Sing series.

The process is interesting. I take some time at the end of each reading/note-taking session to process what I have read in a manner that applies the information to my current employment situation.

Secondly, information reflection...

I am trying to read more about psychodynamic techniques with children and adolescents with psychiatric diagnoses. As a therapist who was "raised" in a primarily-behavioral music therapy program, I am often at a loss on how to speak in psycho-speak, so I don't. As the population of kids that arrive at my facility has significantly changed in the past 5 years, I am finding that I need more guidance. So, off to the textbooks!

One of the problems that I have with many of the texts that I have in my library is that the skills needed or desired for clients to engage in psychodynamic processing are very abstract. It is difficult to engage folks with intellectual disabilities in lyric analysis when comprehension is a difficult task to begin with. I'm thinking that writings in play therapy and trauma sensitive care with persons with ID/DD may be more relevant than the current resources available in music therapy. Interesting...

Now, I am not saying that I am completely abandoning my behaviorist/ humanist philosophy of music therapy, but I recognize that there are things that I could do for my clients that I need more training to actually accomplish.

Good news - after one week of reading, I got to get a "special dessert" as a reward! I bought a Chocolat Xtreme Blizzard last night to savor over several days!

(In the interest of full honesty, I did not read last evening - too much going on - but I fully intend to spend two hours reading today to catch up! Up next?? Who knows!) 


Saturday, April 20, 2013

New Inspirations

One of my music therapy "friends" (in quotes because I have never actually met her, but have read her blog and conversed with her in several different social media formats over the years), Roia Rafieyan, just posted a link to a blog that she reads. I checked out the blog, What a Shrink Thinks, and found that it resonated with me as well. Thank you, Roia, for sharing this valuable resource!

Here is a link to a post that I found especially relevant and interesting:

This post talks about the fine line that therapists have when being a secret keeper and it acknowledges that the secret keeper has to be able to analyze and set down the secret in order to function. The author, Martha Crawford, speaks frankly about her need to blog in order to assist herself in processing what she experiences as a psychotherapist. She is very clear that she does not blog to ask for help with client issues and remains in the ethical and confidential relationship that she holds with each client. She seems to use her forum to discuss personal responses and thoughts, often enfolding therapeutic situations into her discussion, but not focusing on how to treat clients.

I like this. 

Over the years, I have found that this blog has been important for my own processing of my life and the events in my life. The title of this blog, music, therapy, and me, was chosen purposefully to indicate that this is a personal blog, centered around my own thoughts about music therapy, but a place for me to be me - not just music therapist, but a human being, a woman, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a friend, and whatever other role I play in the lives of myself and others.

This blog is not designed to offer ideas or therapeutic music experiences for music therapists. I rely on my website to do that task for me. This blog is my reflective journal - sorta. (I've been looking up lots of resources for reflective journaling lately - fascinating topic and one that I am going to try with my next intern, #21, who starts in August.) It is a place where I can rant, rave, celebrate, process, and develop my ideas and feelings about being a music therapist, about music, about therapy, and about me. I figure that readers will take it or leave it - finding the things that interest them and then ignoring the posts that do not interest them - just as I do when I am reading the work of others.

Wow - that was a bit of a tangent.

Back to topic.

New Inspirations. As I discussed in a previous post,The Library, I am trying to read over the music therapy resources that I have collected over the years. I have completed just two days of reading, but already feel that my understanding of music therapy is evolving. 

Seek inspiration where you can find it. Thank you, Roia and Martha and others, for being part of my inspiration and therapy journey.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

What Your 2nd Grader Needs to Know

Way back when I was getting my Master's degree, I became VERY interested in cultural literacy, specifically in using music to assist folks in learning information. I bought two books edited by E. D. Hirsch, Jr. that listed "core knowledge" for specific age groups. I recently saw these books on my shelf and decided to crack them again.

I love these books. I love how they are compendia (please excuse my possible misspelling of the plural of compendium) of general knowledge. In the book for second graders (the grade my sister teachers), the folks who contributed to this idea of core knowledge decided that students should know lots of things. There are stories and poems, myths from Greece and Rome, and some parts of speech. The next section includes world geography, world civilization, and American civilization. Then we come to fine arts. Second graders are supposed to know about musical instruments, melodies, scales, octaves, volume, and different forms of music - patriotic, religious, and popular. Fine Arts includes visual arts (points and lines, perspectives, sculpture and painting, architecture, and light) as well as drama (just basic information in this section including a sample drama). Then we start up the Mathematics section. Math for seven year-olds includes skip-counting, counting to 100, addition and subtraction, multiplication and division, and regrouping. Also included is time, measurement, geometry and fractions, money, and numbers to 1,000. Wait! We aren't finished yet! Second graders also are supposed to know about the life sciences - human body, health, and diet. Then we finish up with information about the physical sciences such as chemistry, engineering, meteorology, astronomy. simple tools, metals, magnets, and light. The book ends up with the stories of specific scientists.

Do you know, my sister addresses almost all of these topics in her classroom. She teaches the typical things, language arts and mathematics, but she also includes visual art and science into her classroom environment. She touches on some of the life science and physical science topics, but has found it a bit difficult to address all of the stuff which is considered "extra" in this day and age. She has stated to me, time and time again, that the month after state testing is the best time of the year as she can teach everything without having to worry about whether she is "teaching to the test."

You may have noticed that music is conspicuously absent from the list of things that my sister teaches in her classroom. She doesn't teach about music, but she does use music for non-musical goals all the time. (Maybe she has been listening to me over the past 40 years...) She has songs for everything - antonyms and synonyms, wiggle breaks, fun moments, math concepts, you name it! She sings with her students often, and they sing along with her. They use their mnemonics during testing - she says she can hear them humming when they reach specific questions in the test period.

I still love the idea of cultural literacy and using music to assist students in learning and retaining information. I am hoping that the recent adoption of the Common Core Standards by most of the states will lead to opportunities to use music to enrich the education of all kids - we will see if that will happen, but isn't it interesting that the trends in education are changing? I cannot wait to see what happens in education the next 20 years or so.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Library

I am going through things here at home during my snow week. I am taking an inventory of my therapy stuff and am organizing things a bit to make room for the stuff coming home during renovation year at work. It has been interesting to see all of the stuff that I have tucked away over the years.

I am probably close to being a hoarder - I blame the generations before me that were my models, depression-era grandparents who never threw anything away, and a mother that has inherited that tendency as well.

Anyway, one of the the things that I am taking some time to do is to catalog my music therapy library. I have lots of books about music therapy, about human development, and about philosophy. These are the result of my recent education addiction, something I've had to give up cold turkey since I can no longer afford to throw money away on a degree that I will never actually earn, but I digress. I am fortunate to have an original copy of Music In Therapy, edited by none other than E. Thayer Gaston himself. I have lots of your typical introduction to music therapy texts, several songwriting technique texts, and lots of things about music therapy and research. These books are fascinating to me, and I want to delve into rereading them soon. Maybe I'll do something like reading one chapter per evening before I go to bed. I wonder if I will be able to follow through on that idea. Hmmm. Maybe I need an incentive - read a bit and then have a treat? Then watch Fringe? Then call family members? We shall see.

I am cataloging these texts in an effort to identify what I already have in my library and to use the books for my interns. I think (at least, in my experience as a student) that academicians often have their favorite authors and music therapy models and rarely stray from the texts and authors that they know well. I have made it a goal to learn about authors from other philosophical backgrounds than those of myself or my professors. I especially like the writings of music therapists from Europe and the UK. Their prose seems to resonate with me in a way that Standley and Bruscia and Thaut just didn't quite reach. Hence the extensive library.

What are your favorite texts? Who were your music therapy models? Did anyone write something that really made you look at your music therapy practice a bit differently? 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Snow Week

It is day four of snow week, that nifty situation where I get time off after working on days where the weather is nasty. I have chosen, due to a bunch of work situations, to take an entire week off this week. I am a bit over half-way through, but I am enjoying this time to myself.

During this week, I have been challenged to organize my living space. I have a deadline of Thursday since I will need to start storing my extraneous stuff at home instead of at work. (There are major renovations starting at work, so I will need to move out of my big, beautiful music room for a closet shared by the art therapist, my music therapy intern #21, and me. Space will be limited, so things need to be stored here at home. Also, things need to be easily accessed here at home so I can take things to work as they are needed. I am trying to figure out how to do those things. In order to get there, I have to clear out things around here.

So, that is my job - clearing things out. I am throwing out things daily, and I need to start making my donation pile. I already have several tote bags to donate, lots of books, and some old toys. There are spare keyboards, lots of power cords, and oodles of random junk that I don't need around here anymore.

It is time to get moving.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Other Duties As Assigned...

Yesterday was a day filled with out-of-the-ordinary work tasks. We had the luau (our prom-alternative) followed by the first ever participation of my facility in another school's event. It was a VERY long day, but it was a good reminder for me about several things.

First, kids like to have fun. Staff members like to have fun. There need to be times when kids are the priority, not the fun of staff members.

Second, not everyone is like me in personality and demeanor. Others do not find it strange that kids are roaming around unsupervised while 17 staff members are cheering other staff members on in the bouncy house.

Third, we all have fun in different ways.

Fourth, extroverts are not always good at things like planning fun days or field trips. They have the idea and decide it will be so - leave it to the others to figure things out.

Fifth, blue food coloring stains hands.

Okay, rant over. (I think.)

I enjoy watching my clients engage in fun activities. I like watching them play, and I REALLY like to play with them in settings outside of the music room. I am reminded of the developmental importance of play and imagination when I see my clients who are often unable to initiate imaginative play.

The differences between my clients and typically developmental kids were evident last night when we went to the science fair at the K-2nd grade elementary school. My students were reading their projects in halting voices and the 2nd graders were prompting them. It was a good reminder that my students do have developmental delays and interruptions that significantly affect their education. Now, don't get me wrong, I know those facts on a cognitive basis, but it is good to be reminded in a practical manner from time to time.

I appreciate the opportunities to play that both the luau and science fair gave me last evening. Both of these events are outside of my regular duties, but were very good for me to gain some perspective about what and why I do what I do everyday.

Do you want to know about the water cycle? I can tell you LOTS about it after last evening!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.
 ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

I love Emerson. He almost always has something to say that resonates with me and my situation. A music therapy acquaintance (someone I have never actually met, but you know how that goes) posted this quote on her facebook feed and I took it as my own. 

That's it for today, because I feel that's enough for me. Enjoy your day.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Snow Week is Coming!

What is a "snow week" you may ask?

Well - remember all of those snow days where I spent the night at my facility and worked with a skeleton staff to provide services to the residential students? Now I get to reap the rewards of those days! I get to take some time off!

This is a strange situation, but it works for us, so I don't complain. I have three snow days left to use before the end of June. The original plan was to take days off when kids weren't in school (we have FOUR inservice days at the beginning of the summer session for goodness' sake!), but recent developments have changed that plan drastically.

Our school is long overdue for an update, and we are getting one. Construction may start as soon as July 1 and will last for 6-8 months. During that time, all of the classrooms will be relocated outside of the building. I thought my new music room would be safe, but sadly, no. It will be needed as a classroom during that time, so into a closet I go (along with the Art Therapist who is at least getting a remodeled room out of the deal - what are they going to do with mine? Diddly-squat!). I am not really complaining...  I mean, can you really complain when a temporary change is going to benefit everyone in the long run? No. It will be great thing for the facility, for the students, and finally, for the staff members.

One of the things that occurred to me when we finally started to talk about this move is that I have lots of stuff. Waaaaay to much for a closet, especially when sharing that space with the Art Therapist who also has lots of stuff! So, I am starting to think about what I absolutely HAVE to have for music therapy and what can be taken to my home to be stored during this displacement. This has been an interesting exercise as I have lots of stuff that I don't want to throw away, but that I really do not need on a daily basis.

That brings me back to snow week. I decided to take advantage of the last inservice day (this Friday) and last official day off (Monday) as well as my three reserved snow days to take another Spring Break. Hopefully this break will be sunnier and more healthy than my last break, and will encourage me to clean, clean, clean!

The first domino in this series is my home. I need to get rid of things that I am storing for no apparent reason. I need to consolidate other things, and just plain old clean everything. To do that, I need some time to immerse myself into the process, so I will be doing that. Keep an eye on the website, - I may have some things there to sell or donate to the right folks... who knows?

Snow week is coming, and with it, the beginning of change...

Monday, April 08, 2013

Into Every Apartment, A Little Rain Must Fall?

You know, I was feeling sorry for myself, being broke and lonely during the recent SWR/MWRAMTA music therapy conference (if you don't know what this is, don't worry about it!). Then, as I posted a couple of days ago, there was a small leak in my apartment. The leak was reported and it just plain old got worse. By yesterday afternoon, the leak was a regular waterfall requiring lots of attention and the cut-off of all water to the place upstairs! I found my silver lining in this situation - It was a GREAT thing that I was at home instead of traveling back to find a swamp...been there, done that!

I took the reassurance of the building owner (I've got HIS number on speed dial!) that something would be done. I went off to work after moving Bella-cat's food into the bedroom so she didn't have to sully her little cat feet by walking across the large pond in the hallway, and returned to find a fan. The guy moved my fan and my dehumidifier (left over from the last water catastrophe in this place), and that was all. The cracks in the ceiling are still there. The molding carpet is still there. Blech!

That wasn't enough to dampen (pun TOTALLY intended) what happened today in my music therapy sessions. For the first time in a long time, I actually felt and saw the power of music as a therapeutic medium for my students. It was a great music therapy day! I met a couple of new clients today. They relaxed into the session and engaged without difficulty. Several of my old clients did things they used to do in the olden days again - good things, not negative things - some kids sang more than usual. Others helped peers to complete songs. Some communicated in ways they haven't communicated before now. Yet others sat and smiled. They showed me how much fun music can be today. What a great lesson to learn over and over and over again! I was able to relax enough to play a bit.

I sang all day long. I played the guitar. I engaged kids in songwriting (nothing serious - just Mad-Libs), and we sang the silly results of our brainstorming.

Got home, after indulging in a grilled cheese and bacon sandwich, and am now watching the kitty sleep. The only thing that is better is that next week is SNOW WEEK!

This was a good day.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Sniff, Sniff

I'm currently sitting on my bed, at 4:30 am, listening to the dehumidifier and the constant drip, drip, drip from the apartment above, thinking about things and feeling sorry for myself. Yep, that's right. It's an overwhelming feeling of self-pity going on out here in my abode. Poor me, poor me, poor me!

Pretty silly, hunh?

This weekend, my Facebook updates were full of music therapists doing music therapy things in the company of other music therapists. It was conference weekend and lots of folks were out in various locations in their regions doing things. I had friends who were excited about giving their first presentations, friends who were enjoying time with other friends, and friends who were learning new things about music.

I am not there. Now, before I get too far down Depression Avenue, you need to know that I am not at the conference due to my own issues and situations. A trip to the emergency room this winter, increasing costs of living, things breaking around me, doctor's appointments, LOTS of medication, an upcoming wedding in California (my brother's, so I kinda need to be there), and other general stuff going on has kept me from even considering the expenses associated with traveling to San Antonio for the joint SWR/MWR conference this weekend. At first, I wasn't sure if I had enough paid time off to go, but then we had 6 snow days, so that was no longer an issue. It just came down to money.

Enough of that claptrap!

I have spent my weekend going to conference vicariously through the posts and updates of friends around the country. What did I ever do before social media?? Oh, yeah, that's right. I didn't know any difference, so I was pretty happy then as well. (Giggle.) 

Okay, self-pity time's over and it is now time to get back into a more positive mind frame. 

I believe that being positive is a practiced art, and I find that I really need to practice often. I may not be in San Antonio right now, playing with my friends, but I am here, taking care of a situation that could have caused me lots of damage if I was not here to alert folks about the situation. (Could you imagine coming home to a flooded apartment, a wet and ANGRY cat, and damage? I can! Thank goodness I was here!!) I have had some time to realize that I do love my community of music therapists, even when they are far away. I also realized that I enjoy the power of social media as a tool to keep me in that community. I was able to pay taxes, start paying off my hospital bill, and even start to make plans for the national conference in November. I also thought through a couple of new projects for my clients. I also took naps and had the oil changed in the car. It was a productive weekend for me.

The end result of all of this? There are positives in every negative. Sometimes it is difficult to find those positives, but they are there. Keep looking.


Tuesday, April 02, 2013


Last Friday, on my way into work, I spent lots of time imagining scenarios with co-workers and administrators. (In my defense, I am on some pretty heinous medications that are messing with my attitude, mood, and sleep cycles - almost not worth the purported cure...but I digress here...). I went to my job and found that some of those scenarios were not hypothetical. Ugh. I went through my morning routine. The day progressed. Two co-workers were not going to be available to assist in running the day's sessions. Bus room was cold, hectic, and frustrating. One co-worker snapped at me when I was trying to do my job. I was feeling frustrated, unappreciated, and invisible.

Then, I received an email that sent me over the edge. We have a traveling trophy that is really quite hideous. It moves from person to person in a monthly rotation. Folks add something to this "Prophy" before sending it on to the next person. I got it this month. The email that came with this dubious honor stated that it had been noticed that music reached the kids that were unreachable in other areas. I was complimented on my focus on our students who are on the severe end of their diagnostic spectra.

I cried.

Not so much because of the "Prophy," which now gets to stay in my office for the month of April, but because I all of a sudden realized that I wasn't invisible. I was visible. I remembered the value that music can have in the life of a person who has never been allowed to play. A person who has been told to be quiet his entire life. A person who has never been allowed to hit something as hard as she can. A person who finally hears a sound that illustrates an emotion or an idea.


The power of music is such that people who do not respond to other stimuli respond to sounds and silence. "Music demands attention. The power of music is evident in a group. Music is time-ordered, reality-oriented, and an appropriate way to interact with others." (Anybody recognize Gaston and Sears here?? You should - totally took all of this from them!) It is nice to be heard!

Here is the "Prophy" in all it's glory. Do you know what EVERY SINGLE KID that has seen this has said?? "Why does that BRATZ doll have a beard?" There are no answers.

Cheers, all!

Gaston, E. T. (Ed.). (1968). Music in therapy. New York: Macmillan.

Sears, W. W. (1968). Processes in music therapy. In E. T. Gaston (Ed.), Music in therapy. New York: Macmillan.

Monday, April 01, 2013

Philosophy Shifts


As funding for children with developmental and psychiatric concerns is changing in my state, the way these kids obtain treatment is dramatically shifting as well. This is leading to new challenges for the people who have the task of providing meaningful treatment experiences. I am one of those people.

There is something interesting about living in a time when health care is changing rapidly, but there are MANY challenges as well. Let me explain what I'm thinking about here...

For years, I have worked with kids who were with us for a significant period of time. I was able to establish a therapeutic relationship based on substantial observations and interactions. I was able to adjust my schedule to accommodate their needs, once those music therapy needs were identified. Now, a kid comes to us for about 90 days - we have had a complete change from that of developmental/intellectual disability to mental health funding, necessitating the changes in the facility.

I find myself in a new situation, sitting on the edge of both of these treatment formats, and unable to move to where I want to be.

I want music therapy to play an active role in the treatment of my students, but I am not sure how to get to that point.