Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Song Idea - TME Development

On Tuesday, I shared a TME Song visual which assists me in completing brainstorming and Therapeutic Music Experience (TME) development. As I was sitting in my house this morning, waiting for the sun to rise (kinda - it's stormy out there), and getting ready for enjoying the rest of my second Spring Break, I thought I would expand on this previous post and go through the process itself here in this post. So, here it goes!

Here is the TME graphic in an outline format. My comments are added in green (because I like the color green!). 

Start with a Song - Just going to pick up a random songbook here nearby, then flip to a random page... So, the song is... Shenandoah. According to the book that I picked, this is an old sea chantey. Discovering Music Together 4: Teacher's Edition, (1970), states that the song refers "to the story of a white trader who fell in love with the daughter of the Indian chieftain, Shenandoah, and took her across 'the wide Missouri.' " The explanation goes on to explain that some think the song came from Irish sailors who had spent time in the Midwest working inland rather than on the ocean. Hmm, interesting thoughts.

Look at the Lyrics
    What do the lyrics talk about? - The lyrics talk about Shenandoah (which I thought was actually a river name until I read about the chief. I admit that I was always confused about the "I love your daughter" part until now). The singer misses Shenandoah and seems to be full of regret that he has to leave to go across the Missouri (which is a river around here!). This might work in a thematic unit about local history or geography...
    Are the lyrics appropriate for your population? Yep, the lyrics are appropriate - no inappropriate conditions or situations. The lyrics may not be easily comprehended by clients with developmental disabilities, but the explanation of the song may help with comprehension.
    Are there words that could be easily changed without changing the entire song meaning? The melody could easily be used - piggybacking specific lyrics to the melody to assist clients in relaxation or in learning skills.

Think about present levels of functioning
    What are the current goals and objectives? This information is different for every client who enters the music therapy room, so most of this section cannot be answered right now. I do not really have a client in mind at this moment, just a general idea about what I could possibly do with the song...
        Does the song address the client's goals and objectives as is?
                Use song with the client in the session.
                Adapt the lyrics to address goals and objectives
    What are the client's musical preferences? What is liked? What is disliked?

    Blend the two together
        Present song to client. Observe reaction and assess preference.
        Adapt lyrics to address client goals and objectives
        Ask client to express opinion of song and TME ideas.

Therapeutic Function of Music:

Traditional melody - follows upward pattern and then downward pattern
Variable based on client preferences and singing abilities - original key in book is E-flat major
Alternates between 4/4 and 3/4 as presented - uneven pattern is "believed to be caused by an embedded anchor." (p. 87)
Variable based on attention of client and client preferences
Major tonality

Sea Chantey - strophic
Slower tempo, but may be changed to accommodate client preferences and needs
Variable based on type of instruments used
Sea Chantey
Story about a sailor. Can be changed easily to accommodate client needs
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.

So, now what do I do with this song? Stay tuned. I'll show you soon!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

TME Tuesday - Start WIth A Song

Well, here it is TME Tuesday again. I am currently in the middle of my second Spring Break and am not really into thinking about what is going on out there in my particular music therapy world. On the other hand, I am still in general music therapy mode, so here is the beginning of a Song-based Therapeutic Music Experience (TME) decision tree.

A few explanations - I am a visual learner. I can remember all types of things if they are presented in a visual format, so I naturally arrange my learning into visuals. I struggled with session and TME development in college until I realized that all my supervisors wanted me to do was write down a flow chart. Then, it just clicked. I've kept this idea with me ever since. Flow charts are something I can understand.

So, as an attempt to help out those others out there who think like me, I have made some of these graphic decision trees. Here is the first part. I hope it will help some of you faithful readers to conceptualize how I develop new song-based TMEs for my clients.

Let me know if this is helpful, difficult to understand, or just a plain old waste of time. You can reach me at

Monday, April 28, 2014

The Online Conference for Music Therapy - 2015 coming soon!

One of the things that I like to do is to work with other music therapists doing music therapy things. I often interact with MTs so I can learn more about what we do as a collective (do we sound like the Borg?). What you do as a therapist in your particular environment fascinates me as it is probably COMPLETELY different from what I do as a therapist.

As I've been a therapist, I have attended two world congresses. These experiences did a great job of opening my eyes to the differences between not only therapists, but the different philosophical viewpoints of therapists in other countries. I have realized that I approach music therapy in an American-centric manner, definitely influenced by the founders here in the United States. The world congresses of music therapy really opened up my eyes to the fact that there are different views of how music works that are extremely different from my own. The problem that I have found is that congresses are too short and too crammed to really engage in deeper understanding of the concepts and philosophies shared by others.

Several years ago, I read about an opportunity. A Canadian music therapist, John Lawrence, had an idea and needed others to assist him in getting the idea off the ground. I decided that the idea had merit, so I contacted him and ended up being the Treasurer (not the job I had in mind, by the way - I just wanted to be on a committee, not on THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE!). I started into a venture that has now encompassed three online conferences with therapists from all over the world!

OCMT (the Online Conference for Music Therapy) is a 24-hour conference held on your computer. We seek international music therapists to present and attend. We often ask the big names of music therapy to present - our keynote speakers are pretty impressive, and so are the presenters that offer information to attendees. Our audience is getting bigger and bigger. There are facebook pages ( and a dedicated website ( We have a growing number of international music therapists that work on coordinating this conference.

The best thing for me about OCMT? I get to interact with therapists from Australia, Bahrain, England, Norway, India, Taiwan, Canada, and other countries - all from my own home! I get to wear my pajamas (if I want, and I'm starting to buy new ones to celebrate OCMT!), and my circle of music therapy friends is growing exponentially. These conferences have increased my knowledge of music therapy and have given me opportunities to talk to therapists from many different places, thoughts, and practices. I feel more connected to the global community than ever. This is a great experience for me!

If you haven't heard about OCMT, please check it out - you may have to ask for permission to join the Facebook page, but please do. It is worth it! Alternately, you can contact me if you want more information about being a volunteer or an attendee.

Hope to see you on February 7th (or February 6th or 8th depending on which side of the globe you live on) for this wonderful experience. 

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Searching for a Vision

I often find myself wondering if I am going down the right path for me and for music therapy... does anyone else ever feel that way?

It's time for some introspection and general thought generation, so here I go.

What I am trying to do is to figure out my vision for myself and my music therapy presence for the next 5-10 years. This is probably coming up since I am no longer in school, have just signed a lease for the year on my current home (I wanted to move, but can't), and am feeling a bit stagnant in my current job. Things will be changing for me soon, but right now, I am just simply feeling stuck. So, it's time to shake myself up a bit.

So, how to do that? I've been thinking about it a lot. One of the things that I started playing with is a visual organizing program called Inspiration. It allows me to put things into a visual format - something that really works for me and my learning style. The program allows me to put my ideas into a flow chart and then manipulate the ideas around until I can see a clear pattern and direction.

I have also been thinking lots about my particular interests when it comes to music therapy as a profession. I love working with my clients - children and adolescents with developmental disabilities and psychiatric disorders. If I had to choose between the two forms of diagnoses, I would tend towards the developmental side of things, but, luckily, I don't have to choose! I am also passionate about how we train future music therapists - in pre-clinical experiences and in internship training. The last thing that I can identify is that I strive to help my fellow therapists in developing their own skills as therapists through training, product development, and supervision. These are the things that I enjoy doing, so these are the things that I'm going to pursue in the near and far-off futures.

So, a beginning of a vision.

Now that I have direction, I can start to develop my goals and objectives. This is eerily similar to how I work with my clients, isn't it? (That's the entire point of the exercise! This is something I already know what to do.) So, I want to provide training to music therapists - students, interns, and other professionals. I've started that process through offering webinars at home and presentations at conferences. I'm also part of the Online Conference for Music Therapy - an opportunity to interact with music therapists from around the world. I help to coordinate the conference, and I have presented several times as well. So, how do I want to expand on the foundation that I have already laid there? I'm not sure - that's where the visioning process comes in.

During my Spring Break #2, I'm going to spend some time trying to pin down my vision of what and where I want to go.

It occurs to me that this would be so much easier if I won the lottery. Does anyone want to give me a ticket?

Friday, April 25, 2014

The Importance of Rest

So, here's the deal. There has been lots of talk on the blogosphere about self-care for music therapists lately. It's now my turn!

I am a HUGE advocate for self-care for the caregiver. This is not an easy thing to do, but it is important for us all to be able to take care of ourselves. I am getting ready to do just that.

One of the things that I have realized is that self-care looks different for each of us. For one therapist, a cruise surrounded by people may be the perfect way to unwind. For another, a camping trip in the mountains may fit the bill. For still another, sleeping in and being leisurely may need to be what happens. The trick is to find what works best for you, and then do that!

I will be taking a mini-break next week. All winter, I work on inclement weather days, driving through the snow and ice in order to provide care for my students. When the winter is through, I get to have days off when I choose to take the time. I've decided that next week is the week of my time off - my second Spring Break, if you will.

I get to take Monday through Thursday off, returning to work on Friday. I have already used some of my time off for sickness. I'm feeling pretty good right now, so I want to take my time off at a time when I can enjoy it (and not spend time getting tests in the hospital). I hope to clean things around here, take naps, and generally not be around folks. I'll cover my groups by leaving them activity boxes for use, and then I'll just vacate my job for four glorious days!

For me, self-care means being alone for some time, getting reenergized and ready for the interaction of people to happen later on. As an introvert, I have been criticized for years about not being social enough. It has been nice to know that this is not a form of social retardation but just part of my personality, and IT'S FINE! Introverts tend to need time away from other people in order to replenish their social energy. I am not alone out there, but all of us prefer to stay away from others, so we have some difficulty finding one another. Thank goodness for social media! I can connect and still have the peace that I need to be an effective therapist.

My other side of self-care is going to be making things. I have a pizza box station ready to go to work, but I need to laminate and then assemble it. So, it's time to start another. The first centers on songwriting - bare bones, rhythm, melody, and lyrics. What should the second cover? I'm thinking basic music notation - melody for one box and rhythm notation for another. The eventual goal is that my clients use these boxes on the days when I am absent - kinda like next week. Too bad they are just in the development stage right now. They will be ready for the next time!

Take some time to take care of yourself over the next days, weeks, and months. You are important, and a therapist who cannot take care of him or herself is not a therapist that will actually help clients. Take some time and breathe!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

TME Tuesday - The Loco-motion

I often use recorded music in my sessions - there are some out there who do not feel that recorded music is appropriate for a music therapy session, but I do - no apologies here. My adolescents strongly identify with performers and specific performances, so I look for ways to use recordings and familiar songs in sessions with my clients. This is a TME that allows me to either use live music or a recording to facilitate movement - structured movement within a group setting.

Therapeutic Music Experience
The Loco-motion
Mary Jane Landaker, MME, MT-BC
Purpose: To provide opportunities for motor development; motor sequencing; receptive language

Source: Words and music by Gerry Goffin and Carole King © 1962 (renewed 1990) SCREEN-GEMS EMI MUSIC, INC. TME idea © August 1, 2012 by Mary Jane Landaker, MME, MT-BC.

Materials: Music source – either functional instrument or CD player and CD; OPTIONAL: Movement cards to structure the dance

Environment: Group members need plenty of space to move around

_____. (1995). Classic Rock. Hal Leonard: Milwaukee, WI, p. 130-133.

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

  1. C=ask group members to spread out around the session space 
  2. C=start music with the lyrics 
  3.  C=model movements as they are mentioned in the song

a.       Swing your hips
b.      Jump up
c.       Jump back
d.      Make a chain
e.       Chug-a-chug-a motion
f.       Holding hands
4.      A=assess if group members are able to coordinate movements to music
5.      R=reinforce all attempts by group members to complete the movements as presented in the song

Therapeutic Function of Music:
The music provides the structure for the coordination of movements within the parameters of the musical elements. If the music is performed live, musical elements of tempo, pitch, rhythm, dynamics, and lyrics may be adjusted to accommodate the needs of group members to engage attention or to provide enough time for group members to coordinate their movements. If recorded music is used, there is less flexibility in changing the musical elements.

Composed by Gerry Goffin and Carole King
Live music – variable and easily adjusted to encourage group member engagement
Live music – variable and easily adjusted to encourage group member engagement
Live music – variable and easily adjusted to encourage group member engagement
I, vi, IV, V7

Verse and Chorus
Live music – variable and easily adjusted to encourage group member engagement
Live music – variable and easily adjusted to encourage group member engagement
Early Rock and Roll
Live music – variable and easily adjusted to encourage group member engagement
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.


  • Simplify the movements to accommodate client needs

  • Change the movements using movement cards to assist in client memory and sequencing skills
  • Use movement cards to assist clients who can read in remembering the motions