Thursday, January 30, 2014

Separation of Work and Home

I've fallen into an ethical dilemma. I know how I am going to handle it, but I feel that I need to address it here just so I can see the process through from start to finish.

Here is the dilemma.

A former client of mine (former by 4 days - left last Friday for a new school) has requested to be my friend on Facebook.

I enjoyed being the therapist for this student, but I am not ready to be his Facebook friend. I want to keep my work life separate from my home life. Now, I do not post lots and lots of social information about myself on Facebook, but there are more links into my outside life than I want a client to access. I know that he is not currently my client, but the relationship is still too close for my comfort.

I wonder what his current teacher thinks when she posts things about her "grape slushie" drinks that she enjoys several times per week. I wonder what types of censorship I would put myself through wondering what he would see on my timeline, who he would talk to, and how it would be interpreted.

I will not be his Facebook friend. I wish I could, but I am EXTREMELY uncomfortable, so that is my signal for my path through the dilemma.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Song Post... The World Ain't Slowin' Down

Every so often, I find a song that resonates with my life in general. This is one of those songs. It's one of those songs that just makes me smile, but it also speaks to me and some of my major flaws and faults. It is sung by Ellis Paul and is used in the movie, Me, Myself, and Irene (a movie that I really didn't like all that much, but I was obsessed with this song after watching!). Here are the lyrics... 

I found you sitting on a suitcase crying
Beneath my feet I feel the rumble of a subway train
And I laugh out loud
Cause it's the one thing I hadn't been trying
The train came in breathless
The passenger's restless
You say, "Baby, you'll never change"

You gotta get gone
You gotta get going
Hey, the world ain't slowin' down
For no one
It's a carnival calling out to you
And it sounds like a song
It hits you like scripture
You paint the picture
With colors squeezed from your hand
Weren't you the kid
Who just climbed on a merry-go-round
Hey, look, the world ain't slowin' down

Out on the sidewalk
The pigeons do the moonwalk
I'll be dancing like Fred Astaire
The lampposts are rockin'
The whole town is talking
Like a fool in a barber's chair
And I get the sensation
It's joy and frustration
Like getting caught by a drop of cold rain
Freedom can numb you
When there's no place to run to
It feels just like Novocain
[chorus] You packed up all your handbags
You're throwing off the sandbags
I let go when you stepped free
I didn't want to lose you
You said, "You didn't choose to --
It's just how your karma came"
But thanks for the vision,
And the twenty-twenty wisdom
It hit me like a south-bound train

For some odd reason, I tend to fixate on the words, "the world ain't slowing down for no one..." Those words especially ring true right now as my second weekend in February is filling up, right up to the brim, with work and volunteer responsibilities. There are times when you will be busy, there are times when others will tether you to a life that you don't want or need. There will be other times when you are the tether and have to let go. Whether it is a person, a destructive influence, or a dream that I have to let go of, I feel that this song reminds me to do so in a way that is both joyful and nostalgic.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Still Updating ... Man! I've Got Lots of Music!

I am still updating my digital copies of CDs that I have stored around my home. I went through each album stored on my computer, and then started to go through the books and books of CDs that I have here. I am actually looking for one particular song, requested by one client (over and over and over again). I am pulling out CDs that I don't remember seeing in my music library.

(I am going to go off on an iTunes rant now. If you are a fan of iThings, you may want to skip this paragraph as I am sure to offend you in my intense confusion and hatred of all iThings.) One of the things that drives me crazy about iTunes is that it often misnames the tracks on my CDs. Someone somewhere entered the playlist into the database wrong and it stays that way forever! I am not sure how to fix it, but it really puts a crimp in my music-searching skills! I do not remember having this problem with Windows Media, but maybe it was present there as well. I must say, iTunes does recognize more of my obscure recordings than Windows Media ever did, but it is not helpful when the information is just plain old wrong! Whew - I think I'm done with the rant...

(It should be safe for all those who think like Apples from this point on.)

One of the benefits to going through all of my music is that I have organized a playlist simply for me!! It currently has 224 songs on it and would take 13 hours to get through from start to finish. It is extremely eclectic (as I am sure you would expect from a person who loves music and uses it as a tool). There are symphonies from Sibelius, hard rock anthems from AC/DC, relaxation tracks from Andiamo, Secret Garden, and Wyndham Hill. There are tribal tracks, songs from the Muppets, and songs from Monty Python. Some of the songs have strong extramusical associations (You're the Inspiration - my High School crush on Christopher Jones and then the others that I crushed on once he left...). Others have the perfect melody or the best lyrics or a combination that just plain elicits an emotional response and reaction in me. Some are just plain absurd, and I laugh whenever I hear them. Each song has a function for me and, sometimes, for me alone!

I have often tried to share my musical tastes with others, but I have found that what I love is often not loved by those close to me. I understand the reasons why - novelty, lack of extramusical association, different experiences, disinterest in a particular musical style, but I still want to share the feelings that I have with each of these pieces with others. When I do find someone that shares my love for the music of Dr. Horrible's Sing-a-Long Blog, I feel an instant rapport. This is one of the reasons that we music therapists find that the music from adolescence is often the music that sticks with us throughout our lifespans. There is just an instant recognition and something is communicated without words. You know a bit of me!

For me, that recognition is why I try my best to use music in sessions specifically catered to the preferences and behaviors of my clients. There is just a magical moment when you find the song that means something - good or bad - for a client who has not responded to you before. Once you find that key - tempo, timbre, melody, harmony, form, familiarity, extramusical association - you have an entry into your client's life and into a therapeutic relationship.

This is lots of hard work. There are times when I cannot find that "in." There are times when my client is trying so hard to communicate his or her musical preferences or needs, and I just miss the communication. This is one of the difficulties with being human. There will be times when I get it, and times when I do not. That is okay. It is part of my humanity, and it is shared by each and every other human being on the planet!

Off to find the elusive song requested by my client - hopefully it will be in the last set of CD books... or I'll have to buy it AGAIN. Here I go, diving back into the world of my music. See you soon!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

We Are...Music Therapists!

SM-Advocacy-Badge-2012-e1325611932440It is January again and time for a post about Music Therapy Advocacy! Here is my offering to the many different thoughts going on out there in music therapy USA.

We are...Music Therapists!

This is a wonderful sentiment and a great theme to an advocacy month, and I know that there are many out there who are using this to address the need to toot our own horns and sing our songs loudly and proudly. For me, though, this statement brings to mind some things that I have been pondering for a long, long time.

It is fine and good for us all to identify ourselves as a large group of professionals with a unique name, but it is interesting that, within our own ranks, there are people who feel that they are truly music therapists while I am simply a music activity leader solely based on my education and population of choice. There are others who feel that my client-centered approach is not appropriate... I should be doing their "proven" protocols which is the "only true way" of music therapy.

Every time someone starts to accuse someone from another "camp" of not doing what is right for clients, I feel the music therapy foundation quake a bit. This entire conversation makes me squirm. We are attempting to identify ourselves as a united group, but we are not united in our outlook, definition, or understanding of music as a therapeutic medium. This is a challenging statement, "We therapists," as it expects that we will be able to find common ground in our profession.

Now, I do not think that squirming is a bad thing. This is a discussion that, I feel, should have happened a long time ago. We have a history of going our separate ways. We must not do that again! It is time to focus on what we share rather than what we do not.

Before I continue to go off into a nonsensical rant, let me stop myself here and make a (possibly) controversial statement.

I am a music therapist. You are a music therapist. What we do may look completely different to our own eyes, but for most of the other human beings out there, what we do looks like someone enjoying music offered by a person who knows how to use that music as a therapeutic medium. Therefore, why should either of us judge the other based on terminology, theory, music selection, or anything else?

I think we can do this. I think we can find a shared core knowledge, theory, and technique that all music therapists utilize regardless of treatment format, population, and/or theoretical propensity. Once we know what we have in common, we will be able to understand the attitudes, opinions, and practices of those who have a bit of a different outlook. Our commonalities will inform our philosophical leanings and our personal philosophies of music therapy will strengthen our client interactions.

Because, after all, without our clients, this entire conversation would be moot... right?

I am a music therapist. I am a unique human being who chooses to focus my professional life on using music as a tool to assist others in reaching their personal goals. I celebrate the different ideas, viewpoints, and theoretical foundations that others hold while not feeling diminished due to my own beliefs about music and music therapy.

I pledge this day, January 23, 2014, to seek the commonalities that I share with each and every music therapist that is practicing, has practiced, and will practice. I pledge to continuously seek the form of music therapy that will best support my client - each and every one of my clients, and I will remain open to new ideas, theories, techniques, knowledge, and philosophy to best inform the search.

I hope you will join me. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Enjoying an Upswing

This past weekend was a good one. We celebrated Martin Luther King's birthday with a day off, and I spent it at home. Now, I'd like to tell you that I spent time in contemplation of the wonderful man who we were celebrating, but I didn't. I opted to do a bunch of non-work related work and take a nap instead. The upshot of the three-day weekend was returning to work feeling relaxed and ready to do what needed to be done yesterday. It was a good feeling to be heading into work feeling happy.

I awoke this morning at 3:30am. This seems to be my typical pattern lately. Rather than grumbling and trying to sleep more, I laid in bed thinking and then started the day. Now, at 5:07am, I have finished all of my OCMT 2014 correspondence, reviewed all of my emails, spent some time playing on social media, and am now blogging. 

Today, we have a classroom that will be going on a field trip during their music therapy time. So, an extra hour for us (myself and both inters) to fill during the day. I am thinking that I will take the time to review some documents and tasks for AMTA. Also, I received official word yesterday that my work schedule will be changing in a way I have requested, making me a VERY happy employee at the moment. This news will require some problem-solving and contemplation when I see how the schedule changes will affect the internship program as well as the way music therapy services are provided at my facility.

It is amazing how some time to yourself and some good news can give you a zing as you go into your day...week...month.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Roaming Around the Music Collection

I am sitting in front of the computer today (on my day off, I might add) adding music to my digital library. This seems to be a never-ending process since when I rip music, it tends to disappear from the computer for various and sundry reasons - I don't know why, but it does! Right now, I have the excuse of having a new computer with oodles of storage, so I am going through my CDs and am adding music to my iTunes library.

Like everything else in my life, I have my own form of organization for my music collection. Several years ago, I decided to eliminate all of the plastic CD cases from my life. I placed all of my CDs into large books. All of a sudden, I had some space in my music area again! (It has since been filled up, but there was space for some time!!)

So, I have a book full of Holiday music, two for Soundtracks, one for Country, one for Popular music forms, and a miscellaneous book as well. They are large books - some are canvas, some are pleather, but they are functional for what I need at this point right now.

In addition to the CD books, I have a couple of cases of cassette tapes (music that I simply CANNOT find in CD form and CANNOT seem to let go of right now), and about 50 records (with FUNCTIONING record player)! That is the extent of my recorded music collection. We will NOT explore the printed sheet music during this post.

I enjoy looking over my music every so often. I can often remember who wanted specific songs during my professional career. I remember the days of N'Sync and the Backstreet Boys. I remember the student who really liked the stories of Dr. Seuss. I remember why I bought music from movies that I loved and continue to love.

I don't often listen to music outside of the music therapy clinic, but when I do, I use nostalgia to guide my listening. I have always loved making compilation tapes, CDs, and playlists of my current favorite music. It is something that I will probably always do.

Right now, I am ripping my Dr. Seuss CDs onto my digital storage device. Next up? Animal songs from the Dollar Tree and Disney Karaoke discs. That makes me happy.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Therapeutic Music Experiences - Sharing with Others

It is fun to get together with other music therapists and hear what they do with their clients. I am always enriched when I can talk to another therapist about how they use music with their clients. I am often challenged to view my own interactions with clients in different ways after talking to other music therapists. So, because of those reasons, I have manufactured opportunities to meet with other music therapists for the sole purpose of sharing ideas of things to do with various clients.

This evening is the first meeting of a three month series of Therapeutic Music Experiences (TME) Swap Shops. (You can register at: if you are interested in joining us). I am hoping that this evening's discussion will be more than just me sharing ideas. I need some new thoughts to keep me challenged!

I like these types of interactions. There is something invigorating about hearing a new song offered by a creative music therapist in a different setting that stirs up my creativity. I may not be able to replicate an original song by a music therapist who shares with me, but I can get a spark that allows me to create something either similar or something inspired by that therapist. It is nice to get a new idea or two from talking to others.

This type of interaction with others is something that many of us lack in our jobs. I know that I am the only person at my facility who uses music in a therapeutic manner as the basis for all interactions with clients, so there really isn't anyone that I can network with to get that creative surge. Since I am lonely, it makes sense to use social media to talk to other therapists who are in similar situations.

Eleven hours to go. Can't wait!!

Sunday, January 05, 2014

In a Winter Wonderland

During this school year, my normal Friday routine has changed from large group, multi-disciplinary sessions focused on things like problem solving and discovery learning to music therapy sessions based on a monthly theme. This month's theme is Winter. This morning's weather is offering lots of inspiration for planning for these sessions.

There is about an inch or two of new snow on the ground outside. I am not sure if the snow has stopped yet or not, but the weather has covered everything with a glittering white layer covering all the slush and pre-plowed snow. Now, I do not usually wax rhapsodical about snow since it is really nothing but a hindrance to things I have to do, but I currently have the flu again (the high fever may have something to do with this post) and am not going to my morning job, so I can just appreciate the beauty outside rather than worrying about how to get from point A to point B.

I think this month is the time to introduce some of my students to epsom salt snow. Others will get to write snow poems, and all of us will have a paper ball snowball fight! It will be a fun way to celebrate the season and focus on winter-type music making and singing.

So, here is the plan -
Opening Song
Vivaldi's Winter
Paper snowball fights
Walking in a Winter Wonderland
Winter rap - poetry about snow, winter, ice, etc.
Wyndham Hill Winter music
Epsom Salt Snow Sensory Experience
Closing Song

It should be a good plan for our students. We shall see.

Now, it is time to get rid of all of this snow!

Saturday, January 04, 2014

What is Coming Next?

The start of a new calendar year is usually less important to me than the start of a new school year - one of the situations faced by many a school-based therapist. I never get holiday cards out to my friends and family, but I think about things like lifestyle changes and things I want to do at both times of the year. The new year seems to be more of a time for personal reflection while the start of the school year is more a time for professional ideas. So, now it is time for some personal reflections... (sorry in advance!)

This year, 2014, will be a time for creative interaction with others. My webinars will continue (see www.musictherapyworks/webinarsandcourses.html for more details), and I will FINALLY get my CBMT pre-approved provider application into CBMT for review.

I will enjoy the music therapy interactions that I have with my clients, learning from them in every way possible. I will challenge them and myself to be better musicians and people.

I am going to strive to be the best internship director that there has ever been! (I realize that I will fall WAY short of this goal, since, you know, I am human!) I am going to work on helping my students towards their own goals of being therapists. I am going to write about this journey in my personal journal as well as in this blog. The job of internship director is one that I love, but it is one that challenges me continuously. That is a good thing. I will work with a bunch of great internship directors to help them help other IDs be the best supervising music therapists and internship directors that they can be!

Looking over this list, it seems to be more professional than personal... hmmm.

So, personal things. I am going to strive to be healthier. While the gut-stuff of 2013 is now resolved by surgery, I still have some work to do to keep my new gut from going the same direction. More fiber and vegetables - less bread and cheese.

I will try to get out into the world of new people more often. I would like to have a friend that I know completely outside the worlds of work and church.

I will take time to laugh, cry, and rage when it is important to do so.

I will make Runzas for myself when it is necessary.

I will disconnect from people who are rude or unhealthy.

I think that's enough for now.

Friday, January 03, 2014

Off We Go!

Well, it is early in the morning, and I am sitting in my bedroom postponing the moment when I have to get up, take my shower, go out into the frigid world, and go to yet another inservice at work. There are times (kinda like these) when I do not want to be a responsible adult...

Motivation is an interesting thing. I am motivated to go to my job because I get paid. I am motivated to run music therapy sessions because I love showing my kids that music is something to be celebrated and enjoyed. I am not motivated to get out of bed this morning because the cat is cuddly, it is warm under the covers, it is cold outside, and many, many other reasons. (Jet lag is a big part of all of this, I am sure.)

I will be motivated to finish my job today since tomorrow is the weekend.

Plans for tomorrow? Sleep. Use the computer. Sleep some more. Sing a bit and sleep some more.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Hello, 2014!

Happy second day of the new year! I hope that you are getting along okay in this glorious 2014!

Today, I arrived at my house at 1:15am after being delayed through the airport and then crawling home at 40mph on slick and icy roads. The cat seemed happy to see me and promptly sat on top of me for the remainder of sleep time. I then got up, much to her dismay, and ventured out into the snowy world for an inservice day at work. I was there early and was able to clean up the space a bit just in time to welcome intern #21 back and to officially welcome intern #22 to her internship.

During the day, I spent some time talking to the teaching staff about the influence of sound on our bodies. Tomorrow, I will add some to the spiel to talk to our paraeducators about what happens when sound is in the environment, AND how we can change our sound environment to affect change in our clients' lives. It should be pretty interesting tomorrow when we have this talk.

After all of that was finished, I spent time with intern #22 talking about orientation and dismissal things. After that, I spent some time with my guitar, composing songs. I left work, went to get free fast food, and am now sitting in my bedroom watching the cat smile at me (we had to rub her down with dryer sheets to decrease her static electricity). Now she is sitting quietly just looking at me from a safe distance.

On a down note, I found yet another toilet leak in my apartment, but the apartment owner was there when I went to pay rent, and I told him about the issue. The toilet should be fixed tomorrow - more stress for the cat who is just now getting over being abandoned with the pet sitter for a time. She should be ready to claw my eyes out by tomorrow after work...

Anyway, it was nice to get back into a music composition routine. I don't know if I will ever use the songs that I composed today, but it has been a long time since I have written a new song, and now there are TWO!


Happy creativity to you!!