Tuesday, September 30, 2014

TME Tuesday - The Database

If you clicked on this blog looking for a new TME idea, I'd like to send you to the website where you can find some TME ideas. Thanks ~ mj

Forgive me today as I move from my usual Tuesday presentation of a therapeutic music experience (TME) to something related, but not the same...

Today, I would like to speak about my TME database. It is a work in progress and is constantly evolving as I continue to write and learn more and more TMEs. This is a current topic of interest for me since I am spending more and more of my time organizing my file as I am trying to fill up time without access to my documentation format and cannot access the email program in my office. So, I am going through my TME file and am linking all of the TMEs to my excel database.

I use Excel to organize my TMEs. I only picked that program because I understand it, and I can sort it quickly (I REALLY like that function!!).

So, here is what I do to organize my TMEs for music therapy.

Goal Areas
TME Development

Every TME that I have has a title. Sometimes the title is cute like "Frog Frenzy," and other times it's not - "Instrument Identification." If I have a TME that has the same title as another one, I start numbering them - "Hello (72)." This is the first level of sorting.

In the "goal area" portion of the database, I put all of the primary, secondary, and tertiary goals that are part of the TME. So, a typical goal box would include the following: impulse control; gross motor development; fine motor development; social awareness; academic concepts - number recognition; expressive language; receptive language; completion of multi-step directives. This allows me to organize based on typical goals that I would use with my clientele.

The author/composer box allows me to keep track of my own compositions as well as the ideas that I have learned from other people. If I use a song that was composed by someone else, I put all the source information into this box. If it's just me, I just place my name in the box. That way I can identify the author or composer of the song/TME with just a glance at the TME.

If the song/music was composed by someone else, but I wrote the TME plan that identifies how to use the music in a therapeutic environment, I indicate this in the last box. If someone else wrote the TME plan, I place their name in the box titled "TME Development." That way, I am respecting the intellectual property of others the way I would like them to respect my property.

My TME file is a work in progress - all of the time. I don't think that I will ever finish it - that, at least, is my hope.

How do you organize the things you do?

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Sing A Song Sunday - Old Friends

Today's page from Rise Up Singing was page 226 and the song Old Friends from Paul Simon. Here is a place where you can pay for and then download the sheet music. Here's a link to the video of Simon and Garfunkel singing the song. And, here's the song chart...

I keep finding songs that aren't really appropriate for my particular population, my kids aren't really into reminiscence, but the music itself can be used to encourage deep breathing and relaxation. I would change the words and the theme of the song to make my clients more interested in what's going on. I would change the lyrics to illustrate what I want them to do - breathe deeply, tense and relax the muscles. The rest of the song would be fine.

So, now I'm going to see if I can replicate the song from You Tube and the book Rise Up Singing - I think there are more words on the You Tube link than I have in my book...

Happy Singing and Happy Sunday!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

5 More Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me About Music Therapy

One of the things I've noticed this week is a resurgence of views on one of my previous posts, 7 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me About Music Therapy. I think someone professorial has assigned a class to read the post this week because the views for this post had gone way down but are now increasing again.

Anyway, I have been a bit introspective about music therapy this week as I have moved from one storage location to another, changed my schedule, and have been a bit overwhelmed by having to get used to all the changes in my situation. I have had some time to think about the role of music therapy at my facility and my particular role in that facility - not just as music therapist, but also as human being and co-worker. This has led me to some more things.

What else do I wish someone had told me about music therapy when I was first starting out? Here are some more thoughts:
  1. There are times when I cannot shut off the music in my head - One of my Twitter followers asked if I had included the danger of earworms on my initial list. I did not, so here it is. I find that there are times when a song that a client (or many clients) respond to strongly is not one of my preferences, but the song stays in my brain all day and all night. I often wake up singing songs like "Let It Go" or "Cupid Shuffle." It is not something I strive for, but it happens for a long time. By the way, a history teacher I had in high school offered this solution to the earworm situation. "When a song gets stuck in your head, try singing the Star Spangled Banner. It is something that we use in a specific manner most of the time, so it can drive other songs out of your head." I've tried this many times over the years, and it does work for me. Bu-u-ut, I do have to sing the entire thing (including the cymbal crashes) in order to focus on that song rather than the earworm. And, so far, the Star Spangled Banner hasn't traded places (it's been 31 years since I got that advice, so I think that's a pretty good track record. My question here is whether that would work with the national anthems of other countries or not.)
  2. Musical Self-Care is crucial - another reader stated that she found that burnout was a danger for her until she started to play in an orchestra. She stated that musical self-care (related to the comment I made about changes in the relationship with music) was something she really needed. Her joy in being a musician was being changed because she was using music as a tool more than she was using music for herself. Once she found a musical outlet, she was able to find balance. I find the same thing for myself. I have a music-related job as a church choir director that allows me to make music in a different way. There is no therapeutic goal or objective, but there are therapeutic benefits to singing with a group of people. I love the job even though I could make lots more money someplace else.
  3. There are times when you need to remove the music - There are times when music is not the way to interact with the client, and that's okay. If you go into a session and the client is actively resisting music-making, maybe it's fine to dispense with the music and focus on the relationship. One of the most profound sessions I ever had with a client did not include music at all. I went where he needed to go, and his path did not include music.
  4. There is stuff that goes along with being a music therapist - My intern and I moved my equipment, materials, and instruments this week from one building to another this week. I also had to rearrange things in one closet with things in my current office space. I kept looking at all the stuff that I have in my office area and thought that there was even more stuff at home. Now, I am a packrat and a bit extreme when it comes to accumulating stuff, but even music therapists who can be minimalists tend to have lots of stuff. There are guitars, keyboards, drums, and other instruments. There are visual aids, songbooks, and devices that therapists need. I'm not even talking about journals, textbooks, and other music therapy things.
  5. It is a job that is easy to love but much of the love has to be self-generated - There are times when it will feel that you are viewed as entertainment or as a way for teachers to get their planning time. There are times when someone will remove a client because "all they are missing is music." It is in those moments that I have to find intrinsic motivation to do my job at the best of my ability. I am able to continue because I know that my clients find music therapy to be an important part of their lives. This is illustrated to me when I have to cancel a session, and clients stop me in the hallways to ask me why I cancelled or when they will "get" to go to music next. I know that they find music therapy to be important and much more than an opportunity for their teachers to get planning time. So, when I feel taken for granted by the professionals near me, I remember that the clients don't take me for granted at all. That keeps me going.
What are the things you wish someone had told you about being a music therapist? Let me know in the comments...  

Friday, September 26, 2014

Favorite Things Friday - Scrapbooking Boxes

Can you see the blue and green and clear boxes? These are the ones...
I am an organization seeker. As you know, I am currently involved in moving my clinic area from storage area to storage area at work, and my home space is suffering as a result. I've got lots of stuff, and it is taking over my life. So...

Today's Favorite Thing? Well, my favorite storage container, of course! Scrapbooking Storage Boxes!

I don't know if you are a scrapbooker, but I have dabbled a bit in my life and have all of the accoutrements that go with dabbling - large decorative papers, fancy scissors, glue sticks, etc. What does this have to do with music therapy? Absolutely nothing!

I was looking for some storage for my visual aid components - places to keep my bulletin board die-cuts and other visuals - and I had a couple of these boxes sitting empty in my craft space. I started filling up the boxes with that stuff. Then, I needed a box for a short-term music therapy situation and decided I would try a scrapbooking box for that situation as well.

I was surprised at how well it worked. The box itself is 13X13X4 inches. I can fit a classroom set of rhythm sticks and shaker eggs inside or a classroom set of sound shapes and mallets or any file folder sized visual aids or many children's books or dry erase boards and markers or the iPod and the portable speakers. With judicial planning, I can take quite a bit of stuff with me in one of those little boxes.

When I found out that we were moving towards more itinerant music therapy this past year, I realized that these boxes would be the only way I could organize what I needed to take with me to each location. I bought six - two clear, two blue, and two red - for myself and my interns. Each one of us has a specific color so we can easily pull our boxes out of the stack. Inside I placed a plastic document envelope velcroed to the lid of the box and added some additional velcro for a place to put a pen and pencil. This system has worked very well for the past year. 

By the way, I get my boxes at Michael's, the craft store. I always wait until they are having a good sale, and then I swoop in to buy these boxes up!

One of my favorite things.

Now, are you thinking that I only use these boxes for my clinical materials? Oh, silly reader, of course NOT! The box helps to corral many of my materials, but not all - I am always also lugging around my guitar, another bag for the larger instruments, and often a cart of stuff as well. The boxes help to keep things in one place, and I have done sessions with only the box and the guitar.

Ah, scrapbooking boxes. One of my favorite music therapy things. 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Comfortable With Disorganization?

I am finding that I have a specific level of disorganization that I can live with comfortably. Unfortunately, I have surpassed this level recently and am struggling with the disorganization that surrounds me everywhere these days.

I think much of the struggle comes from the fact that my clinical storage is not organized AT ALL! At this moment, right now, all of my stuff is scattered between a small storage closet, a larger room that is shared with the Art Therapist and all of her materials, and home. I'm not sure where everything is in my area, and I cannot just put my hands on the things that I need when I need them.

This increases my frustrations with disorganization.

I talk to people all the time about how to organize their stuff. This topic comes from my years and years of struggling with just this very thing - too much stuff, lack of organization, and a tendency towards being a packrat (currently looking more and more like a hoarder, but I am REALLY trying not to go that route!). 

On my desk right now, there is a stack of file folders and books, pieces of CD covers for file folder activities, my lunchbox, some crochet patterns, my daily meds, the remote controls, and all of my blogging, business, and project files. There are headphones, the microphone, and writing utensils. It is overwhelming, but I cannot seem to get ready to move it on or fix the problem. It will take some cognitive retraining and lots of effort on my end.

Tomorrow will be the first step in claiming some control over this current mess. I will spend most of the day trying to reorganize my materials into a system that will allow me to find things quickly and efficiently. (I really want my large cabinets back!). I will try to continue that pattern once I get to my home in order to bring about a bit of organization in my living space. It's time to get started on this early morning. I think I will start with my desk.

Headphones go here... Remote controls go here... Papers go here... and on and on...

Hope to see you all in an organized manner later...

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Wonderful Things Happening

So, on the Lickert scale of wonderful, you may not rank these events as high as I do, but I am excited about things that are happening around me these days. Here are some of these "wonderful things" that are happening to me:
  1. I had the chance to talk to the contractor about where my cabinets are going in the new room that is being made at my facility. His idea was not the idea that I developed, but I'm fine with that. I figured my idea would be pooh-poohed anyway - it is occasionally asked for but then completely ignored. He told me that the flooring guy was coming next week to lay the carpet - PROGRESS! There still aren't any electrical outlets, but there is some progress.
  2. It is television box set release time!! I have received the last season of Castle, and The Big Bang Theory is on its way to me! I love new television box sets. I also got a great deal from the Disney Movie Club and got The Muppet Show: Season Two for free! Every time I watch season one, I get great ideas for Therapeutic Music Experiences (TMEs), so I am anticipating that season two will also show me lots of things to do with my clients!
  3. My intern is starting to act as therapist rather than musician or entertainer. This is always a slow process, but now is the time that transformation starts. It is a wonderful process to see and assist in (in a little way).
  4. The weather is more cool than hot these days. It's a good thing when the temperatures fall to the range between 50 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  5. Yesterday's sunrise was exquisite. It was a blend of turquoise, pink, red, blue, silver, and gold. I had the chance to drive into that sunrise all the way to work. I don't often see the sunset right now, but that experience will be coming pretty soon. So, I'll see the sun rise and set on my drives to and from work. That is a wonderful thing.
I'm on the look out for more wonderful things. 

What do you see that is wonderful?

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

TME Tuesday - Count Your Blessings

Today's Therapeutic Music Experience (TME) is based on one of my favorite Bing Crosby songs - Count Your Blessings from the movie White Christmas. I apologize for the crude nature of this idea, but it is one of those ideas that has been sitting in my TME file for a very long time with little to no adaptations or extensions. I also noted that I do not have any of the copyright information on this card - I will have to rectify that since I am a stickler for sourcing your materials appropriately.

Maybe I'll spend some time later this evening fleshing out this TME for the file. Maybe not. We will see. It's time to put on the creativity cap and get going on this TME!


Monday, September 22, 2014

Monday Morning Musings

There are lots of things that go through my mind early in the morning, especially on Monday mornings. I start to think about everything on my to-do list and then the list starts to grow and grow.

Today's musings have included a desperate desire to have a consistent schedule, to start some individual sessions (I'm still looking for a place to run those sessions, but I think I know a place), and a desire to get the empty spots in my current schedule filled. I've also been wondering if my allergies will take over and interrupt the one group session that I run today. I am hoping that I can move out of my intern's sessions in a way that will allow me to be an observer rather than a participant. I am hoping that the meeting that is scheduled will actually happen rather than being canceled at the last moment. I am also hoping that I'll have time to finish my clinical documentation and maybe even write a song or two.

Before that happens, though, I have to get gasoline for the car. I have to figure out how to keep the allergies at bay. I also have to make a lunch, coordinate my session for the day, and clean out my car so I can move things around in my small world.

It is time to get things started and get this week going. Happy Monday.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Sing A Song Sunday - Now The Day Is Over

Today's journey into Rise Up Singing led me to page 134 and the song Now the Day Is Over, a hymn (classified as a lullaby in the book but a hymn everywhere else). The words were written by Sabine Baring-Gould, and the music was written by Joseph Barnaby in the 1860's.

I can see why the folks who wrote Rise Up Singing placed this into the lullaby section. It certainly feels lullaby-like, very smooth phrases and a limited tessitura. The lyrics are certainly spiritual in nature and reference themes of Christianity - hence, the hymn classification every other place.

Sheet Music: http://library.timelesstruths.org/music/Now_the_Day_Is_Over/pdf/
YouTube Version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sWR2vVXZE5A

Here is the chart for the song.

This is a song that I would not use in its original format in my music therapy sessions. My reluctance comes from the obvious references to Christian themes. So, I would never initiate this song, but if a client brought up their spiritual preferences in the therapeutic session (probably only in individual sessions), I could use this song as is.

I can certainly see using the melody and harmonic structure of this piece to assist clients in relaxation therapeutic music experiences. Since the music is in the public domain, it may be used without fear of copyright infringement (but, be mindful of the fact that it is the intellectual property of someone else - don't take credit for someone else's work). I would definitely change the lyrics for general use with my clients.

How would you use this with your clients? 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Journals - Outgrowing the Space

This is a picture of my journal shelf. As you can see, I have many of those brown and pastel covered journals from over the years. I've had to move them recently to this new corner shelf because I have too many for the space where they used to live. So, they now live here.

I am not a huge journal reader. I tend to read things when I need to or have to rather than just to fill up time. It's something I should probably do more of in my life - read the research of my profession - but I don't. It's time to do a bit better with this situation.

How do you use the journals and research of our profession?

A bit ago, I spent time everyday reading one of my many music therapy textbooks and wrote a bit about what I read. I found it interesting and it gave me a chance to think about music therapy in a different way than I usually do - in the music therapy sessions that happen in my life.

The theoretical nature of music therapy research has a function, but I feel that I don't always relate that theory to the actual practice of music therapy. It is a challenge for me - always has been and probably always will be challenging.

Here's my plan. I will find an article in my collection to read every week. I'll read it, think about it, and try to figure out how I can use the information found in the article in my everyday music therapy life.

Would you be interested in what I read and what I think about the articles?

Maybe it'll be a recurring theme for the blog...maybe not.   

Friday, September 19, 2014

Favorite Things Friday - People Clackers

Do you know that moment when you have a favorite instrument, but you have ABSOLUTELY no idea what other people call them so you try to go onto the internet to find a picture and just cannot? Here's my current dilemma!! I love some instruments that I have, but I cannot find a picture of them on the web at all! This picture is the closest that I've been able to find, and I don't have ANY of these!

My favorite set of these "people clacker instruments" have faces (and mouths that line up with the clacking part like the duck here). I have four of these - a girl (Petunia), the twins (Fred and George - you can tell them apart because George has a scar on the back of head), and a dapper man with a hat and a mustache (Monsieur LePeu). They have a menagerie of pets and animals as well - horses, frogs, alligators, birds, and a purple bear.

My kids love these and often ask for them (that's all the kids, even the big old teens!). We use them to practice conversation skills. We take turns in the receptor and communicator roles - one clacker clacks while all of the others listen. We practice interruptions and arguments - all of those things that my students do not appear to be aware of when engaged in actual speaking. We process the conversation that we had (all without words).

I am looking for more of these people clacker thingies.

Does ANYONE know what their official name is???

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Great Debate

To go to work when feeling sick, or not to go to work when feeling sick, that is the question. Whether 'tis nobler to sit at home, nursing the germs or to go out into the world of clients and professionals to share those germs with others...

Forgive my paraphrasing, but this really is a dilemma for me. I spent yesterday at home due to mild fever, headache, and stomach stuff. Today, the mild fever continues, the headache comes and goes, and the stomach stuff seems to be better, but I am still debating about going to work.

It's no longer a debate. I need to go to work. There are things I have to do, including setting up my intern's schedule, completing her mid-term evaluation, leading the celebration for one of the clinicians that I don't know very well (but whose birthday is on Friday), and my regular clinical duties. I guess I'll take some medicine for the headache and the fever and just suck it up.

I wonder if this illness is something that others have, or if it's just something that I've got. I think others have had this at my facility. I know that my intern was ill last week with stomach problems, but I seem to be having more of the headache - fever stuff. I hope this is something going around and not just my body rebelling. If it is something going around, then going back to work makes sense. I won't be exposing people to new germs, just going back into the incubator.

So, how to plan for two music therapy sessions when the therapist isn't feeling the best?

Let's see. 

Maybe the parachute would be a good thing for today. Lots of movement, limited therapist input, and a novel thing for the session. I would need to go get the parachute from the other building before going over to the main building, but I could do that. I wonder what would happen. On the other hand, the group that I have this morning isn't really all that into large group activities. The parachute doesn't always work since they all want to be under it rather than help lift it up and down. Sigh.

I guess I'll go and make up the session as I go along - keeping in mind, of course, the goals and objectives of each client in every group. Maybe I'll try some of my lesser-known TMEs to see how they go. We shall see.

What are your "go-to" TMEs when you don't feel well? What do you do?

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

TME Tuesday - I Am Mary Jane

Today's TME is posted on the Ideas and Experiences page on my website. You may wonder why I post things here and on my website, and the reason is very simple. I don't know how to post pdf documents on my blog, but I know how to do that on my website, so, there you go.


The TME itself is an easy call and response song that emphasizes social awareness and identity as well as impulse control (through the need to listen before echoing).

There are other TMEs on the website - let me know if there are any that you decide to use with your clients. 

How do you adapt them to make them work with your clients?

**NOTE: Sorry for the short post today - I think I'm getting sick and need a sick day today to sleep and get over whatever is going around... 

Monday, September 15, 2014

An Empty Afternoon - Well, Not Really

I have an unexpected luxury ahead of me today - an afternoon free of meetings. This is a good thing that will, hopefully, give me an opportunity to do some much needed organizing and packing. The problem that I have is that the promise of uninterrupted time in my isolated office area may not actually happen, but it's not for lack of trying.

Today's list of things to do? Making up a sub box for paras to run on the (now only occasional) days when I am out sick. I'm thinking the parachute belongs there, several games should be there, and some special music playlists also need to be in the box. In addition to the materials, there have to be some instructions on how to use the stuff - otherwise, the paras will just look at it. I also need to pack up some of my stuff, yet again, to prepare for yet another move into an inadequate space that I will be sharing with the Art Therapist. I'm not exactly sure when said move will occur, so stuff has to be accessible, clearly labeled, and contained so the maintenance guys can actually move things over. Also, I need to talk to my intern, nothing serious, just catching up after a week where she was ill, observing another therapist, and when we had a faculty meeting that interrupted her regular consultation time. It's past time to talk. Oh, then there are clinical notes (I FINALLY caught up with last week's notes on Friday, but I will have to do today's notes.) I'm sure there will be other chores that make it onto the "To-Do" list once I get over to my office in the different building...

Of course, this is what I would like to be doing - taking a nap, but that will not happen. I WILL STAY AWAKE!

I have been trying to figure out how to maximize my time when I have chunks of time without client interaction. This is not my favorite thing to do - I much prefer being involved with music and my clients, but there is simply no place for me to run individual sessions in the new school building. There is no place that I can go until offices are completely claimed and training is over. I can have lots of temporary places, but we run the risk of being kicked out of any and every place that is available right now. It's better not to have to try to find a new place to be in the middle of a session. So, nobody is doing individual treatment right now - there is no place to be. As a result, there are lots of blocks of time in my schedule to fill.

Today's block of time is actually nice because I know that the meeting that was scheduled for this afternoon was canceled last week. I can leave the school building for my office building at 11:45am and remain at my office for the rest of the day. This doesn't usually happen this way - generally I don't get the message that a meeting has been canceled, so I sit there and wait for a group of people who never arrive. That can't happen today - the meeting is ALREADY canceled! So, I can count on 4 hours of time to get some things accomplished. Oh, something else I have to do - coordinate my intern's schedule into treatment and office time with the new school format...

Maybe, when I get finished with all of the work, I will have some time to play music just for me... 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Sing A Song Sunday - The Last Thing On My Mind

I flipped to pages 125 and 126 in Rise Up Singing and chose The Last Thing on My Mind by Tom Paxton as today's song. You can find the video of Tom singing this song at this link. You can find the melody line at this link. Now, I've never heard this song before, but apparently it was covered by quite a few people - Joan Baez, Dolly Parton, Neil Diamond, and a huge, unverified list of others (listed on Wikipedia, so consider the source). I find the song to be typical of folk-ish type songs of the 60's - steady tempo, familiar and repetitive rhythmic patterns, and lyrics that are sweet.

 Now I have something new to practice this week. I'm not exactly sure how I will incorporate this particular song into my sessions, but that is part of the goal of these Sing A Song Sundays - increasing my repertoire and giving me something new to sing.

As I am getting ready to move into a new music therapy space, I am working on the type of therapy that I want to present to my clients. Trauma-centered care is one of the types of therapy that I am focusing on preparing, and I think this song could be used to address some sensitive topics for some of my older students. It's one that I will learn and introduce slowly.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Being Professional When You REALLY Just Want to Scream!

There are times when being a professional is a difficult thing to do.

In my opinion, being a professional means displaying a set of skills and qualities appropriate for a job.

Merriam-Webster online dictionary has a definition that is a bit more defined than my own...


noun \prə-ˈfesh-nə-ˌli-zəm, -ˈfe-shə-nə-ˌli-\
: the skill, good judgment, and polite behavior that is expected from a person who is trained to do a job well
1:  the conduct, aims, or qualities that characterize or mark a profession or a professional person(see 1professional)
2:  the following of a profession (as athletics) for gain or livelihood 
Of these definitions, I like the first two presented, especially the first one. I love the idea of polite behavior being a part of being a professional. Often, that part of professional interactions is missing.

I am the first to admit that I struggle with professionalism in several of the places where I am these days. I guess I have high standards and expectations when it comes to professional behavior. I try to be an example of professionalism, but I struggle.

Here is what I want in a professional interaction.
  • Mutual respect
  • Acknowledgement of differing points of view, presented in a way that demonstrates that mutual respect
  • Problem-solving taking into consideration all of the points of view
  • Notification of parties that need to know what is going on
  • Communication of wants, needs, and plans to all professionals
  • Policies and procedures applied to all equally - no "special cases" for "friends"
  • Active listening
  • Conflict resolution techniques
  • Feedback!!!
These things are not easy to do. I struggle with being a good supervisor and demonstrating professional behavior on a regular basis. It isn't always easy to keep those traits going strong and being a good team mate, but it is important.

There are times when I have to bite my tongue from screaming out loud when people make decisions that stomp all over everyone else or when one opinion is drowned out. There are times when I give up trying to offer my opinion about something and when I just sit back to watch things crash and burn. I get a bit of satisfaction when thinking, "I informed you thusly." (Thank you, Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory for that alternative to the tired "I told you so.") There are just times when you cannot continue to argue your point and someone has to be the compromiser. I tend to do that quite a bit. It gets tiring, but someone has to do it, so...
When members of a community are not heard, they stop talking.

I'm done now.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Favorite Things Friday - Intern Webinars

One of my greatest joys in life is being an internship director. I love being able to spend both quality and large quantities of time with people who enjoy music therapy as much as I do (most of the time, but not always). It is wonderful to watch a student of music therapy turn into an intern and then into a music therapy professional.

Over the past two years, I have offered webinars for interns who are not my own every four months or so. (If you want more information, click this link for the details on who, when, and how to register.)

I get a chance to talk to interns from around the country about things that I feel are important for them to know. We talk about their rights and their responsibilities to the profession, the internship, and the school setting. Other topics include time management and organization, learning how to lead, self-care practices, marketing ourselves, and how to have crucial conversations. All of the topics are things that I've discussed with interns for years, and they seem to be topics that interns don't have time to think about before they start their internships, so I try to start the thinking process with them.

I enjoy these webinars for several reasons. First, interns are passionate about being music therapists. That feeling is contagious. Second, my experiences in m internship were both similar and completely different than interns these days. It's fascinating how much things have changed and, at the same time, how much things have remained the same. Third, these webinars often illustrate to interns that they are going through many of the same experiences - they have similar challenges and a safe place to share their experiences with others. Fourth, there are times when our chat conversations get very complex, and we get to problem-solve and practice creative thinking. I finish each webinar feeling that the future of the profession is in good hands.

I am getting ready for a new round of webinars and am thinking about how I can expand on these ideas. I'm also playing around with an idea for an internship handbook - just general information for future interns. I think it's almost ready, but...

If you had a chance to talk to interns, what would you want to let them know about? Let me know!


Thursday, September 11, 2014

A Strange Day, To Say the Least

This is not one of my usual themes for writing. 
It has some spiritual and religious themes. 
You do not have to keep reading, if you want to.

Yesterday was a strange day. 

It started with, FINALLY, a decision. We'll see if the decision actually sticks, but it has been sent via email to all the parties involved, so I am progressing forward according to the plan. Then, another decision was made that doesn't make much sense to me, but this decision has not been made public, so I'm not really hopping to pack up my stuff and move yet again quite yet.

Then, the music therapy moments started.

Kids were absurd yesterday! The number of students who spent most of their music therapy sessions in outright belly laughs was enormous! They took therapeutic music experiences (TMEs) and adapted them on the spot to make them different and more original to them. Kids who hadn't shown any response except for tantrums to school work engaged in music therapy (much to the surprise of the paraeducator assigned to them). I got to smile and say, "I know. Music is a great way to engage kids." I admit I was a bit smug.

The day progressed and eventually ended. I took myself to my part-time job to get some work and organizing done. While I was upstairs in the church, I heard someone enter. I went downstairs to keep working and a person was sitting in the sanctuary. I continued on my job routine. I had started some music by a community in France called Taize. This musical tradition includes ostinati, repetitive prayer practices, and simple/complex musical arrangements. It is one of my best choices for personal relaxation and meditation. I had turned it on earlier in the evening and just kept it playing. The person stayed in prayer and silence for a time and then left abruptly. I changed the music to an anthem that I had to hear before choir practice. The person re-entered the session and asked me "what the opera music was." I told that person and the response was, "That was perfect for what I am feeling and going through right now." So, I changed the music back to Taize, and we spent some more time listening, engaging in prayer, and breathing. The person left before the church service started, but the experience stuck with me.

One of the stories that I read to the congregation (now, just to clarify, I am the music director at this church, not the pastor. The pastor is on a vacation/study leave break, so I am covering the Wednesday worship services until he comes back in two more Wednesdays) was about a mother who asks her children, "Where did you meet God today," every night before bed. I had chosen the story before the person entered, but found that the story resonated with me ever more strongly after my encounter.

What guided me towards playing that music? What guided that person to come to the sanctuary at that moment?

I know where I met God yesterday.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

This Is Wednesday, Right?

I am currently in a bit of a stress-cycle induced by renovation, schedule changes, ineffective communication, extra work responsibilities, and kids who are extremely confused by their new classes, classmates, and schedules.

I am having some trouble keeping track of what day it is.

This is not unusual when I'm in the center of a scheduling vortex - and my schedule may change yet again - I can't seem to get to the place of habit when the schedule changes every 10 minutes.

So, today is Wednesday, I think, and I'm trying to get ready for my day. I hope the schedule I am thinking about is the actual schedule that I have to do. I guess I'll find out.

I am a person who thrives on structure. I need and want a routine. Now, once that routine is established, I love some unpredictability within that structure. I have no problem going with the flow and improvising therapeutic music experiences (TMEs) once I know that I need to be in a classroom from 10:45-11:45 and have some idea of who will be sharing the experiences with me. I think this is one reason why I work well with persons with diagnoses on the Autism and psychiatric spectra. They also seem to need routine and structure in order to relax and concentrate on their treatment.

Now, there is a danger in becoming too schedule-dependent. I've worked with several youngsters who would throw terrible tantrums if something happened to interrupt the schedule that was generated every day. There was no place for change in the schedule. Being that dependent is not conducive to the vagaries of life. There are times when you cannot predict what will happen in the next 12 hours - something unexpected may occur. 

The trick is to find a balance between a routine and improvisation. Isn't that true of music therapy as well? (Ooh! I love when my random topics make some therapy-sense as I write! Total serendipity!!)

I guess, when it comes to my therapy style with my clients, that I like to incorporate both a routine and improvisation. I am one of those people who starts off each session with an opening TME. It's not always a "Hello Song," but it often is. I find that I can adequately assess where each person in the session is during that opening TME. That is routine. Once I've assessed each person, I spend quite a bit of time improvising my session plan to accommodate the session members, their current needs, and their long-term goals. The session plan never ends up the way I envision it prior to the session, but my method seems to work pretty well... most days. Sometimes it doesn't work, but that's an entirely different post altogether.

During music therapy sessions, it's important to match the needs of the client with the TMEs that you present. If your goals and objectives state that a client will match notes on the keyboard, then you have to use the keyboard. What happens if, as adolescents often do, the client wakes up and chooses to drop the keyboard and wants to learn how to play the guitar. Do you then force the client to play the keyboard even when he doesn't want to do so? How is that therapeutic? So, a bit of therapeutic improvisation is called for. How do you have the client match notes on the guitar? Improvise. (By the way, my clients do NOT have goals that require such specific structures and musical requirements. It's just an example.)

The structure comes from knowing client's goals and objectives and striving towards meeting those goals during every session. The improvisation comes in when the therapist takes the interests of the client and finds ways to match interests to the goals and objectives.

One of my favorite quotations is as follows:

Structures are restraints - A way of limiting.
What you can build within restraints and structures
is almost limitless.
- Corita Kent

This is the best thought that I can have for supporting both routine and improvisation within a music therapy session.

It is time to head out into this Wednesday, seeking a routine, and attempting to find that balance between madness and ultra-scripted existence. 

What do you do when you have no predictability in your professional life? 

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

TME Tuesday - Instrument Hunt

I love puzzles, mysteries, and maps, so I often write these types of experiences for my students. Here is an idea that I haven't been able to use for a long time since I don't have one space anymore since we are renovating and all. It is something I will use again, though! I just have to wait on the construction guys to finish up the music room space...

Instrument Hunt

Purpose: To address object identification; to increase directive compliance; to practice multi-step sequencing; to allow for client choice

Source: Original idea. © July 8, 2008 by Mary Jane Landaker, MME, MT-BC

Materials: Assorted instruments; hiding places in music area; pictures of instruments; OPTIONAL – file folder with map indicating hiding places; PECS indicating directions to look

Song: Could use Oh No! or I Spy or Look Around the Music Room or another songs about seeking something out. In this case, the music accompanies the task rather than driving it.

  1. Arrange instruments in hiding places prior to client entry into the room
  2. Keep instrument pictures close during the session for use during the song
  3. Song lyrics provide directives for locating instruments
  4. Start singing song, showing picture of indicated instrument to client
  5. Encourage client to leave session area to find the indicated instrument
  6. Reinforce appropriate responses. Provide assistance if needed. Redirect to additional instruments if needed by client
  7. Continue to sing song until all clients have instruments, all instruments have been found, or until clients start to show signs/symptoms of disinterest
Procedure (File Folder):
  1. Arrange instruments in hiding places prior to client entry into the room
  2. Mark hiding places on file folder map – use appropriate pictures, icons, and/or words to increase client recognition of items
  3. Song lyrics provide directives for locating instruments
  4. Start singing song, showing picture of indicated instrument to client
  5. Encourage client to leave session area to find the indicated instrument
  6. Reinforce appropriate responses. Provide assistance if needed. Redirect to additional instruments if needed by client
  7. Continue to sing song until all clients have instruments, all instruments have been found, or until clients start to show signs/symptoms of disinterest

  • Use different songs for clients with different skill levels
  • Have clients hide instruments and mark the map
  • Send one client outside the session while another client hides the instrument and provides clues – like Hot and Cold game
Can you tell that this TME is pretty old school? Not much like the ones I write today.

What would you do with this TME? How would you adapt it for your clients??