Sunday, March 30, 2014

You Know, That One Song, That We Heard On That Commercial...

Yesterday, my father asked me to find him a song.

He had heard it in the deli where he and my mother and my sister had lunch, and he knew that it was used in a commercial, but that was where we started. It was a ballad, a female sang it, my sister thought she had dark hair but wasn't Katy Perry, and that was all. All the information that he had about the song he wanted me to find for him.

I used my interview skills - honed after working with clients with developmental disabilities for 21 years - "What instruments did you hear?" "Do you remember any of the words that were used?" "Did the music change at all?"

Eventually I found out that the last words were, "I let him go."

Off to Google I went. [Can I just go on a social media tangent here? Life is so much easier now that you can type search criteria into the computer and have things sent back to you within nanoseconds! Before, I would have had to purchase lots of songs, listened to them all, compiled lists, and all that. (Old geezer moment now) You kids don't know how easy you have it these days!!]

I typed in "lyrics I let him go" and got several possibilities. I eliminated the men - Dad was sure that it was a female even though Air Supply was one of the suggestions - he said it was not those guys. I started to play songs from YouTube over the phone for his listening. We eventually found the song. It was by a blonde female singer, Julia Sheer. I tried the music just because it seemed to fit most of his criteria, and it was a success!

It amazes me how many times I go on such a music-detecting mission in the course of my job. My clients will come in and ask for "you know, that song we sang that one time in music therapy." My response is always, "I need some more information." Then we go into the questions. Eventually we figure it all out.

One of the challenges of being a music therapist.

Enjoy the song, Dad!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Lazy Days

I am enjoying a lazy day today. You know the ones? You don't change out of your pajamas, and you stay home all day doing the things that need to get finished. That's my day today.

It has been a productive day even though I am still in pj's at 3:14 pm. I slept in late (6:30 am!), and then started some chores that I had neglected. I finished an internship review, wrote a letter, spent time putting together a presentation for regional conference next weekend, and then finished one of my pizza box projects. All I need to do now is print it out and glue it to the pizza box, and, PRESTO! Finished substitute plan for some of my groups!

I think the best thing about days like this is that there is no need for anything specific to have to happen. I didn't have to do any of the things that I finished, but I am glad that I took the time to do so. Now I can spend some time with my other chores - a presentation for Tuesday evening, arrangements for my trip to conference this upcoming weekend, and the laundry. (There is always the laundry.)

What to do with the rest of the day? Watch movies, eat Girl Scout Cookies, play with some ideas that I have - internship handbook, some other products - and some just plain old play. There will be family phone calls and some drama there, I am sure, but it will continue to be a lazy day.

Lazy days give me the energy that I need to do all the rest of the things that I do during my work weeks. As an introvert, I finally understand that my way to energize requires that I spend time alone. Once I can do that, I can go out into the world and give my energy to others.

This next week will be a busy one, full of energy-sapping events that I will enjoy but that will tire me out. So, today's opportunity to be lazy is just that much more important to me.

Off to finish my lazy day. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Twenty-One Years Ago Today...

March 26, 1993 - Location: Phoenix, Arizona at the Center for Neurodevelopmental Studies, Inc.
Event: I finished my internship and started on my journey as a professional music therapist.

(By the way, this is "Make Your Own Holiday" Day, so I'm declaring this March 26th, 2014 as "MJ became a Music Therapist" day!)

I usually don't spend lots of time thinking about my professional anniversary, but it occurred to me that this was the day that I stopped being an intern and became A MUSIC THERAPIST! I decided to talk about it. I posted it on Facebook and in the Music Therapists Unite group! It seems important to me this year for some reason!

I've been thinking lots about the past 21 years.

My ways of doing music therapy have changed. The way I think about the use of music as a therapeutic medium has changed. These changes have been good as they have led to my further development and my therapeutic skill. I have also spent quite a bit of time thinking about the importance of changes and changing as a therapist. Without change, we do not grow. We stagnate, we burn out, and we leave the profession. I think that the process of defining and redefining ourselves is essential to our continued dedication to the profession and the clients that we love.

My conviction and love of this profession and the work I do every day has changed - it has deepened. I am more passionate about the importance of music as a therapeutic medium now than I was when I graduated from my internship. I am so happy and pleased to share this important role with all of you music therapists out there! Thank you for challenging my beliefs on music therapy, for making me explain myself, and for going into sessions with your own clients, day after day, to do this important job!

Here's to the next 21 years! (Oy!!)

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

TME Tuesday - Stereo Symbol Movement

Good morning, fellow therapists, and others interested in using music as a therapeutic modality! It's TME Tuesday, so I'm repeating a TME that's been on my website ( for some time now.

This is an example of how I use my TME format to organize actual ideas into therapeutic interventions.

This TME doesn't necessarily use specific music, but the musical intervention can be improvised to encourage clients with any type of musical preference - the therapist has to do his/her job!

Enjoy - mj

Therapeutic Music Experience

Stereo Symbol Movement

Mary Jane Landaker, MME, MT-BC

Purpose: To increase independence in lifelong leisure skills; increase familiarity with common symbols for electronic media operation; symbol recognition; divided attention to task; sustained attention to nonverbal cues; social interaction

Source: Original idea. © April 26, 2010, by Mary Jane Landaker, MME, MT-BC

Materials: Stereo symbol cards (Play/pause, stop, fast-forward, rewind); music source; OPTIONAL: dot spots to coordinate movements

Environment: Large space for movement – no chairs needed or wanted for TME; central location for leader to sit where he/she can be seen by entire group

Music: Recommend that music be used as background figure – moderate to fast tempo with or without lyrics to assist clients in continuing to move as directed

Procedure: R = Reinforcement opportunities; C = Redirection/Cue opportunities; A = Assessment

  1. Start TME by reviewing symbols.
  2. C=Ask clients what the symbols are, and accept all appropriate answers (arrow and lines, triangles, play, stop, etc).
  3. R= reinforce all responses.
  4. A=Note which clients are familiar and which are not familiar with the symbols
  5. Direct clients to stand and spread out in the space.
  6. Turn on the music.
  7. Display the first symbol.
  8. C=explain the desired movement. Play/pause = moving/ dancing as wished; Stop = freeze in place; Fast-forward = move in forward manner; Rewind = move backwards
  9. C= remind clients to watch for changes in the symbol presented by the leader
  10. A= watch who can attend visually
  11. R= compliment clients who change when cued. Redirect clients who do not appear to be attending to visual stimulus
  12. Change symbols as desired, offering opportunities for client success and continued visual attention
  13. R= continue to reinforce clients for appropriate completion of cues
  14. R= choose client to take place of the therapist
  15. Repeat steps 7-14, continuing to reinforce group members for attention to task and appropriate interactions.
  16. Close the TME when clients start to show signs/symptoms of no interest, fatigue, or increased arousal

Therapeutic Function of Music: Music acts as motivator in this TME as it is an environmental stimulus to encourage continuous movement. By including music that has a moderate to fast tempo, the clients have the rhythmic impetus to move. However, the music may also act as a distraction for clients who have difficulties with attending to multiple forms of stimulation simultaneously. Clients with many difficulties may respond better to a sung stimulus paired with a visual stimulus rather than the use of music as a background figure.


  • Decrease stimuli by removing background music and using a song that includes the directives displayed by the leader
  • Use targeted symbols to decrease number of desired responses – e.g., use only play/pause and stop symbols


  • Pair visual stimuli with auditory stimuli – e.g., play/pause sign with specific melodic figure, stop sign with different melodic figure. Play melodic figures randomly without regard to the visual stimulus to assess attention to stimulus form as well as to assess attention to task
  • Encourage clients to develop own movements for symbols. Keep movements somewhat aligned with what the electronic medium does when specific buttons are pushed.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Resting the Voice

I haven't sung in two days now. The last time I sang was on Wednesday evening worship and choir practice. The rest of the time, I have been pretty quiet. I have spent time at home alone and have just been quiet.

Now, I have always tried to have good vocal hygiene. I try to breathe appropriately, I stop singing when I get hoarse, and I drink water constantly. I try to use the best support that I can, even when I'm draped over my guitar, and I take singing vacations when I can.

This past week has been a good opportunity for a singing vacation. I have been quiet.

Being quiet and just listening is a learned skill. I use it lots in sessions. Many of the interns that I have spent time with over the years cannot listen or be quiet. They feel that they have to talk or sing or interrupt in order to justify being a "therapist."

I was first taught how to listen by a person working on her doctorate in child psychology - Sandy Rudder taught me about being assertive but also about being a listener. There is so much more to listening than simply decoding the sounds another person puts into the atmosphere. The lessons learned many, MANY years ago still stick with me and have helped me in my quest to be a good therapist...

I have found that simply sitting and listening gives me so much more insight into what a client needs from me and the music. This doesn't mean that I never speak or interact verbally with a client, but I spend lots of time watching and waiting for my clients to start the verbal interaction. I do interact musically - adding syllables into an improvisation, adding percussive elements, and singing - but only when I feel that the client wants it to happen in their own musical interaction.

My singing vacation is over. I go back to my job as a church music director tomorrow and back into full-time music therapy on Monday. I firmly believe that my voice will be stronger and easier to use because I have been so quiet this past week of Spring Break.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

On the Downhill Slide

It is Thursday of Spring Break. This is always the time when I start to get myself ready for the return to work - back to the 7:30-4:00 daily grind - back to making music for others. I haven't done as much as I wanted, but every place shows that some effort has been made towards cleaning and organizing. I am satisfied with how I've kept myself occupied during the past several days.

Now that I have more break behind me than in front of me, I am making some decisions about how I will be spending my remaining time. I started a pizza box project for my music therapy clinic - I'm not sure how that will turn out, but I have hopes for these boxes. I think they will end up being my substitute plans - session in a box! We will see. I'll spend some time playing around with ideas, paints, and papier mache. (If I get something done, I'll post pictures.)

There is a sense of anticipation as well - what will happen this upcoming week? What will my clients do during music therapy? Will there be new folks to get to know? Of course there will be. That is the only constant in a life in a residential treatment facility - folks are discharged and admitted constantly.

Either way, it is time to start getting ready to end vacation and start up the work ethic again.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

TME Tuesday - Blank TME Form that I Use to Organize

It is Spring Break, and I decided to give myself a break when it comes to thinking during vacations. Therefore, I decided to share the format that I use to organize my Therapeutic Music Experiences (TMEs) with brief explanations of each section and why I think the information is important to include here on the blog. Feel free to ask questions, use the format, or change it to make it functional for you. 

There are many examples of how I use this format on my website at

Therapeutic Music Experience
[TITLE] - I always title my TMEs - makes it easier to produce the TME when someone asks for a lesson plan or my clinical goals
Mary Jane Landaker, MME, MT-BC - Give credit where credit is due. If an idea is mine, then I claim it!

Purpose: - This is where I list all of my goals - primary, secondary, tertiary. Everything that we work on or could work on during a specific experience goes here. This helps me plan my group sessions when one person is working on grasp/release fine motor development and another is working on three-word sentence use in conversations.

Source: - Another place to give credit. I list any copyright information, any composers, lyricists, or music therapists that actually produced the music here. I also credit the person who developed the TME procedure and therapeutic use in this place.

Materials: - Anything and everything that I need to have available to run this TME. It all needs to be within my reach so I can keep things going in the music therapy session. Every time the music has to stop and wait while I am searching in a closet for the shaker eggs, music therapy's effect on my clients stops.

Environment: - Where will the clients, therapists, and materials be during the TME? Does there have to be a specific seating arrangement for the TME to work? Does the sound environment have to have specific characteristics?

Song/Chant/Words: - Yet one more place where I give credit where credit is due. If the song or lyrics are not mine, I do not publish them here. I provide a full APA reference or link to song.

If the song is my very own, I am able to replicate it in any form that I want. So, I do so.

Procedure: R = Reinforcement opportunities; C = Redirection/Cue opportunities; A = Assessment - This is an outline of everything that I will do during this TME. I will be giving cues and redirections, will be assessing client responses to the cues, and will be reinforcing desired behaviors. I don't bother too much with stating what the clients will do when I provide any or all of these prompts because clients RARELY do what is anticipated. I can only control my own behaviors and responses, so I focus on those.

Therapeutic Function of Music: - This section evolved after a series of discussions with Deanna Hanson-Abromeit about how we use music to change client responses. I start this section off with a brief discussion about why I use music for this particular TME. If I cannot come up with a reason to use music, then the experience is not a "Therapeutic Music" experience, just something to do with clients. I don't consider the treatment music therapy. The chart below helps me recognize the elements of music that I can change or adapt or use to move clients into active treatment.



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.

Adaptations: - How can I change this to use it with a different type of client? How can I make the TME easier or more difficult?
Extensions: - What is the next step? Does this TME lead into another one based on theme? Music? Goal focus? What comes next?