Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thankful Things

Over the past four weeks, I have leading a Therapeutic Music Experience (TME) with my students. We are talking, singing, and rapping about the things that we are thankful for. Now, these kids have developmental/intellectual disabilities and concurrent psychiatric issues, so most folks don't expect too much from them - wrongly so! We made Thankful Turkeys and then sang about what we put on our Turkeys. Most of the responses were to be expected from kids - my family, turkey, an X-box, pumpkin pie. Some of them were profound. "I am thankful that I have shelter." "I am thankful that this is a good place." "I am thankful that I can eat everything I want." "I am thankful for being away from my family."

TMEs like this always challenge me on a personal and professional level. Professionally, I need to be reminded that my clients do not always know what I knew as a child - consistency, shelter, food, security. I need the reminder that I am a person who provides those things to my clients, sometimes when they have never experienced consistency or security from an adult before. Personally, I am also reminded of the benefits that I took for granted when I was their ages. My family, being what it was - good and bad, was loving, complete, concerned, and present. I was lucky and am reminded to thank my parents and siblings when I am reminded that my students did not experience this same type of family.

There is a fine line between sympathy and empathy. I am not able to empathize with students who do not have the same family system as me. I can only tread into sympathy. It is important that I remain detached from that type of thought as a therapist. You can never completely remove sympathy from your interactions, but you cannot allow sympathy to overtake your expectations. By over-sympathizing, you could fall into the trap of excusing inappropriate responses and reactions of clients because they "can't help it because of how they were raised..."

It is my job to tread that line between sympathetic response and empathy. The only type of concession that I can make for my students and their responses or reactions to things is the thought that they may not have ever learned the right way to respond to things and need to be taught those responses. That's it.

On this American Thanksgiving Day, I am thankful that my students are in a place that offers them consistency, shelter, food, education, caring adults, and a place to learn what they can and cannot do as productive members of society. I am thankful for a community of music therapists. I am especially thankful for my family, near and far! I am thankful for you, dear reader.

Be thankful.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

What a Crew!

I'm not exactly sure how it got started. but there is a fun feed on Twitter right now - #FakeAMTAProposals. I would like to take this opportunity to state that music therapists are a creative, punny bunch of people! Gotta love the things that are going on in the minds of music therapy students, interns, and professionals out there! Check out the feed!

So, what would you accomplish if you had an opportunity to create something for the benefit of music therapy?

I often think that no one out there would be interested in the things that I do and make for my music therapy practice. One of the good things about being connected to this vast world of music therapy in social media is that there is always someone out there who is interested - you just have to let people know!

This seems as good a time as any to make some goals for the year...
  • To get preapproved provider status from CBMT for once and for all!
  • To offer products and courses - things I REALLY love doing with and for the people I love, my fellow music therapists!
So, it is time to fish or cut bait as people say every so often!

Check out the Twitter feed mentioned above. It's funny!!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Disappearing...but Just for a Time

Well, I set off for the AMTA National Conference in Jacksonville, Florida, fully intending to blog about my experiences daily, but...

As you can see, I did not do so at all! Now, after a day of walking around in a semi-hysterical fog, I feel like I am starting to recover from the activity that happened this past week. It's now time to start thinking about what I did and what I learned during this conference! So, here we go!

The best thing about this conference was talking - to groups of people and to individuals - ESPECIALLY the individuals! I had a good discussion with my former professor on the plane to Jacksonville - we were assigned seats next to each other and spoke about anything and everything - music therapy, retirement, professional career development, AMTA membership - lots of information in a 45-minute discussion! I spent some time with a therapist who was introduced to me last conference and who has become a good friend. We talked about board certification and our own challenging situations. I spoke to my conference roommate, but not as much as usual since we were both very busy! I talked to internship directors, students, interns, professors, AMTA board members, committee members, and people in all levels of their exploration about music therapy. It was a wonderful week, full of thinking about music therapy and my own unique position in this wonderful profession!

Coming out of the post-conference haze, I am thinking several things...
  1. I don't understand why folks don't pay their AMTA membership dues. I know it's a large expense, but there is so much that is accessible to me after I've paid those dues that it is more than worth it to me! (I blame professors Alicia Clair and Alice-Ann Darrow for making AMTA membership and Board Certification an expectation rather than an option - hmm, professional models and the stated and inferred requirement that professionals ARE part of their national organization?? What a novel concept! My mom also figures into this expectation - she remained a member of AOTA even when she was not practicing Occupational Therapy! Darn those excellent role models! - complete snark and sarcasm here, folks!!)
  2. I think, even though we are often very argumentative about how we do what we do, all music therapists have core beliefs about music and its role on human beings.
  3. There is a generational shift occurring in the music therapy leadership right now.
  4. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is forcing lots of changes in our profession - most of them by individual facility interpretations.
  5. National Roster internships are still going strong!
There are so many thoughts dashing around my brain today that I can barely pin anything down! Tomorrow I will spend some time organizing my notes, figuring out my tasks, and getting things ready out there for some announcements about my chosen role in the music therapy profession! It is time.

I hope everyone had a great week, and I hope all of you Americans are getting ready for a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!

More soon - I promise!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Amazingness of Technology

I finally have joined the iPod wave. For this year of renovations at work, I realized that I would not have my old reliable CDs and stereo system attached to my cart, so I asked for an iPod. Now, I am NOT an apple person AT ALL, so the decision to get an iPod was carefully considered and extremely difficult for me. I decided the iPod was the way to go since my iTunes program was more easily accessed using work's network and servers than Windows Media Player or the whole Zune fiasco. I also like the 160GB of memory that allows me to sync most of my music library to one device...

So, I am now getting used to the iPod. My clients seem to enjoy the fact that there is something for everyone on that little box. They do not understand why I bought the iPod classic rather than the Touch version - I did it so I would have a bit of control over what they were seeing and listening to...

This just amazes me.

When I started my career as a music therapist, CDs were the newest thing - pretty interesting and rather expensive. Most of my therapy music was on cassette tapes and records. Of the two, records were more efficient when it came to switching music quickly and in response to the client's musical needs and wishes. They were bulky - you had to bring the record and the record player to a session. There wasn't much space available in my bag, but I made some space for the recordings.

For the past several years, I have kept going with my old standbys, my CD burner and my specifically burned playlists. It was easy to sit at the computer and make a list of songs developed for specific students at specific times. Sure, there were lots of CDs and CD books, but it was easy to take a CD book and have hundreds of songs available to me for a session, but now...

Now I have all of my music with me, all of the time. I like that I can access my classical music and my obscure children's songs and my Tibetan chant with a couple of minutes of pre-planning and some scrolling.

For the record, I still am not a fan of apple products - I don't think like the folks at Apple - never have and never will. I like that I can organize playlists, but I don't like that I have to use the computer to do so rather than the device itself. I don't like that I can't delete songs from my iPod without hooking it into the computer, and the fact that my iTunes account is not always compatible with my work's server either, but it is still better than the days of lugging around the record player and tons of records.

I absolutely cannot wait for the days when I can use my eyes to scroll through a list of music and activate a playlist with a simple word command...


Saturday, November 16, 2013

An Introvert at AMTA

It is almost time for the AMTA National Conference - a time of great fun, friends, and an utter switch in how I spend my life. I'm an introvert. I like to spend time by myself and need alone time to relax and re-energize. Alone time is a scarce commodity at the conference.

I am getting myself ready for this next week by making my plans.
  1. Scheduling one to one meetings at various times
  2. Opting out of some social events in favor of sleeping or just sitting in my room for relaxing and thinking
  3. Planning my time carefully
  4. Taking my art journal for on-the-spot relaxation
It's not a fool-proof plan, but I am hoping it works for me.

I will be the person who is finding a place to sit so I can watch others socialize. If you are also an introvert, look for me on the fringes of the exhibit spectacular and sitting just outside interesting presentations (not inside since I have to leave during most of them for one meeting or another...). Please talk to me since I probably won't initiate a conversation with you. Be prepared to write down your information since I usually cannot remember people on day one of the conference (since my conference starts two full days before the presentations). I am already fried once the opening session comes along.

Things I am looking forward to:
  • seeing my friends
  • meeting internship directors and supervising music therapists
  • talking to prospective interns
  • meeting with committee and board members
  • thinking deep thoughts about music therapy and the future of our profession
  • talking to people about my passion for music therapy
  • seeing another part of Florida
  • late night laughter with my roommate
  • hopefully learning or buying something new for my clients
  • getting back home to the cat 
There you go. Lots of things that will affect how I interact with others, but also lots of things that I cannot wait to experience! I hope to see you there!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

AMTA 2013 is Only 10 Days Away!


Only 10 days left until one of the most fulfilling and most challenging times of my year - the American Music Therapy Association National Conference!

In 10 days, I will be leaving home for the riverfront of Jacksonville, Florida for five days of meetings, networking, discussions, and opportunities to immerse myself in music therapy. It is wonderful to be able to sit in a meeting and listen to people who know what music therapy is without having to define it over and over again. It is great to be around a community that uses music everyday for therapeutic reasons and outcomes. I enjoy seeing old friends, meeting students, actually personally interacting with people that I only know from social media, and making new music therapy connections. That is fun, rewarding, and fulfilling for a therapist who spends lots of time on her own in a job where only one other person even has an inkling of what music therapy is about.

Now for the challenging parts. Conference is a busy time and especially wears me down. I think this is the introverted part of me speaking now. I love being involved in the social aspects of conference, but I am so very busy during the entire time! I tend to spend any "off-time" when I'm not in meetings, CMTEs, or leading presentations, desperately seeking some solitude. My social interactions have suffered over the past 3 years. I haven't had much energy or the desire to sit and chat in bars with friends. I'm going to try to do more of that this year. 

If you are a person who knows me through Facebook, this blog, webinars, or presentations, please look for me sitting somewhere sort of quiet and out of the way. Talk to me, please. Let me know how you know me and let's interact in real time and in the same space.

Hope to see you there!

Off to Jacksonville!

Saturday, November 09, 2013


It is the end of Daylight Savings Time and things are just plain old dark around here these days. As you know from one of my MANY rants about this, I do not understand why we change our time, but this post will not continue down that path. Today, I am going to muse about the things that I like to attribute to the descent of darkness.

Any time we monkey around with the time, my pet, my clients, and my own functioning level change. This week was just plain old strange. Clients did not respond to music therapy the way they usually do - it was just plain old strange. The cat has no problem waking me up at 3:45, exactly one hour earlier than I now need to be awake. She hasn't really understood that it is fine to stay in bed an extra hour. I slipped and fell AGAIN on Monday after school which I blame on the fact that it was actually "home" time instead of "work" time. I was exhausted and fell in a hole. Ugh.

I am a person who enjoys a good night's sleep. I have always been a "sun-downer." If you are not familiar with the concept, it is a phenomenon where persons with advanced stage dementia have significant behavior changes when the sun goes down. Most of my family gets sleepy when the sun goes down whether it's 9pm or 4pm. It's ridiculous, but when the sun goes down, we want to sleep. Fortunately, most of us are also morning people, so we awaken early and can function well in the early morning hours. I'm fine with morning darkness after a good night's sleep.

So, now I have lots of energy during the morning sessions and less and less as the day moves on. Fortunately, I know this about myself, and I schedule my sessions for more ams than pms. My art therapy colleague is just the opposite. She is a late night person and gets her energy later in the day. She schedules most of her sessions for the afternoons, so everything works out between music and art therapies. She is currently thriving while I am falling asleep at 7:15. Of course, she suffers greatly in the Spring.

All of this affects how I do therapy, of course.

I'm upbeat in the morning - my clients are often not so much. Sometimes leading therapeutic music experiences is like trying to herd cats... things just don't go any place you expect. My intern found that out this week when a group of kids just didn't engage with anything she tried. Most of my groups sat and stared at me. If I asked a question, they looked at me and shrugged, "I don't know." Really? You don't know what you like to eat? It was an interesting mess.

It will get better.

My students will eventually settle into the new routine - in just enough time for us to change the time AGAIN!

It's time to venture out into the darkness. I think I will light some candles and enjoy the sunrise!

Uploaded at 5:27am after 2+hours of computer and committee work. See you all soon!  

Sunday, November 03, 2013

An Extra Hour

I have never understood why we change our clocks twice per year. People go on and on about how it saves electricity and is better for the farmers... I still don't get it. There is the same amount of light available during the day whether we call it 4pm or 3pm. Animals and plants respond to the sunlight available, not the time on the clock. It is ridiculous.

If we have to do this every year, I'm glad for this day - FALL BACK DAY! There is a luxury in having an extra hour to take care of work, play, and other pursuits of happiness. Today, for example, I woke up at a unknown time (but well before the light clicked on at 3:25am. I enjoyed the opportunity to stay in bed for an extra hour before arising to feed the cat, answer emails, and blog. Now, I have lots of time before leaving my place to go to my Sunday morning job. I am ready to go now, but I have more time! What a luxury that I wish I had all the time!

Today I am choosing to use my extra hour for music therapy work - correspondence with members of the organizing committee for the Online Conference for Music Therapy (coming up on February 7-8, 2014), blogging here, advertising the next webinar (Make It with MJ: An Organized Space for Music Therapy.November 7, 2013 - 8pm Eastern/7pm Central/6pm Mountain/5pm Western-Use the following link to register:, and organizing the rest of the day so I can be ready for this webinar on Thursday.

This extra hour affects our clients, maybe more than any of the rest of us. Time is an abstract concept that is not easily understood by folks with limited cognitive ability, like my kids. Falling back is easier on them than springing forward, but they will awaken at the same time regardless of what the clock says. Since it takes 21 days to make or break a habit, the next three weeks will be a mix of well-rested kids and kids who need to be entertained for another hour before going to school or going home. It will take some time to get into a new time routine, and it is difficult to explain why waiting has to occur to folks who do not wait well to begin with...

For today, however, I'm going to luxuriate in this extra hour. Tomorrow I will start to explain what is going on to my kids... 

Saturday, November 02, 2013

I'm Truly Humble

When I logged into Blogger this morning, I found that the number of blog views has hit 10.063! Wow! Now, I know the scheme of all things "bloggy." 10,000 may not be a great statistic in 7 years, but for a little place where I post random thoughts and ideas about music as a therapeutic medium and what happens in my small world of music therapy, it is pretty tremendous to think that people out there in the internet have looked at these posts over 10,000 times. Thank you!

So, anyway, back to the normal state of things here at music, therapy, and me

This week's inspired Therapeutic Music Experience (TME), the Anger Monster Mash, seemed to be a hit for most of my students. Depending on the overall level of function for group members, we talked about our responses to feeling angry. We evaluated whether the responses were "good" or "bad," specifically in terms of hurting self, others, or property. One group labeled each of the 11 monsters with a behavior. Others did not. We then sang a piggyback version of the Monster Mash that dealt with how we act out our anger. It moved us through a trigger, responses, safety assists when we were not safe, and coping skills. In between verses, we "MASHED" the anger monsters with our feet. I think it was a hit, and something we can do again to lead into a deeper discussion of what we should and shouldn't do with our anger emotion.

Something that I'm playing around with in the deep recesses of my brain is an internship handbook for music therapy students. I'm trying to develop a text that covers lots of what goes on during internship so students will have some warning... I hope to have a rough draft proposal to AMTA next summer...

That's what's happening in my part of the music therapy world - getting ready for the AMTA conference in Jacksonville through setting up my meeting agenda, making sure that I have all of my notes for all of my meetings, and starting to pick my wardrobe. Gotta look professional, ya know?

Thank you so much for looking at this blog. Here's to the next 9,937 views!!