Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Goodbye 2013!

I am very glad to see the end of this year. When it started, things were looking up for me - some money in the bank, an end to an education that just wasn't working for me, appliances that worked well, a new car... various and sundry good things that made the dawn of 2013 seem like a fresh start.

It didn't last long.

I'm not going to dwell on all the things that happened this year. Let's just say that the end of this year is not something to regret around me.

So, on the dawn of this new year, here are some music therapy things that I am looking forward to...
  • a new intern, maybe two this year, maybe three...
  • the launch of another series of webinars...
  • CMTE pre-approved provider status - FINALLY!
  • presenting at the Midwestern AMTA regional meeting in Springfield, MO this spring
  • watching the new music room being built - brick by brick
  • advocacy month followed by membership month
  • talking to IDs and interns about important music therapy stuff
This year will be what it is. No more, no less. Off we go into the future with an attitude of peace as time will take us where we need to be.

Happy New Year, friends!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Fun Stuff - A Completed Project - Maybe

Can you keep a secret? (You really don't have to, if you don't want to!) I think I've finished the first draft of my first Therapeutic Music Experience (TME) book! I am being somewhat cautious 'cause I've had these thoughts before and just watched them fizzle away... but, this time I think I've got it!

As I have explored with you in many MANY other posts before, I get bogged down by feelings of inadequacy - I call those feelings my "woulda, coulda, shoulda goblins." I had a particularly bad episode with the "shoulda goblin" a couple of weeks ago that led to me having some rough nights coupled with insomnia and an allergy attack. This was after influenza, but before the start of my winter break. It was not a good thing.

So, anyway, after wallowing in the "poor me's" for a time, I looked around for something that would be a proactive step towards banishing "shoulda" for a time. I came up with an idea that I have been trying to accomplish for many years now - a book of original TMEs specifically for adolescents in music therapy treatment.

The meat of the book is complete. I took TMEs from my compendium of ideas and transferred them into a book format. (I am very impressed with the way in which I learned how to make some unique headers and footers, by the way.) Now, all I need to do is to design a cover, add some "how-to use" comments, find some graphics, and release it out into the world for use (and commentary). I am thrilled with the progress that I have made in the past three days towards completing SOMETHING that others can use! I can barely contain my excitement!!!!!! (Tsk, tsk - look at all of those exclamations!)

For the next two days, I am going to work, work, work on completing this project so it can launch on my website by February 1, 2014!

More Than Lyric Analysis: Therapeutic Music Experiences for Adolescents is coming to a website near you VERY SOON!

Thanks for indulging me in this celebration of getting something done!

Happy New Year, everyone.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

A Gift to Music Therapy

It is almost time for the dreaded registration fees to come around again. Now, I have never felt that membership in AMTA was an option. This may have been influenced by my mother and her insistence that she always be a member of AOTA (the American Occupational Therapy Association) even when she was not actively practicing, and this was definitely influenced by my first round of professors. AMTA membership was not an option!

Due to those two reasons, I always re-up my membership around the first of the year.

It is time to do so again, so I'm going to my banking site and will be sending out the first payment towards this new membership year. Like I said, this isn't an option for me.

Do you know what I've noticed over my many years of being a music therapy association member? AMTA does lots and lots for each and every one of us, even when we are not physically involved in a situation. Also, when you are physically involved in a situation, the folks at AMTA will drop what they are doing and will help at a moment's notice! This is WELL worth my membership fees alone, but there is more.

Did you know that AMTA has legal counsel to represent us in copyright discussions? Or proprietary suits? Or even to consult regarding changes in internships? I do. There have been times when I've had to refer situations to AMTA in order to have a legal opinion rather than the opinion of me, one music therapist out in the middle of nowhere, USA.

Did you know that AMTA talks directly to members of Congress about situations and legislation that may affect music therapists and music therapy clients? We weigh in on discussions about mental health parity, changes in IDEA and education, medicare reimbursement, and countless other issues that affect all music therapists attempting to bring music therapy to any and all clients (and get paid to do so!).

As music therapy is becoming more of a household name, AMTA is out there working to make sure that it is not a flash in the pan, but is truthfully represented to the world. All of these reasons and more are why I am a proud member of AMTA.

Off to write my check!

Will you join me (if you haven't already, of course!!)? 

Friday, December 27, 2013

Looking Forward

It is the time of year to spend some time trying to figure out personal goals and objectives for the next 12 months - resolutions. Often these statements start with "I resolve to..." and follow similar patterns - lose weight, eat better, save money, work out, blah, blah, blah. Many of us stop following through with our resolutions within a week or two. I am one of those people, so it is time to make a change in how I approach the New Year.

So, rather than making resolutions, I will make some predictions for 2014...
  • I feel that 2014 will be a better health year for me (2013 was very rough and EXTREMELY expensive health-wise)
  • I will FINALLY get my CMTE pre-approved status
  • There will be big changes in my personal and professional future that will happen during 2014...
That's it.

That's all I got!

...and that is okay!

Happy New Year, everyone!! (Just a couple of days early!)

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Revisiting the Wee Small Hours of the Morning

It was another "early-to-rise" day in my household. I awoke at 2am with a raging sinus headache and a non-stop runny nose - darn expired allergy medications! I quickly realized that neither of these things would be conducive to returning to sleep, so I started my day. I picked up the house and have just finished making breakfast/dinner (sloppy joes are good any time of day!). I have played several mind-numbing games on the computer, and I have finished my gift wrapping.

Every time I am up this early in the morning. my mind goes towards the need to be occupied in some sort of task. I wonder why I need a task to work towards, but I do, so I embrace that part of myself and move along. Today, my primary tasks have been of the sorting and cleaning type, but I am pretty well finished with what I can do before the decent hour of 7am, so here I sit watching Farscape and thinking. Sorry about that.

What do I think about? Anything and everything that pops into my brain at this time of the day. Conversations on Music Therapists Unite, the banana that I have that may now be overripe, making sure that the presents get to California in time for the holiday, whether the cat has enough litter... you name it, I think about it!

Lately I have been thinking about my new intern who will start on January 2, 2014 (can you believe it is almost 2014??). This thought process starts up each time an intern starts at my facility... Will I be a good supervisor for this person? Will I be able to show her my best music therapy? Will she still want to be a music therapist after she is finished at my facility? Will she be a good intern or a problem-child? The questions go on and on.

I hope this is part of the process for every internship supervisor. This questioning keeps me looking for things that I feel are important for a student - clear communication, individualized training, and a robust learning experience. I hear that there are interns out there that do not get that type of training experience, and it simultaneously frustrates me and breaks my heart. ESPECIALLY when I just hear things through the grapevine and folks do not have the professional courage needed to go through a noncompliance process. So, we just keep bad supervisors out there fueling the problem.

I try to be a good internship supervisor. I try to show my interns the courtesy and attention that my ID showed me these 21 years ago. I try to make sure that my interns know that each one of them is an unique individual who brings something special into the world of music therapy. Sometimes it is an easy thing to do, and sometimes it isn't that easy.


That's enough for this cold, snowy morning. Back to bed?

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Exception That Proves the Rule

So, you may have read through my rant about not liking the music saturation that pervades the months of October through December. Now, the music that is the exception to my rule of no music (outside of work, of course)...

John Denver and the Muppets

This album of music just warms my heart in ways that no other seasonal music does or can. I love these songs, mainly because I grew up with the Muppets and have ALWAYS loved John Denver. This album puts me right into the mood of the holiday season, no matter where I am, what I am doing, or who I am with at the moment.

There aren't too many people out there (that I've found, anyway) that share my enthusiasm for this collection of songs, but I still love them all! It is difficult for me to pick my favorite song, but here I go...

Best for a giggle - Twelve Days of Christmas (especially Miss Piggy!)
The ones that make me cry - Noel: Christmas Eve 1913, When the River Meets the Sea, and Silent Night

The others are also great, but not ones that I have to experience before I feel the spirit of the season.

I hope there is some music out there that you love the way I love this album. Something that spurs happy memories, that can make you giggle and cry in the space of minutes, and that offers you a chance to feel something that you do not always feel.

Happy Holidays, friends!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Music? Bah, Humbug!

I am a Christmas music Scrooge. I am the type of person who avoids all stores from the period after Halloween to the post-Christmas sales simply due to the constant and pervasive repetition of hymns, carols, and songs that permeate my every conscious second. I cannot ignore the music that is played, and it bothers me.

Most of my friends don't understand this aversion that I have to singing the same old songs over and over and over again. They love listening to the "all Christmas, all the time" radio stations that pop up around here. I have to escape and retreat into silence.

Lately, I have noticed that others (in my social media life, so mostly music therapists) are starting to post about their own aversions to the music of this season. I have been relieved to know that I am not the only Christmas music Scrooge out there.

In my therapy sessions, I find myself waiting until the very last possible moment to bring in the Santa-themed songs and the Christmas music. I try to remind the people around me that not everyone has happy memories associated with the holiday season or the music. We do non-holiday therapeutic music experiences (TMEs) as much as possible.

I was listening to NPR's Morning Edition yesterday and heard a discussion about holiday music that emphasizes the ways people hear and perceive the music. The people speaking chose some familiar songs with a good emphasis on the melancholy songs of the season - "I'll Be Home for Christmas," "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," and others, AND they picked some snarky songs as well. I have to admit that I liked the snarky songs better than the familiar ones! I have a new snarky music duo to follow - Garfunkel and Oates. Their song, "Christmas Letter," completely cracked me up!

I am now on Winter break and am enjoying the silence and occasional holiday music, chosen by me and appreciated by few other people. This enforced boycott of all things holiday music-themed will help me get more into the spirit of the holiday that I will celebrate on December 24th. For me, singing "Silent Night" on Christmas Eve is so much more meaningful to me as a person and as a believer than if I have been singing it daily.

I'm turning off the radio.

Feel free to enjoy the sounds of the season however you wish...

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Just Full Up

I am full up of the music therapy goodness that happens often for me - it is a refreshing change from the goblin-filled thoughts of a day ago...  

Yesterday was a good therapy day.
I actually had a chance to run music therapy groups (with drums) during my day, and I spent some time with some great kids! It was the perfect way to banish that shoulda goblin from the forefront to the background (but he hasn't left entirely yet...).

We used a variety of drums yesterday in my two groups. With my students, I typically do not do anything really fancy with them until we can entrain to a steady and common beat. This is always an interesting exercise. Some of my students entrain quickly and easily - others do not. It seems that most of my nonentrainers are higher functioning, need less supports, and have diagnoses on the Autism Spectrum towards the Asperger's range. Sometimes they seem to be fighting the urge to entrain to a beat. If I change my pattern to match theirs, they change their tempo or rhythm pattern. It is fascinating!

One-to-one, that resistance to entrainment is not an issue. I can constantly change my musical response to match theirs. In a group, however, I cannot unless I want to keep others from being able to participate in their entrainment manner.

This leads me to an important topic - what kind of treatment is actually best for my clients?

I do not have a choice about whether I offer large classroom groups. I have to. "Teachers need to have planning time, and specials is when they get that time." My administrators are very firm on this, so I offer each client group music therapy sessions. If I had my choice, I would still do groups of clients, but I would pick and choose clients from different classrooms who had similar interests or goals/objectives/benchmarks. A group of my clients who were all nonentrainers would be an interesting challenge for myself and my interns. I would probably also spend time with each client in an individual setting getting to know more about their way to "music" before deciding about assigning them to a treatment group. Ah, sigh. If only I had full control over what I do...

One of the things that I am hoping will happen is a significant shift in when I work. I am hoping to be able to do some hours outside of the school day and in the residence where I can do different music therapy. A songwriting group for my adolescent girls... a drumming/anger group for my middle school boys... a video group for my older boys... sensory experiences for the little bits... social story training for kids who have specific needs at specific times of the day (dinner and bedtime, for example)... staff training on how to use music to make things happen... oh, the list goes on and on and on...

Today is a non-therapy day. We will host our second annual Holiday Dinner, and the music therapy department is helping with the set-up and will be leading some of our students in singing holiday songs after they are finished with their serving duties. I expect a day full of fun moments and enthusiastic bellowing - I am sure that I will be even more thoroughly sick of Rudolph, Frosty, and Santa Claus by the end of today than I am at this moment. That is the life of a school-based music therapist, I guess.


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Shoulda Goblin Strikes Again...

I am a fan of a blogger/artist/author named Danny Gregory who draws things and is quite the philosopher. He talks lots about his creative process, the people that inspire him, and about his doubts about his own talent. He wrote a series of posts about his "monkeys" - the doubts that sink into his brain and stay awhile. I can relate.

My doubts don't take the form of monkeys, they come in full-out goblin form. (See my former post, Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda Goblins for more.)

Yesterday, the most difficult of my goblins, the Shoulda Goblin, came out in full force.

I had an off day. I had a change of schedule that meant that there was less opportunity to run sessions than usual. I was supposed to have physical behavior management training that kept me out of the other music therapy session that was scheduled. I asked my intern to take over that session, which she did since her session had been canceled. I went up to the training room with three other people and sat there for a time before someone came up to tell us that the instructor was out sick. At that moment, I was faced with a decision...

I opted not to interrupt the plan of my intern, so I stayed in my office and looked at music therapy pins on Pinterest. BAD IDEA!!

I am not a member of Pinterest and I rarely look at the music therapy boards on Pinterest. I look at the site for education ideas, do-it-yourself and craft ideas, and humor. That's all. I got onto the music therapy boards yesterday because I found that someone had pinned my blog and my website to their boards! That was an ego boost and it led me into the bog of the shoulda goblin.

I look around at all of the things that other music therapists do, post, and present, and I start thinking, "I should be doing that." "I am such a failure because I don't have a news piece on my music therapy practice." "I need to do more." That's when the goblin takes over and makes himself at home in the dusty corners of my brain.

I think I will be under the influence of this goblin for a time, but I know how to get myself out from under his spell. The first step is to get back into the music therapy setting! Fortunately, I get to do that today. I get to make music with a bunch of wonderful kids. I get to be a part of their lives. This is a good way to evict the goblin. The second step is to realize what I already do. Sure, my talents don't lie in being someone who self-promotes, but I am a good therapist and a good trainer - something that not everyone can claim. Take that, Shoulda! It is time for you to move on... 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

5:38 am - Therapeutic Music Experience Time

Interested in learning more about therapeutic music experience development? Check out our webinars at www.musictherapyworks.com. We are also starting a monthly swap shop for music therapists and students. Join us!

Purpose: To provide concrete expression of emotional response to sung situations; to increase awareness of physical experiences associated with specific emotions; problem-solving; expression of emotion

Source: Original idea. © 2012 by Mary Jane Landaker, MME, MT-BC. Used with permission by www.musictherapyworks.com

Materials: Emotion cards – one set of three for each group member; Variety of rhythm instruments; OPTIONAL: guitar or other accompanying instrument

Environment: Group members sitting within ear shot of therapist

Improvised music using variable lyrics to fit group members and their responses to different situations.

Procedure: R = Reinforcement opportunities; C = Redirection/Cue opportunities; A = Assessment
  1. C=display rhythm instruments and ask each group member to choose three instruments
  2. A=assess whether group members are able to comply with request
  3. R=reinforce all group members who complete task of choosing three instruments
  4. C=pass out a set of emotion cards to each group member.
  5. C=ask group members to put one instrument on each emotion card and wait
  6. R=reinforce group members who complete the task and redirect those who require more assistance
  7. C=start singing situations, improvising lyrics and music to illustrate emotion within situation
  8. C=model playing the corresponding instrument that goes with the indicated emotion expressed in the situation
  9. A=assess whether group members complete the task of playing their instruments as indicated by the emotion cards
  10. R=reinforce group members who complete the task and redirect those who require more assistance
  11. C=ask group members to explain their decision for the emotion card/instrument chosen
  12. R=reinforce all responses, even if they do not appear to be logical – remember, emotion is not always logical
  13. Repeat steps 7-121 changing the situations to indicate different emotional responses
  14. R=continue to reinforce and redirect group members as needed
  15. Continue to repeat steps 7-14 until group members show s/s of boredom and/or time is finished

Therapeutic Function of Music: The music provides the cue for the expression of emotion of group members. As the music is improvised, all elements of the music can be adapted and used as a tool to assist group members in interpreting the verbal information presented. The music can also illustrate the desired emotion through changes in tempo, meter, mode, and harmony. As group members become more accustomed to the concept of the TME, the changes in the music can decrease, increasing the requirement for focus on the verbal discussion rather than the musical elements.


Chart adapted from Hanson-Abromeit, D. (2010). A Closer Look at the Therapeutic Function of Music. Presentation at 2010 American Music Therapy Association National Conference: Cleveland, OH.


  • Increase or decrease the number of emotions presented
  •  Allow group members to choose their own emotions from larger field of choices

  • Ask group members to improvise emotional situations musically and verbally
  • Use emotion cards to indicate how a particular piece of music sounds emotionally

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Thoughts About My Next Project

So, I am happiest when I have a project, problem, or conundrum. I am currently thinking and searching for my next idea...

Here is the thought process...

I'm bored.
Things are going okay, but I don't feel challenged.
Let's go troll around the music therapy blogosphere to see what's out there.
Not much that's new.
What if I type in "music therapy with adolescents?"
It's all about lyric analysis.
I hate only doing lyric analyses. There is SO much more to music therapy than just lyric analysis...

The birth of an idea.

So, how about a collection of therapeutic music experiences for and by adolescents? Does that sound interesting?? It's interesting for me. Hmmm. What have I got in my TME file?

So, now I am going to start plugging away at getting an e-Book ready. Something to do in my spare time over the next couple of months. We'll see.

Step one: just start
Step two: keep going
Step three: keep going again!
Step four: figure out what to do next

I have one TME already into a format. Now, it's time to decide what else I can share with others. Here it goes!

A NEW project (if I could get that word to sparkle, I certainly would!!)!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Major Fail on My End

So sorry that it has been so long since my last post. I REALLY try hard not to be one of those bloggers that posts something once every five or six months. I REALLY try to post something weekly, even if it is just some random thoughts that have been rattling around in my brain...

Anyway, it's been two weeks since I last posted something on this page. I have no defense other than to say that life has been a bit overwhelming lately culminating with a case of influenza that has knocked me down a bit. I'm now on the mend and starting to get myself under control (I think!).


I figured out something about myself last week. Now, this is not really a new something, but something I had forgotten. Are you ready? 

I am happiest when I have a problem or puzzle to solve.

I think this is why I stayed a student for so very long. I love puzzles, problems, and conundrums - the more difficult and convoluted, the better when it comes to me! I love looking for answers and all the ways of getting to them that I possibly can. When I do not have a challenge, I stagnate.

Last week, I manufactured a puzzle. It was based on a suggestion from my supervisor back in April. She suggested that I think about going into a flexible schedule. I found a fixed schedule that would incorporate the benefits of a flex schedule (specifically, time spent in the residential program at my facility outside of the school day) and that would satisfy some of my basic needs (set schedule, defined work hours, and guaranteed time to plan sessions and document). I proposed moving to a 10 hour/day work schedule with a Monday-Thursday work week. 

This proposal presented all types of challenges for me! I had to figure out how sick hours would work, which days off would happen, how inservice training would work, and all sorts of sticky situations! It was wonderful!

A couple of weeks ago, my other supervisor offered me a challenge. Our facility is getting ready for a philosophical change of the highest magnitude. She asked me if I would be on the implementation team. I am now just waiting for instructions on how and when we will be starting our jobs. Another puzzle!! It will be interesting to see how much I am allowed to contribute (there are some very strong personalities on the original team that my very strong personality may clash with - stay tuned!). 

Both the request to be on the implementation team and my own request to change work schedules have shifted my opinions about my workplace a bit more towards the positive side than they have been lately. We will see how things progress.

I am now searching for my new puzzle, problem, and conundrum...