Saturday, February 28, 2015

Saturday Before the Snow

It is early on Saturday morning, and there is a storm getting ready to roll in. Or at least, that's what they say will happen. Of course, folks haven't really been correct about the weather lately, so who knows if we will get the 3-9 inches that are forecasted or not. I'm torn between wanting the snow and not wanting the snow.

Snow is really pretty on the days when I don't have anyplace to go. I can sit in my home and watch the pretty flakes fall from the sky. Unfortunately, I don't often have many days that I can stay home and not go anywhere. Today, however, is one of those days. Everything on my to-do list is home-related, so let it snow!

Tomorrow, however, is another story. I have a church job about 20 miles away from my home, so I'll need to be able to leave my house and go to the job. I'm hoping that everything will be plowed and treated by the time I have to go out. We shall see.

It is cold outside. It will be dark outside once the sun actually rises. The clouds will cover the sun, so there will be very little sunshine today. It will be a good day to light some candles, clean my bedroom, and try to corral the mess in the closets. It's a day of hibernation.

I have found hibernation to be essential in my self-care routine. There are times when I just have to stay at home and be at home. There are plenty of things to do at home, but most of the time, I don't do the things that need to be done - I do other things instead. Over the years, I have realized that this is part of my self-care routine - doing what I want instead of what I should (goblin!!)

I spoke to a group of interns about self-care this last week. I think that we, as therapists, don't always realize that caring for self is more crucial than caring for others. If we can care for ourselves and realize when we need more care, we can care for others from a place of security. A therapist who is not self-aware is a dangerous therapist. There are times when I am good about taking care of myself. There are times when I am not.

Today is a self-care day. I am going to spend some time catching up on tasks and getting things ready for different situations and committees. I have a meeting online in a bit. I am also going to do some actual cleaning. There will be cooking as well. I'm thinking spaghetti squash, spaghetti, and a wonderful sauce for meals for the next couple of weeks. Maybe I'll bake a cake as well - I have the ingredients for triple chocolate cake! Hmmm...

Take some time for self-care this week - however you care for you the best. I'm going to!

Friday, February 27, 2015

Favorite Things Friday - Parachute

I have a secret shame.

Are you ready?

((((I love parachute days at work!))))

There. I've said it for all the world to read. I love the parachute. I always have and probably always will. It is something that I love to play with and to use during therapy. Unfortunately, it is something that I reserve for days when I am gone rather than use all the time during therapy. My justification? My paraprofessionals that accompany kids to music therapy can use the parachute without me. Sniff!

Why do I love the parachute so much?

I think it stems from being recruited as staff for a sports-themed Girl Scout camp several years in a row. Now, if you know me, you know that one of the words that just does NOT come to mind when you think of me is "sporty!" In fact, I am about as non-"Sporty" as it is possible to be. Much of this is due to a balance disorder and the rest comes from not liking to fall down very much. But, the camp director was a good friend of my mother and she needed trained camp staff, so off I went to sports camp (not just once, but several times over the years!!). I was always running things like archery, foot races, and, you guessed it, the parachute! I was able to incorporate music into parachute activities (we sang mostly because sports camp was outside, away from electrical outlets), and I learned or made up lots of parachute games. So, I blame Marilyn for my parachute attraction.

This parachute attraction continues, many years after camp.

My favorite game?

This requires a large group and a large parachute. Everyone sits on the ground in a tailor sit (criss-cross) position. One person goes under the parachute, and another person takes of their shoes and climbs on top of the parachute. The parachute participants shake the parachute while the person on top tries to find the person underneath. The person underneath has to evade the person on top. Switch people each time someone gets "caught." If you are one of the parachute peeps, your arms get really tired, but it is a fun game to play.

My current room does not allow for a large parachute. Sniff. I have a 12' and two 6' parachutes that I can use every so often, but it isn't quite the same. That's probably why I don't use my parachutes during therapy as much as I would love to!

((I also think that some of the motivation may be to convert new folks to the parachute fold!))

Hee, hee!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Music Therapists Unite...Again!

There are two different conversations going on right now on Music Therapists Unite. (Now, I know, if this group causes me so much grief, why do I stay? I have no answer...) The first is a discussion about the purpose of the group and how one person wants everyone to comply to a specific vision. The second is about unpaid internships.

I have opinions about each one of these topics, and I am hesitant about sharing them on Music Therapists Unite because I don't want to get sucked into the morass of opinions, information, and misinformation.

First of all, I agree that many of the posts on Music Therapists Unite appear to be ways to get others to do the work instead of taking a couple of seconds to find out the information that is available at our fingertips. I think this is a generational thing. Let me slip into my codger role here. "Kids today just don't know how easy they have it. In my day, you had to actually go to the library, wade through a card catalog, find a book in the shelves (shudder), and then use CHANGE - actual coins - in order to make an educational copy of such information. When I think of the hours of research, practice, and photocopying that I have done. Kids today have it easy." 

I will refrain from the full version of this rant which includes information on educational philosophy and political ravings about the state of education these days, but, let me tell you, it's quite a rant - I can even start to get red and sweaty in the middle of it!

Unpaid internships. Ugh. This is a discussion that is near and dear to my heart. I wish that every intern could be paid what they are worth during their internship, but the reality is that most internships in human services are not paid. There are a few that are, but most are not. I am an internship director who cannot pay an intern to work at my facility. Many of us do not. There are federal regulations about how and when we have to pay interns. There are many internship programs that have had to close due to these regulations and the complexities that they offer to the facilities. If we insist that everyone be paid during internships, the number of available internships will decrease significantly.

My solution to this problem?

I'm going to win the lottery.

Once I do so, I will endow AMTA for the sole purpose of paying every intern a stipend.

There you go. Now, I should probably go buy a lottery ticket...

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Let the Anxiety Dreams Begin...

I woke up really early this morning and it was due to some strange dreams that I was having. This has happened before and will happen again. My subconscious often takes over when I am trying to either figure out a sticky situation or when something big is happening in my life. This is going on right now.

Today's dream was about finding clothing to wear. 

The anxious part was that the clothing, while it was engaging and seemed to be a good idea, cost money. I didn't want to spend the money, but did at the same time.

Over the years, I've had anxiety dreams about my audition to voice lessons, my sister and her non-existent children, my workplace burning down, clients falling into bottomless pits of mud, and various and sundry other things. The dreams seem to be ways of making the things that I'm nervous about into absurdities. That doesn't make them any less nerve-racking, but it does give me a giggle - once the dream has passed, and I've had a time to think about the dream themes. 

These dreams will probably continue for some time as I have some time before this situation resolves itself.

On another note, I wish I could find the skirt that I dreamed about. It was very pretty, but I rarely spend $80 on a skirt. They were buy one, get one, but there wasn't another skirt that I wanted. Oh, the anxiety!!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

TME Tuesday - Improvisation to Spur Creativity

I - IV - V7 - I - IV -V7 - I - V/V - V - I - IV - V7 - I

What is this? Oh, dear reader, this is the chord progression that I used yesterday to improvise several songs with clients yesterday. As a result, I wrote two new songs - one that I remember and wrote down and another that has been blown away into the annals of history and memory.

The best part of improvisation is loosening up.

Starting a chord progression - ANY CHORD PROGRESSION - offers enough structure for me to create. 

Are you wondering how this works for me?

Here's a description - sorta - about my process.

The first thing to do is to start the progression.

Play through it a couple of times, just to hear how it all works together. Listen to the music - where it goes, how it moves.

Start to sing about any topic that is needed at the time. I often sing about what group members are doing in front of me or about what group members need at the moment. The song that has blown away from yesterday? That was a song about rocking and breathing - something that we really needed to do during the session to defuse some situations. I matched the tempo to the rocking of one client and then encouraged the others to meet us in the music. It worked well.

A good music therapist has to be able to use music to meet the needs of each and every client. There are times when improvising is the best way to meet those needs.

The thing about improvising is that it seems to refresh my creativity. I have a couple of new ideas for TMEs that I'll be developing pretty soon.

Go out there and improvise, good music therapists!

Monday, February 23, 2015

5 Things Music Therapists Should Know About Business

As faithful readers know, I have recently been going through the process of turning the Online Conference for Music Therapy into the Online Conference for Music Therapy, Inc. We are now officially official, and off to the races as a business entity. As I've been going through this process, I've been thinking about all the stuff I do not know about being part of a business - hence this post.

Here are 5 things every music therapist should know about business (whether they are employed by a facility full-time, or heading off on their own journey of private practice)...
  1. Know about different types of business models. What type of business do you work for? What is the difference between a non-profit, not-for-profit, or for-profit model? What is the difference between an Inc and a LLC? How does the IRS differentiate between the various models? What are the ramifications for choosing one model over others?
  2. Find people to help you figure all this out. Seriously, without our attorney and accountant, I would be completely lost. It is worth the money to pay someone to assist with the process and to be available whenever you have a question than to stumble along and hope that you are doing things right.
  3. Many businesses fail within the first five years. This is a long-held belief in the world of business and seems to be something to think about as you enter into any type of entrepreneurship. Don't despair, however, if you have a good business model, lots of assistance from those who know about the ins and outs, and a way to sustain yourself without too much debt accrual, you should be able to figure it all out.
  4. The role of a business owner never ends. There may be times when you just don't want to promote what you do to make money, but you may have to do so anyway. It is important to make a commitment and then stick with it. You can't run a successful business by doing things haphazardly. You just can't. I once heard a music therapist say, "Oh, I don't pay taxes on what I earn as a music therapist. We pay enough taxes on my husband's income already and decided that we couldn't afford to pay taxes on my income." Um, no. That's NOT what the IRS thinks, and they'll win any lawsuit that comes out of that type of thinking. Many business owners find that their job is not a 40-hour workweek, but consists of late nights, early mornings, marketing discussions, constant advocacy, and appointments with other professionals for advice and guidance. Being a business owner takes lots of energy, effort, and attention.
  5. Some people are better employees than business owners. This is my role in the realm of business. I am a MUCH better employee, working for a facility where I do not have to make business decisions, than I am a self-promoting independent business owner. In order to run my own business, I have had to find my niche and comfort zone. I do not want to have to make cold calls to facilities in order to find my next contract. I want someone to tell me, "Go here and do this." It is much simpler for me. I can fill a need through webinars and clinical training, through continuing music therapy education coursework and product development. Music therapy things for music therapists!
I am an advocate for requiring music therapy students to go through a course on basic business considerations. I wonder if there are students who are doing so right now. If so, I would love to see the texts that they are assigned (I need to read up on some of this stuff) and see what others feel is important to teach future music therapists about this very important topic. 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Synthesis Sunday - Sorta

For the past several days, I've been a traveling dervish (not whirling - I get too dizzy), flitting from the center of this country to the East Coast and back again via both southern and northern routes. The purpose of all of this travel (all within 49 hours) was to start on the process of becoming part of a not-for-profit organization - my very first foray into the complexities of business. I am very thankful that I am not alone in this process - there are four others from around the world who are traveling this journey with me - as I think I would be sitting in a corner, loudly wailing in fright and fear at this point without them.

So, you may be thinking. "What's the problem here? Can't you do this?"

If you are, you are echoing my rational brain's thoughts. The emotional side of my brain, however, is shrieking in near hysteria mainly because I seriously have little to no idea what I am getting myself into with all of these new plans and things to do.

Here is what I have learned about being part of a small business here in the United States. First, you have to have a bit more formal proceedings rather than just meandering around without a plan. "So, moved." "Seconded." "All those in favor?" This will be new for us all as we have never really done things formally before now. Second, you have to know what you want to do at the outset, but you have to describe your services in order to provide yourself with options. Third, it helps if you have a common goal or vision, especially when you are working with others in any venture.

Here's something I will be learning in the very near future - how to be an official treasurer and to act as bookkeeper. 

I am counting on this business experience to enrich my professional life outside of this new organization (we're an Inc!) in ways that I have not been able to comprehend previously. Now that I am small part of this new venture, I can start to make decisions about my own role in the world of business - something I have only dabbled in previously.

With wise Bella-cat assisting and overseeing every move, into the breach I go to learn about this strange new world of business methods and expectations.

Always learning something new!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Thinking Deep Thoughts...

Things to think about...

(by the way, all of these quotes are from Goodreads

“Ah, music," he said, wiping his eyes. "A magic beyond all we do here!”
J.K. Rowling,
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
“Music has always been a matter of Energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel. I have always needed Fuel. I am a serious consumer. On some nights I still believe that a car with the gas needle on empty can run about fifty more miles if you have the right music very loud on the radio.”
Hunter S. Thompson 
“Where words fail, music speaks.”
Hans Christian Andersen 
“Music is the great uniter. An incredible force. Something that people who differ on everything and anything else can have in common.”
Sarah Dessen, Just Listen 
“Beethoven tells you what it's like to be Beethoven and Mozart tells you what it's like to be human. Bach tells you what it's like to be the universe.”
Douglas Adams 
“He took his pain and turned it into something beautiful. Into something that people connect to. And that's what good music does. It speaks to you. It changes you.”
Hannah Harrington, Saving June 
“Music acts like a magic key, to which the most tightly closed heart opens.”
Maria Augusta von Trapp 
“Music... will help dissolve your perplexities and purify your character and sensibilities, and in time of care and sorrow, will keep a fountain of joy alive in you.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer 
“I'm wishing he could see that music lives. Forever. That it's stronger than death. Stronger than time. And that its strength holds you together when nothing else can.”
Jennifer Donnelly, Revolution 
“Music can change the world because it can change people.”
“It was the moment I realized what music can do to people, how it can make you hurt and feel so good all at once.”
Nina LaCour, Hold Still 
“Music, once admitted to the soul, becomes a sort of spirit, and never dies.”
Edward Bulwer-Lytton 
“Too bad people can't always be playing music, maybe then there wouldn't be any more wars.”
Margot Benary-Isbert, Rowan Farm 
“Through music we may wander where we will in time, and find friends in every century.”
Helen Thompson 
“Music is the only language in which you cannot say a mean or sarcastic thing.”
John Erskine 
“Music is a supernatural force on the earth. It has the power to transform the heart and mind.”
Kathy McClary, A Kid's Study Guide To Praise  
Are you wondering why I am collecting quotes? I am getting ready to use all of my paints (won at AMTA this year in the chance drawing) to make myself a project. I'm thinking a small collection of canvases, propped up on a small easel for my desk. Now, I am a dabbler when it comes to painting, but I really love lettering, so I'm thinking that I will combine my love of lettering and all of this paint into small inspirational canvases to help me remember the reason why I do this job. I have (some of) the quotes now. Next step, buying the canvases. I am hoping that this project will be a labor of love and will be something that I can continue for a long time. 
What quotations about music inspire you? What types of quotes would you include as an inspirational message for a musician? For a music therapist?  

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

A Steep Learning Curve

One of the things that I really wish I had been forced to learn about during my education is business basics. We were not allowed to take classes on business management or basics - they were reserved for business majors - but it seems that a course or two on business theories would be extremely beneficial to us all, even if we don't seem to want to run our own businesses at the beginning of our careers.

The reason this is coming up right now is that I am knee-deep in trying to figure out how to be a treasurer for an almost-formed not-for-profit organization of music therapy. Over the past several years, I've been faking it, but now I have to start doing this for real!

There will be bookkeeping programs, taxes to file, accountants... I am freaking out!

I am thinking that most of us kind of stumble into business methods via trial and error. My advice? Get an attorney and an accountant to help you out! We can't know all things, so we need to ask the experts to help us.

My panic is starting to build here, but I know that the professionals that we have helping us through this process will be helpful. I am just going to have to start learning things quickly. I am hoping that the learning process will be easy and logical... but, the IRS will be involved, so...

Learning is good for the body and brain, so this experience will make me a better music therapy professional. I will know how to do things that I have wanted to learn about for a long time. This will help me progress in my own career goals and make me ready to move onto the next phase of music therapy existence. There you go...

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

TME Tuesday - Take A Song

One of my favorite things to talk about is how to use music to complete a client's personal goal. I feel that it is our responsibility, as music therapists, to fully be able to not only use our medium, but to be able to discuss our medium with others. To do that, we need to know the process that we use to select music for use in our therapeutic environments. Here's one of mine...

Client walks in and starts to look through the iPod for music. Let's say that this client has goals of increasing communication initiation, appropriate emotional expression, and improving impulse control. The client finds a song and starts to play the song on the iPod.

The therapist, in my case, me, needs to start figuring out a way to use the song that the client chose to address the therapeutic goals as soon as possible.

How do I do this? It's a quick series of brainstorms, decisions, and actions. Some of that planning starts before the session. Here are some of the questions that I ask myself as I am planning.
  • How can I interest this client in music therapy in general? And in this session?
  • Where is this client right now in his/her goal journey?
  • What is the next step in that journey? 
That's what I bring into the session.

The client brings much more into the session - not only themselves, but their choice of music as well.

This is what the music brings to the session - all of the different elements of music that makes each piece a potential therapeutic tool. Any of these elements can be adapted or changed in order to assist clients towards accomplishing their therapeutic goals.

Back to the scenario, the client chooses a song and starts to dance/sing/interact with the music and the therapist. How does the therapist use that music? It depends on the client (cop-out answer, but a true one nonetheless). 

We can use the music to write about our emotions - piggy-backing new words onto the original lyrics. We can engage in start/stop listening with the client initiating the starts and the therapist initiating the stops. We can also use the song as the background of freezing to address simple impulse control. Where we go and what we do depends completely on the relationship between the therapist, the client, and the music.

The important part of all of this is that the music plays a role and the therapist has to figure out how to make the music work for each of the clients that walks into the session. Sometimes that music is planned, specifically selected by the therapist, but other times, the music is unplanned, spontaneous, or improvised and the therapist has to make it work.

Understanding our tool is important. Using it effectively is also important. Being able to describe what we do (in contrast to what others may do with music) is crucial.

Happy Tuesday!

Monday, February 16, 2015

I've spent some time fiddling around with a great website - Recite. It's a place where you can make excellent visuals for posting on the web. I really enjoy it, and have been playing around with the different styles.

Do you ever need a picture to encapsulate what you have to say?

I do. So, I make my own. Here are some of the pictures that I've made over the past couple of weeks.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Synthesis Sunday - Wigram, Nygaard Pedersen, and Bonde - Continuing in Chapter 3

There is lots of information in Chapter three of A Comprehensive Guide to Music Therapy. Last week, I started the first part of the chapter and now am trying to finish up the chapter as I attempt to synthesize information from this text.

Starting on page 113, we start to discuss the models and methods of music therapy. The sheer number of "models" that we have in the profession of music therapy is staggering. GIM, Analytical Music Therapy, Creative Music Therapy, Benenzon Music Therapy, Behavioral Music Therapy, Free Improvisation Therapy, Neurologic Music Therapy are just a few of the "models" that we have to choose from as we develop our own philosophy and way of practicing music therapy.

As I continue to work through the concepts and ideas presented, it makes me realize how many things I do not know about music therapy and its practice in the greater world. I am aware of all of these different "models" of music therapy, but I haven't spent lots of time trying to learn about and from these different approaches. It's time to go deeper into new ideas.

Here are the names that I'll be looking at in the next several months, Bonny, Nordoff-Robbins, Priestley, Alvin, Benenzon, and others as my investigation into music therapy continues. Here are the things I know:

Bonny - Guided Imagery and Music - "a depth approach to music psychotherapy in which specifically programmed classical music is ues to generate a dynamic unfolding of inner experiences...(it is) holisitic, humanistic, and transpersonal, allowing for the emergence of all aspects of the human experience: psychological, emotional, physical, social, spiritual, and the collective unconscious" (Goldberg, 1995; Wigram, et al, p.115). I wonder about those people out there who do not engage in verbal processing or who have difficulties with abstract thought - is this "method" something that works for them in the way it is intended? I have a bit of a bias about GIM. I've tried it, but I cannot image when there is music present in the environment. I don't "see" anything but the orchestra playing the music. I need to look up the terms ergothropic and trophotropic in order to understand some of what they are talking about...

Priestley - Analytical Music Therapy - "clinically organized musical activities and the most applied form of musical performance is improvisation" (p. 121). "...personal and/or functional development of the clients are in focus and not an evaluation of the aesthetic quality of the musical product." (p. 121). I enjoy the idea of improvisation as the foundation of the interaction, but this "method" also requires verbal processing to complete the session. My clients are functionally non-verbal, so this form of music therapy is not really accessible to them or, by contrast, to me.

I know more, but have to go, so I'll synthesize more next week, dear readers.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Playing Catch Up

This is my weekend to get everything I need to do for all the different places that I work for, volunteer for, and hope to work for all put together and finished. I have been woefully neglectful of some of my "jobs" lately as OCMT took over my life, but it is time to get back into my regular way of processing things and information.

I am making my to-do list.

It is growing exponentially as I am thinking about what I have to do in the next three days. Laundry, dishes, grocery shopping head the list. Also on the list is a CMTE proposal, finishing tasks for an e-course, laminate visual aids for work, do some research, AIAC applications, OCMT follow-up stuff, taxes, and preparing for two quick trips in the next month. I may need to be clothes shopping as well for something a bit more professional than jeans and t-shirts. Gotta project a facade of professionalism, after all!

There are times when I simply have to disconnect from some things in order to catch up on the things that are out there. This is one of those times. I will spend some of the day catching up on my sleep - something I haven't really had a chance to do since I've been denied my only day off lately. In fact, I'm going back to bed pretty soon - as soon as I finish this blog post and TURN OFF THE COMPUTER until my to-do list is finished and prioritized.

Once I am prioritized, I can get started with my plan on how to make the most of this weekend. I have Monday off, so I have an added bonus of another day off this weekend. This Saturday and Monday are my only days off this month as I will be traveling next week to sign papers for OCMT and its transformation into a non-profit organization (EEEEEE!), so I have to maximize these days to get all of my February tasks done now.

Time to disconnect from the outside world for a bit. See you when things get a bit more finished around here!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Favorite Things Friday - Organization Tips

Last night, I hosted a seminar about organization. This is one of my most challenging personal activities - trying to get the level of organization that I crave while still being able to have a life outside of my home. It is a challenge...
As you can see, my "office" area is quite a bit of a mess of things I think I need in order to do my job. There are music therapy journals, different types of paper, visual aids, card stock, textbooks, markers, envelopes, file folders, laminating supplies, pens and pencils, and lots of stuff. This is just a small part of what my challenge looks like.

Now, in my professional life, I am more organized. I have made myself be that way. This doesn't mean that things are always prettily arranged in a manner that would make you want to replicate my methods, but it is very functional. Functionality is the most important part for me.

This weekend's challenge?

Changing the office a bit. I am going to rearrange the office space a bit, and I will try to take pictures as I go along.

There may be some donations or eBay things that happen this weekend as well.

So, what types of organization tips do you have? I'm looking for more than just "if you haven't used it lately, get rid of it."

Thursday, February 12, 2015


The acronym, G.I.G.O. (an old computer programming phrase), stands for one of my current sayings, "Garbage In, Garbage Out." Basically, it means that you get out of a situation what you put into it. So, if you put in an honest effort, you should get something good as a result. If you don't take the time to do a good job, your result is not going to be what you want.

This has really been proved to me over and over the past week.

My session yesterday, the one I was dreading, was as bad as I had foreseen. The two kids who get away with screaming in order to play the computer (because, isn't it easier on us to give them what they want just to keep them quiet? - SARCASM), kept trying to get out of doing everything by screaming and tantruming. I don't feel that it is a good idea to teach kids that they can get what they want by hurting other people, so I don't allow them to get out of doing what they are asked if they are being aggressive or overly disruptive.

So what does this have to do with the phrase, "Garbage In, Garbage Out?"

I went into the session with feelings of dread and reluctance. Is it no wonder that kids went into their own patterns of avoidance? Not at all. Why would you want to listen to a person who is convinced that you will not like anything? I wouldn't.

It's time for an attitude adjustment...for me.

One of my favorite quotes is:

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
If you don't spend the time figuring out how to do things, then you really cannot be surprised when things don't work for you. You cannot blame the computer for not doing what you want it to do if you don't know how to tell it what to do. If you are not willing to put in the time to truly learn how to do things, then the problems are not going to be solved by spending more money and less time. The problems will follow you wherever you go.
It is time for an attitude adjustment...again, for me.
Here are the components of my adjustment.
  1. I am not in control of what others think, do, or insist upon.
  2. I will pick my battles.
  3. I will choose whether I want to continue in specific situations.
  4. I will attempt to keep my cool when dealing with people who push my frustration button.
  5. If I cannot keep my cool, I will leave the situation.
There you go.
Time for an attitude adjustment - some cognitive behavioral shaping, and some time to think things through are in order... 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Wednesday "Ughs"

Does anyone else ever get the "Ughs?"

These are the feelings when you are not really looking forward to your day for one reason or another. Lately, mine have been landing solidly on Wednesdays, and I know exactly why. My Wednesdays are made up of songwriting lessons, three groups, two individual sessions, two meetings (ugh), and the group that causes most of my "Ughs." Unfortunately, that group is my last group of the day and then I go into an individual session (that usually brightens my mood for a bit), but then I have to go into meetings. After that, I leave to go to my part-time job which usually assists me in getting over the "Ughs."

You may be asking, "Why do you put up with the 'Ughs?'" In my experience, the "Ughs" are what happens when something isn't quite right with the therapeutic process. My therapeutic process right now is scattered with this group of clients. There is one client who screams no matter what happens. That client doesn't like when others make noise of any kind - as far as I can tell, it is not related to timbre, dynamics, song, pitch, or any of the therapeutic elements of music. This client appears not to like it when others breathe within a 200 ft. radius. The client only wants to play on the computer and listen to preferred music without interruption. Unfortunately, that is not what group music therapy is.

Most of my problem comes from the fact that the staff members that work with this client are perfectly content to allow the client to play on the computer and dictate what will happen with everyone else in the classroom. So, they allow the client to escape from challenging environments to go play on the computer rather than expecting the client to engage with others. In the past, with different staff members and expectations, this client has engaged appropriately in music therapy and other group interactions and interventions. So, the classroom culture has completely contributed to a decrease in appropriate interaction and educational function for this client.

I cannot change the classroom culture. I am not the teacher in the classroom, but I am the therapist in my music therapy clinic. I have certain expectations for how all my clients interact in music therapy. If someone needs to use the bathroom or take a sensory break, I ask that they address me rather than just leave. I also require that they remain safe during their inquiry. I don't think that these expectations are over-the-top, but I may be wrong.

This particular client does everything possible to escape the session and get back to the computer except talking to me. Once I am asked, I am fine with allowing the client to leave (though I don't think there should be a reward of  computer use after having a tantrum full of aggression and screaming behaviors, but that's classroom culture again).

I am advocating for a change of classroom. The assistant principal understands the dilemma (it's not just me and my "Ughs" that are in play here) and is working on finding a new placement for this student. I am hoping (selfishly) that it happens today before the class session starts. That would make my Wednesdays very different.

So, how do I progress? I will remember my strategies and will be strong in the face of classroom staff members who do not understand my procedure or expectations. I will continue my reflective journaling around this day and this topic. I will also address the "Ughs" face on in order to figure out how to change them into "Ohs."

Off I go. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

TME Tuesday - Changes in Matter

Today's TME comes to you courtesy of the Novas pod - one of the three classroom groups that I have at work. This is the pod that has monthly themes. One of the themes this month is "Change - water and how it changes," so here is my first attempt at a TME for this theme. We'll see how it goes this morning when I present it for the first time.

Therapeutic Music Experience
Changes in Matter
Mary Jane Landaker, MME, MT-BC

Purpose: To reinforce science topic of changes in matter (specifically water as liquid, solid, and gas); symbol/icon representation;

Source: Original chant. © February 9, 2015 by Mary Jane Landaker, MME, MT-BC. Written for students in Novas Pod.

Materials: Pictures of water in three states (found on Google images); external beat (from keyboard or beat track)

Environment: Group members in arrangement that allows everyone to see the therapist and the pictures

Song/Chant/Words: Chant
Things change. Some change more than others. Water can change into three different things. Water – as a liquid is wet, wet, wet. Ice – water as a solid, brrr, cold. Steam – Water as a gas, hot, hot, hot.

Water – leave it alone, it stays a liquid – wet, wet, wet. Add cold, water turns into a solid, ice, ice, ice. Add heat, water turns into a gas, steam, steam, steam.

Which one is a liquid? Show it to everyone. Which one is a solid? Show it to everyone. Which one is a gas? Show it to everyone. Some things change.

Procedure: R = Reinforcement opportunities; C = Redirection/Cue opportunities; A = Assessment
1.      C= start the chant, displaying the pictures as indicated in the song.
2.      A= assess which group members are watching the pictures
3.      R= reinforce group members who are attending to the song and the pictures. Redirect group members who are not attending.
4.      C= continue the chant, offering opportunities for group members to answer and fill in the lyrics.
5.      R= reinforce group members who answer questions correctly.
6.      Repeat steps 1-4 until group members have completed all identification and can identify the appropriate matter state or until time runs out or group members show s/s of boredom or disengagement.

Therapeutic Function of Music:
The rhythmic foundation of the beat track offers opportunities for entrainment. The rhythmic format and meter can be changed in order to assist group members in paying attention, coordinating movements and responses, and in singing the lyrics.

None - chant
Verbal pitch varies
Variable – requires steady beat pattern to encourage entrainment to external stimulus
Variable in order to accommodate client preferences and needs
None - chant

Variable in order to accommodate client preferences and needs
Variable in order to accommodate client preferences and needs – may add instruments
Variable in order to accommodate client preferences and 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.

·         Focus on one state of matter at a time. Separate into three different raps/chants.
·         Change the tempo and rhythm in order to assist group members in entrainment to the external stimulus.
·         Leave out words and wait for clients to fill-in.

·         Adapt the song to include other things that change their matter states.
·         Layer the chant to include all three matter states simultaneously.
·         Invite group members to mix-up the words in order to lead peers.

© 2015 by Mary Jane Landaker, MME, MT-BC