Tuesday, March 31, 2015

TME Tuesday - Idea Development - How do you do it?

Where do you get your ideas? How do you progress through a music therapy session? Are you a therapist who wants to script out everything, or are you someone who prefers to improvise the entire session? Are you a therapist who does both depending on the situation? How do you come up with ideas for your client treatment?

For me, I do a bit of everything, and I want to know if others do as well.

How do you come up with ideas? Are you a person who spends time reading books of other people? Are you someone who writes your own music and therapeutic music experiences (TMEs)? Are you a person who is comfortable with musical form and structure? Do you play around with music?


Sorry for the yelling, but I am really wondering what other people do in their music therapy settings.

Have you ever really thought about what you do when you are planning sessions? 

I write down some ideas, but those ideas are extremely flexible once the clients walk into the music therapy room. I write TMEs before clients walk into the music therapy treatment session, but those TMEs do not become true TMEs until the client is involved in the process. I like to have an idea of what I can do with a specific piece of music, but I know that my ideas are nebulous until the client starts to engage. So, all of my sessions have some planning involved, but are not set in stone, EVER!!

What do you do?

Monday, March 30, 2015

Church Musician + Holy Week = Lots of Stuff Happening Here

One of my current roles is that of Director of Music at a small church in a small town about 20 minutes from my home. I love the people and the job, and have been there forever! This is the time of year when that role takes over most of my attention, energy, and thought process. It's Holy Week.

If you are not someone who is interested in organized religion or spirituality, you may want to skip over this post. I will not be offended. I'm not going to go into what people "should" believe - my thought is that you have to find your own way into what you believe, so if you don't believe what I believe, go in peace and understanding onto your path! There will be some discussion, however, of what goes on during this week in the life of a church musician. Fair warning.

Our Holy Week starts with Palm Sunday. Yesterday, we marched around the sanctuary waving palm branches and singing "Hosanna." I don't get to march anymore since I have to either play the piano or provide the singing. We had everyone up and marching yesterday, especially at the first service. Even the person who had an emergency appendectomy last week was waving his palm while moving around the room. It was a joyful noise that really started the week off right!

We now have two days off.

Wednesday will be the next day that we congregate. We have a Wednesday evening service followed by choir practice each week, so we will meet for our usual prayer and praise service.

Thursday is Maundy Thursday. This service is a celebration of the Eucharist, and my choir opted not to sing during the service, so I am taking over the music responsibilities. I make things like this easy on myself. I am singing something that I've sung for over 20 years now and will be able to sing it in my sleep, even if this week is stressful!

Friday is my favorite service of the church year (Good Friday). My church celebrates a service of tenebrae which includes songs, scripture, and extinguishing light to move into a time of darkness for three days. My choir has to sing for this service - they did not get a choice for this service, but will be singing! It is one of the most meaningful services that I have ever experienced, and I recommend that other folks who believe similar things try this type of service at least once to see if it fits their view of spirituality and belief.

Easter Sunday starts when the sun rises.

There is an old tradition where the first light that should be in a darkened sanctuary should be the dawn's light. The church where I work has a "sunrise" service, but this year's service isn't going to be linked to the dawn, it'll just be early.

I enjoy the spiritual and traditional aspects of this week. The idea of going through some of the steps of the last week of my spiritual center reinforces my belief system and makes my life richer somehow.

I just wish it didn't mean two extra services and all the extra music! Oh well.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Synthesis Sunday: Feminist Music Therapy and Community Music Therapy

My current music therapy reading is centered around different perspectives and ideas than I have ever encountered before. Isn't it interesting how you can think you are a well-rounded, informed, and sophisticated music therapist, and then, BAM, there is a book or a comment that just rips that idea all to shreds?


I'm trying to figure out what I think about these new perspectives. Every time I delve into new theories, I have a period of time that I take to filter through ideas until things settle into my practice. There are things that I agree with and things that I do not agree with in all of my exploration through music therapy.

Lately, I am reading about feminist sociological theory and how it pertains to music therapy.

I haven't spent lots or loads of time thinking about the global feminist perspective. I don't identify myself as a "feminist" other than some vague ideas about equal pay for equal work, so my recent reading has been interesting and challenging to my ideas about music therapy.

Apparently, there is an entire field of sociology that centers on feminism, and there are also sociologists who study music from a feminist perspective as well. There are some people who feel that women cannot truly experience music written by men because of the gender divide. I'm not sure about that. There are people who state that you cannot separate the music from the social situations in which the music was created. I kind of agree with that statement. There are others who believe that social influences, socioeconomic status, and cultural identity of the listener filter the music and change the way that music is perceived. I agree with most of these ideas.

I'm not totally convinced that a feminist perspective on music and music therapy is what I will subscribe to, but there are ideas that I needed to hear and experience. That's what I love about Synthesis Sundays - opportunities to grow as a therapist and as a person. 

Later today, I am diving into Community Music Therapy. From what I hear, this seems to be a theoretical format that is a bit more comfortable for me. We shall see!

Go out there and Synthesize something!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Move to Learn and Learn to Move

I saw a post on Facebook today that really struck a note with me. Here's the link to "Why Kids Need to Move, Touch and Experience to Learn" by Katrina Schwartz. I love how all good teaching ideas come around again and again, and I really like that this article remembered that Maria Montessori found movement to be an essential part of learning and wrote about it in 1966. I find it a bit odd that there was no mention of some of the other learning theorists, but the focus of the article was "embodied learning," so Montessori was the theorist used to illustrate the concept.

I've been part of Montessori educational programs, and I enjoy the way these programs teach students based on what the student wants to learn. Materials are based on the developmental level and knowledge structure of the students, and learning activities are changed when students demonstrate mastery of learning styles. The focus is on Discovery Learning. The focus of this educational philosophy is that the environment must be very structured, but the learner may move through that environment however he or she wishes. The student has the opportunity to indicate what he or she wants to learn and continues to practice skills that he or she is not able to master quickly.

For me, as a learner and as a teacher, I have found that I learn best when I engage many learning forms. I am primarily a visual learner - if I can see it, I can remember it - but I am also a learner that responds well to using my hands to complete a task (kinesthetic learning), who can remember songs (musical learning and auditory learning), and I find that I can learn things best if I have a problem to solve (logical-mathematic learning).   

There are many different ways to learn. My educational philosophy is that a teacher is responsible for figuring out how his or her students learn best and then teaching that way. For some students, this may be writing a song while other students are making dioramas. Other students may be acting out the word problems, and still others are writing the problem down. All students are actively engaged in learning the information, but in their own way in their own learning style. This is very difficult to do when you have a group full of people that you have to teach, but good teachers can do this.

My sister is a second grade teacher who does this. In order to give her students opportunities to use their strongest learning styles, she sets up her classroom in centers. Each lesson has three to four different things to do during instructional time. She starts with an introduction to the lesson concept to the entire group, and then she sends kids to their centers. One center is an active teaching center where she goes through the lesson plan and offers the "lecture" part of the lesson. She is able to differentiate her instruction based on the students that are in each group. She has arranged the learning groups into students who are similar in learning needs and strengths. The other centers use computer programs, manipulatives, worksheets, puzzles, games, quizzes, and other learning activities that encourage practice of the skill. The students spend time in each center and then repeat those centers during the lesson duration. My sister has many different activities that encourage her students to demonstrate mastery of the tasks, and she swaps them out to provide novelty. She is constantly challenged to keep her students challenged and engaged, but her test scores and student progress are consistently high and students make more than a year's progress in her classroom. She is someone I feel is a master teacher who is very tuned into her students' learning styles, and I find her ability to teach 25-35 seven year old students simultaneously, while still ensuring that they are learning, to be awe inspiring.

As an internship director, I have a bit more flexibility in how I teach. I have only one or two students at a time, so I can focus on how only one or two people learn.

As a music therapist, I find that the concept of using all of our senses and learning styles is important for my clients. One of the things that I was told when I was first learning about music therapy is that music is a medium that encourages participation on many levels; that persons who have differing ability levels can engage in music together. I continue to believe that this is true and a unique function of music. I also find that, with the addition of music into the environment, people who are reluctant to engage in active treatment are often more easily persuaded to participate.

For me, the takeaway of the original article that started all of this pondering, was that students, clients, people need to experience concepts in order to make them meaningful. Without the experiential aspect, can we truly learn what we need to know?

For more information about Montessori and Learning Styles, check out these websites:

Friday, March 27, 2015

Favorite Things Friday - Turning the Tide

There was a moment yesterday, at about 10:38 am, when I thought, "You know? I actually feel better." That moment was a moment of celebration and led me to thinking about those moments when something definitely ends. There can be relief in an ending.

An ending may be something cathartic. You may be able to release something that was bothering you into the atmosphere or into the blogosphere and just let it go. The ending may be a whimper. Just something that finishes and lets go. The ending may be a storm - something tumultuous that leads into a major upheaval, but an ending is an ending.

I received news of two very different endings this morning when I woke up. My Aunt passed away overnight after a rough bout with cancer, and a job search I was on officially ended. Both of these endings were expected, so I had time to process them before they actually occurred. The news of both situations was not startling, and now things move forward.

I can move into a period of celebration with each of these endings.

The endless wondering about the job search (one of the most interesting ones I have ever been on) is over. I didn't get the job. I am totally fine with that fact and will move on happily. I went into the entire process with an attitude of, "if this is what I'm meant to do, I will get the job." Obviously, it's not what I'm meant to do right here and right now.

My Aunt was a chemist who spent many years fiddling around with various chemicals. She raised two children who are raising six grandchildren. When she was diagnosed with lung cancer, she started her treatment in a vigorous manner, but appeared to decide that treatment was not the best thing for her. She was able to spend some time with her family and, in the recent family photos that I've seen, she was smiling and enfolded in love. She made decisions for herself and was able to live on her own terms. I will celebrate her life and the impact she made on the lives of her children, grandchildren, and the others who were fortunate enough to share small bits of her life.

I hope that the endings in your life give you cause to celebrate, even if the ending is not what you want for yourself. I firmly believe that there is a purpose to all things that happen, favored outcomes or not, and that every ending means a new beginning somewhere.


Thursday, March 26, 2015

Regional Conference Season is Upon Us

It's that time of year again in the world of music therapy - regional conference time! Music therapists from all over various regions are converging upon hapless citizens who have little to no idea what is going on, mayors are making proclamations about music therapy days and weeks, and music therapy concepts are bubbling out of the conference hotels and in the stairwells (where some of our compatriots spent part of their conference last night).

I am a big fan of getting music therapists together in ways that allow for the creative thought process to bloom. One music therapist is a creative person. Two music therapists increase the creativity - creativity squared. Put a couple hundred music therapists in one room and our creative power is limitless!

I am wondering what types of conversations are going on right now. (Since it's early, probably "Where's Starbucks?") I hope people are giving some serious consideration to the trends in our profession right now. I hope they are making music together - we are, after all, music therapists first and foremost! I hope my fellow music therapists are remembering to respect others, especially those they do not agree with.

At this time, my region has two and a half weeks before our conference. We traditionally have one of the later conferences during this season. Everyone else will be whooping it up with other therapists, but we have to wait until most of the hoopla is over before we get our turn.

Have a safe, wonderful, creative time, fellow therapists! Enjoy your time together, and I'll see you again in November here in Kansas City!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Wallowing in Self-Pity

My morning started very early and with horrible acid reflux that did not respond to my typical treatments. This seems to be more of the symptoms from the stomach/intestinal bug that swept through my facility all winter. I'm checking with my friend who had this not once, but twice this year, to see if my symptoms are the same as hers. If so, it will be a bit of a relief to know where this particular bug came from.

I debated long and hard with myself today about taking the sick day or going into work. I haven't been to work for a long time since this illness has coincided with my Spring Break and has extended that time. I was looking forward to getting back to work and getting into my routine. I miss my clients and my co-workers. I miss the opportunity to be engaged in music therapy and am increasingly frustrated with the fact that I can't seem to spend more than 2 minutes without having to belch - singing is DEFINITELY out of the question! My middle schoolers would love to hear me burp all the time, but I doubt that we would get much music therapy done in between the hysterical laughter because an adult couldn't control her bodily functions!

The debate ended at about 4:50 am when I couldn't seem to conquer the current round of stomach upset. No reason to get out and go somewhere if I will only end up driving back after contaminating my students and my co-workers. That won't end the germ cycle.

Today will be another day of trying to figure out how to get better, attempting to use the remedies available to me, and feeling bad about being here. I'll try to catch up on the 5 hours of lost sleep (due to reflux) and try to get better.

Why is self-care so difficult?

I am wallowing in self-pity right now.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

TME Tuesday - Who's Afraid of Thunder?

It's time for some nostalgia. I am a big fan of children's programming - Sesame Street, Mr. Rogers, and Captain Kangaroo. I grew up with this type of programming, so it seems that my propensity towards music therapy was shaped at a very early age by these very shows. The use of music to teach nonmusical concepts is one that I know down deep in my bones. How did we get from TME Tuesday to this discussion, you may ask?

It is raining outside. Not only is it raining, it is thundering.

My mother has, for years and years, sung bits and pieces of a song that she first heard on Captain Kangaroo. She couldn't remember the entire thing, and those phrases have stuck in my head for those same years and years. Today just seemed to be a good day to go on a search. I am still sitting at home, unable to be around people, so what else do I have to do?

I was not able to find the Captain Kangaroo version of the song, but here is a YouTube link to Experiment Songs - Who's Afraid of Thunder? by Dorothy Collins.

This song seems perfect for working with children who are afraid of thunder. It even works very well in a music therapy setting since the answer to being afraid is to grab drums and make some noise. There's even some science in the lyrics!

How would I use this in a session?

This song is one that I would use during stormy days or with kids that I knew had a thunder-aversion as part of their treatment process. On stormy days, we would use the drums to make our inside thunder sounds when the outside thunder sounds started. Or, we could use the song along with making our own rain storms, rain chants, and rain dances. Ooh, I wonder if any of my classes have a rain theme coming up. The session is designing itself! I wonder if my clients would be able to wait until the real thunder came to play the drums. I bet they wouldn't want to!

This isn't a fully fleshed out TME yet, but I'm getting intrigued about how I could use this song with some of my clients (certainly not all of them!).

Now the brainstorming begins.

How could I use this with my students? I would like to use it during days like this - when it is stormy outside, but some clients would benefit from starting the process when it isn't stormy just to get acclimatized to the idea of thunder as noise rather than danger...

Of course, we could use drums like it says in the song. We could also rewrite the lyrics to accommodate other types of loud sounds that we can make during music therapy sessions. 

That's just the beginning. What would you do with this song with your clients?

The storm is over for the moment. Birds are starting to chirp and sing outside. I hope you have a wonderful day!

Monday, March 23, 2015


I am sick. It's the first day back from Spring Break, and I can't breathe, have a fever, several intestinal complaints, and an aversion to food. I've been through this with a friend of mine and know that the virus has to go its course - if I don't take time to rest and get over this, it will be back with a vengeance.

This is one of the most difficult things that I have to do - not going to work when I'm not feeling well.

There are times, however, when self-care coincides with other-care. This is one of those times. Not going to work will help my clients be healthier in the long-run.

I still feel guilty about not going. 

Is that the mark of a good therapist? Guilt? I don't think so. I think a good therapist realizes that self-care is important and is something that needs to be done, but it is difficult to remember that the first day after Break. 

I need to have priorities, and priority #1 is breaking the fever. The second priority is to eat something more than one partial meal per day. After that happens, I'll go back to being a music therapist. Until that time, I'll be "Sick."


Sunday, March 22, 2015

Synthesis Sunday - Getting New Perspectives

Professional interaction is something that is tricky for many people. There is a fine line between being a considerate and conscientious dissenter and a bully. However, it is extremely important that opinions of all members of the profession be heard and considered in every conversation. Here is what I've learned over this past week.

There is a small, yet very vocal community of people who feel that the way we currently do our internships is illegal. AMTA and the Association Internship Approval Committee disagree. Our internship design, as well as the internships of many of our fellow allied health professionals, is legal and covered under the guidelines developed by the US Department of Labor. There are probably folks out there who do not know anything about Fact Sheet #71 and the expectations stated within that cover for-profit agencies and facilities, but it is not for lack of trying. AMTA sends out email blasts several times per year updating internship personnel about what is going on with these issues.

NOTE: If you or someone you know was part of a National Roster internship that violates Fact Sheet #71, please contact the AIAC with a noncompliance report. You can find the procedure as well as the contact information for how to do this report in Section F of the AMTA National Roster Internship Guidelines. AMTA and the AIAC cannot do anything unless they are contacted directly. Interns do have ways to protect themselves and need to be courageous when it comes to reporting professional practices that are unethical or illegal.

One of the complaints offered was that there aren't many interns offering their perspectives on what the internship process is like. I wonder if the persons offering their perspective have been able to engage in Passages, in submitting concurrent session proposals, or in talking to the people that can actually do something about internship programs.

I know that there is a power differential between interns and internship directors. There will always be a power differential between a teacher and a student. That is inherent in the relationship. The AIAC recognized this about 10 years ago and started an opportunity for interns to offer information about their internships in a six-month post-internship site evaluation. Interns have the opportunity to fill this out and send it to the AIAC. Interns can also choose how the information is shared and with whom. Once that information is shared, though, interns will not be privy to what happens to the internship program unless that intern completes a non-compliance report through the AIAC.

Back to the original idea...

Any time a person posts something on social media, they are opening themselves up to discussion, debate, ridicule, and censure by the other readers. Once that post is up on social media, responders have two options - respond or ignore. Once you decide to respond, you have a couple of choices on how you will interact with the original poster. Once your response is public, you now have a reputation established with all of the other readers.

I enjoy a good debate. I like it when people offer different ideas and opinions to the concepts that I've developed over the years. I need to hear the points of view of other people in order to continue to grow as a therapist. It is true that my experience of being an intern was many years ago, but as a person who interacts with interns on a consistent basis, I think I'm pretty well immersed in the issues that current interns have in this century. They are the same issues that I had in my internship and will be the same issues that most interns will have until we figure out how to change the system.

We are trying to change the system. 

How do we do this? We ask for the opinions of others about how to shape and change our internships. We listen to the perspectives offered and then start to figure out what to do. During the discussion process, all AMTA members will be asked to contribute and all submissions will be considered. The discussion will probably be fierce, varied, and passionate. We music therapists are often that way, especially when we are looking at changes to our education and clinical training - just look at the Masters Level Entry debate going on right now - and the ultimate decision will be made by a large group of music therapists who will consider all views, the legal necessities, and the end results. 

There will be many people who will be unhappy. That is the outcome of any large paradigm shift. There will be people who will be happy, and there will just as many (if not more) who will not be happy.

While the perspectives of interns and new professionals are important to know and consider, those new professionals and interns need to remember that there are many other elements, organizations, and situations that affect education and clinical training. Educational organizations have specific requirements that must be met. AMTA has some of the same requirements. Every single internship program has requirements as well. An internship program has to satisfy all of those organization requirements. This means that there will be folks who are not satisfied by any decision that is made.

It is important, though, to make sure that your perspective is heard. Contribute to the conversation in a way that shows that you are professional. Speak to others in a respectful manner. Most of all, participate! Tell people what you think, but remember to be professional in your interactions.

One more note - If you do not speak to the people who are directly involved, your perspective will never be considered.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Hunh. Favorite Things Friday??

There are times when things just plain old spiral out of control. I don't know if it has anything to do with the new moon or what but things started off in a smooth manner and then just exploded.

Anyway, yesterday is over and it is time for Favorite Things Friday!

Today's topic is self-care, music therapy, and triple chocolate cake!

For me, self-care has lots to do with finding my center and staying as close to that center as possible. This often means finding something that helps me to focus on what is important in life - thinking about music therapy and my role in this profession.

After a long day, I decided to make my favorite treat from childhood - triple chocolate cake. Interestingly enough (I find this interesting, if you don't, then just leave the blog now), this treat has survived a really bad bout of the flu and being the focus of that flu (I cannot stress how much I hate vomiting) and is still my favorite dessert! In the interest of full disclosure, I did plan on making this cake during this week at some point, but the events of Thursday seemed to make it necessary last night. So, I made it in between a long social media discussion and one of the webinars that I offer on a regular basis.

Now, I know that the cake doesn't look very appetizing in the second picture, it's not a cake that you eat for the glamor. The cake itself is extremely rich and gooey which just makes it the perfect way to escape for some time.

Once the cake came out of the oven, I let it cool for a bit and then ate a slice with a scoop of ice cream. As I ate it, I focused on some thoughts that came up during the discourse of the day.

Here are some of the things that I think about music therapy:

  • Music therapy is a profession made up of many people who are passionate, caring, and advocates for the rights of others. As such, there will be times when we disagree with one another. That is inevitable.
  • Music therapists seem to expect a certain amount of professional interaction from one another. This may be most important when we are engaged in disagreement.
  • Music therapists tend to find like-minded therapists to agree with, to converse with, and to work with. This is one of our strengths and greatest detriments, especially when we start to divide amongst ourselves. If we can only keep one idea in our mind and are unable to see the perspectives of others, our profession will not survive. Remaining in our clusters is not healthy - we need to explore what others think, say, and practice to round ourselves out as professionals and as a profession. By remaining in our small clusters, we tend to dwell on the negative instead of the positive things that are going on in our profession. Branch out and be respectful when speaking to people about ideas and perspectives. You will be heard.
  • The organization of any and every institution is slow to change. This is even more true when the institution is linked to higher education. In the clinical world, things can and do happen quickly. In the world of higher education, changes take a minimum of seven years to implement. Any changes to things like our model of education or clinical training cannot change any faster than our educational institutions can. It is difficult to be patient during this process of change, and not everyone is privy to all of the processes or timelines when it comes to organizational change. Things are happening, but, as therapists, we do not always know what's going on at the organizational level. The best way to find out is to simply ask. Keep asking until you find the person who knows what is going on. If you have concerns about internships, contact members of the Association Internship Approval Committee. They will probably know more about internships and current concerns than others. If you have concerns about ethical behavior on social media, contact members on the Board of Ethics. Go to the source.
  • The internship model that we use is not perfect. It is not ideal and sometimes makes students feel disenfranchised. At this point, we have not found other models that will work for the combination of students who need to be fostered and the volunteer therapists who are willing to foster those students. We continue to search and discuss these issues. It seems that many interns do not know about the situations in place to support them and to protect them in their programs. That is a shame.
I still feel that this profession is a wonderful one. I am very glad that I am a music therapist and a part of the conversations about issues that affect each and every one of us. Let's continue the discussion.

Does anyone want to know how to make triple chocolate cake? It's really easy!

One box chocolate cake mix + ingredients listed on the cake mix box
One box instant chocolate pudding
As many chocolate chips as you want...

Mix the three ingredients together, then follow the directions on the cake mix box to mix and bake.

I don't put frosting on this cake - it's very rich as is, but you could totally use a chocolate glaze to make it quadruple chocolate cake.

There you go!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

5 Things Internship Directors Need to Remember About Interns

UPDATE: For the record, this post is written from the viewpoint of an INTERNSHIP DIRECTOR to fellow INTERNSHIP DIRECTORS, not from an intern's point of view. I am not an intern, nor have I been an intern (as was pointed out in another conversation) since "the last century." I do, however, make an effort to talk to interns from around the country and try to keep in touch with their concerns. 

For the record, I am also part of the section of AMTA that is actively seeking ways to provide internship experiences to interns in ways that are not part of "the way we always do things." We are trying to make internships more accessible, affordable, and more what people would like them to be. Please do not hesitate to contact the Association Internship Approval Committee through the AMTA website if you have comments, suggestions, constructive criticisms, and questions about how internships are provided in our current educational setting.

If you are still interested, please read on. If you find my writing condescending or out-of-touch, feel free to move to the next blog. I won't be hurt at all!

I wrote a post last week about 5 things I wish my interns knew when they walked in the door of my internship program. One of the readers suggested that there should be a follow-up post from an intern about what IDs needed to know about them. Now, I do not have any interns at the moment - my internship program is inactive right now - so I have no ready population of interns to take up this task. So, here is the next post, again written from the viewpoint of an Internship Director, but from an ID that talks to interns from many different internship programs around the country, so maybe I know a little bit about what I'm saying. We'll see. Please comment below if I've missed something.
  1. There is a VERY steep learning curve. Interns come to us from an academic setting which, if you can remember, is significantly different from the professional world they are now being plunged into. Not only are interns needing to learn how to be professional, but they have to learn how to do music therapy more often and in a specific way that may significantly differ from how they've done music therapy before. There is lots to soak in and start to do, and little time for dipping their toes in. They have to dive in. Because of this, IDs need to remember that information will be heard but not truly understood without repetition, and that repetition is necessary for mastery.
  2. An internship is not "home." Even if an intern is in a program where he/she did not have to move, the internship program is not where they are comfortable. There are new people to meet, a new professional culture, a new place/facility to navigate, and a new role to assume. Most interns are only in their internship placements for a short period of time, so they cannot really settle into the internship - they are going to leave. If you've ever been in a temporary job setting, you can understand the place our interns are in on a daily basis. There is some uncertainty about what will happen next. You can never really relax when you know that you'll be moving on pretty soon.
  3. We speak different languages. One of the biggest learning curves for me, as an ID, is learning the language that my intern speaks when she (I only say "she" since all of my interns, so far, have been female) arrives at my internship. Sometimes it's something as simple as visual aids = supplementals. Sometimes it's more complex. Try explaining the ISO-principle to a person who has no idea what that means. It is not easy at all. Then, take into account all of the acronyms, jargon, facility-specific slang, and documentation that happens around us in our regular jobs, and you can start to see some of the language barriers that we have to surmount.
  4. There is an unreasonable amount of power that you hold over every intern...and they know it. This simple fact is probably the most important thing to remember about being an internship director. There is a skewed power differential in the internship relationship. IDs act as gatekeepers. We have to. It's part of the job, but it should never be the primary reason a therapist becomes a supervisor. I hear horror stories about bad supervisors - people who strive to make every intern cry during their internships, people who don't provide interns with the things they are required to have - 60 minutes of dedicated supervision/consultation time, etc., people who make interns do gigs but don't pay those interns for those gigs - and these stories make me die a bit inside.
  5. This is the culmination of every intern's educational experience. Interns are excited about FINALLY getting to be a music therapist. They are ready to learn, but are also ready to FINALLY do what they've spent so much time learning about. The internship needs to be a time where interns are challenged, nurtured, and expected to grow into the best music therapists they can be. That excitement needs to be acknowledged and celebrated!! Help them celebrate the awesome thing that is our profession as they start to venture out into this wonderful job!
Are there more? Any intern-readers out there who want to contribute? Leave me a comment, and we'll arrange for you to guest-post! People who don't want to be guest posters but still want to comment - feel free!!

Thanks for reading!


That's all there is to say, really.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Blogs I Like

My post for this day includes the blogs that I like... some are music therapy, some are not. As I am moving through this staycation of exploration and examination of all things music therapy, I am finding lots of things that I like and other things that I do not about how we present ourselves in the world. Here are some of the things that I like about blogs out there in the world...

Heartbeat Music Therapy - Have you read this blog? Have you listened to the Music Therapy Show? If you haven't, you should! Janice Lindstrom's site offers information on music therapy in general and music therapy with persons with autism in specific. There's an opportunity for an e-book, clinical supervision, and an attorney (if you need one). This site is chock-full of information and thought-provoking resources for music therapists.

Calming Manatee - This site has NOTHING to do with Music Therapy, yet I love it and use it often. Click on the link and you'll get a picture of a manatee with a phrase meant to be supportive and affirming. Summon another manatee, and you'll get another picture. There are times when I summon several manatees. There was one time when I needed some calming and some affirmation that I was working with people who just plain needed to be set straight, and a manatee came up that expressed my emotions completely. I like manatees 30, 25, 22, 32, 31, and 11. There are many others that just arrive when I need them.

The Bloggess - WARNING - The Bloggess is sometimes a bit profane, always irreverent, and just plain old hysterical. Her view of life comes to us through a history of depression, rheumatoid arthritis, and other things. She has an appreciation for bad taxidermy and metal chickens. I never fail to laugh when I read her posts.

I don't read many music therapy blogs. I often want more from people than they give. I get frustrated when I find a post that challenges me, makes me thing a bit about music therapy, and that promises more, just to find that there is nothing more. I am looking for a few good music therapy blogs - at least weekly posts, a good variety of posts about things to do and about deeper music therapy thoughts, and someone who challenges my own ideas about what music therapy is and can be. Do you have any recommendations?


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

TME Tuesday - Spring Break Edition - #800!!

Today's post is the 800th post on this blog.

(I'm going to take a bit of time to reflect that I have actually managed to write about things 800 times over the past 8 years...)

Okay, that's over. It's time for the TME Tuesday part of this post. Since I am on Spring Break, I am taking an electronic tour of music therapy sites on the web. Today's theme is, of course, therapeutic music experiences (TMEs) and the sites that are out there to give some good ideas.
  • Wholesome Harmonies - Amy Kalas Busar heads up the team at Wholesome Harmonies and offers lots of ideas and resources to help therapists find new ideas. The blog is updated about every week, and there are lots of ideas. Here's a link for the most recent blog post - about St. Patrick's Day.
  • Music Therapy Activity Ideas - This is a good idea that really hasn't taken off. The last posts were in 2010. There are some interesting therapeutic music experiences on the site. All of the TMEs were designed for adults in forensic mental health settings. I wonder if the site is still active. Maybe I'll send in a TME to see if it is active. If not, I wonder if they would let me take over the concept...
  • Music Therapy Tunes - Margie La Bella has a site that offers ideas and lots of links to her own music. It's a good site to get ideas for what to do with young clients. She even offers the opportunity to compile your own CD of her music for use in sessions. It's another great idea that I wish I had first! I wish she would post more frequently - but I wish that about almost every single blog that I find! I WANT MORE!!
  • Music Therapy Activities Wiki - I think there is good information here, but I can't seem to navigate the site easily. I know that is just me and my inability to think like some electronic formats, but I am wanting to dive into this site for more and more! For me, the best thing about this site is the list of indices that allows me to search via goal area, population, and use of music. It's another interesting idea.
  • Tuned Into Learning - The link to this site is to the page that offers free printables - I like FREE! Tuned Into Learning is part of the services of Coast Music Therapy and those folks do a great job of promoting music therapy for their clients and for others! This site has lots of information and resources for music therapists who work with children in music therapy settings.
Tomorrow's tour will be blogs that I love that may (or may not) have any relationship with music therapy. 

Does anyone have any suggestions for additional blogs that could or should be on this list of blogs? Let me know in the comments!!   

Monday, March 16, 2015

Where to Start?!?

It is Spring Break day 1 of my staycation, so here I am, sitting in front of the computer, trying to figure out what to do next. I've decided that my staycation will be music therapy-themed...specifically, I am going to go to music therapy websites to see what's going on out there in cyberspace. I think I will start right now...

My first search string was "music therapy clinic" and I took the first four that popped up - not Facebook pages since not everyone has access to Facebook...

ASU Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts
Queens University of Charlotte
CSUN Mike Curb College of Arts, Media, and Communication
University of Louisville School of Music

One of the things all of these sites have in common is a dearth of visuals. The CSUN site has the most pictures to pull in viewers (there are three). As all of these sites are university-based, using a recruitment setting to encourage clients to sign up for services, there is appropriate information about who will be providing services, how services are funded, and something about the schedule.

Going a bit further down the list of "music therapy clinic" sites, you find more and more sites for universities. I guess most of us run-of-the-mill therapists do not have "clinics." Interesting use of terminology to define ourselves, I guess.

I wonder what prospective clients think when they are looking for music therapy services and find these pages. Do they gravitate towards sites that have lots of pictures? Do they want descriptions of music therapy services?

For myself, I like pictures. I like short blurbs about services - demonstrating what potential clients will do during their time in music therapy. There needs to be information about payment and fees. I also like to know a bit about who will be doing my sessions - who are you? What do you like to do? Why are you a music therapist? How do you start a session? Will you make me sing? A bit of information is good for me as a potential customer.

Warning - tomorrow will be a shameless plug for my new book about things to do with adolescents in treatment - it fits in with TME Tuesday. Feel free to skip it if you don't want to read about this new book!

Happy Spring Break!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Synthesis Sunday - Return to Wigram et. al.

The last little bit of Wigram et. al. that I have read to this point is the portion about the Nordoff-Robbins Model also known as Creative Music Therapy. Of all of the models presented, this is the one that intrigues me the most, probably because it fits with my preferred clientele and with my own ideas about improvisation, interaction, and engagement.

Page 126 states that Nordoff and Robbins were influenced by the ideas of Rudolf Steiner and the "anthroposophic movement in humanistic psychology." Looking at these ideas a bit more, I can see why this model has struck a chord (pun intended) with me. Some of the additional quotes from pages 126-126 that I like include:
  • "within every human being there is an innate responsiveness to music, and within every personality one can 'reach' a 'music child' or 'music person.'
  • "non-directive approach...the therapist the role of following and facilitating"
  • "involves placing music at the centre of the experience, and musical responses provide the primary material for analysis and interpretation."
  • "highly skilled musicians...predominantly trained therapists in the sophisticated use of piano...in improvised music making."
  • "the music provides the therapeutic catalyst through which change will take place."
  • "meet the child musically...evoke musical response...develop musical skills, expressive freedom, and interresponsiveness... (Bruscia, 1987, p.45)"
In my interpretation of Creative Music Therapy, the client plays the center role in shaping the music while the therapist engages, participates, and interprets that music. The therapist shapes the sophisticated music to the elements that the client provides. Intervals play an important part in the interpretation of music - specific intervals represent different feelings in the melody provided by the client. Triads and chords also have meanings.

I think this is a model of music therapy that I could focus on learning, except for the whole "piano emphasis" part. I am not very sophisticated when it comes to playing the piano, but I can improvise on the piano like nobody's business! I like the idea of music providing "the therapeutic catalyst through which change will take place." (p. 127).

I will be meandering through some different textbooks in the next couple of weeks, so I am going to give Wigram and everyone a break for a short period of time. See you next Sunday for some more synthesis...

Saturday, March 14, 2015

I Want/Need Something To Do!

Now, just in case you are a regular reader of this blog, you may know that I actually have LOTS to do already - themed blog posts, readings, synthesis, and other things that I write about on a regular basis - but I am looking for something new to do this next week.

I've been looking at Pinterest again (Aargh, Sarah!!) and have been trying to find inspiration for something new for my music therapy practice. I didn't find anything there that really sparked my creative impulse, but I have some ideas. Some of those ideas involve cutting up books (which bothers me on a visceral level, but which I can do with several of the books that I already own many copies of, thanks to my sister and mother) to make visual aids for some stories. I could make the Old Lady that I've been thinking about for many years - involving my sewing machine, some clear acetate, and some felt. It is also possible that I will spend some time making new file folder visuals for my adolescents.

This next week is my Spring Break week, so I will be looking for some new ideas and things to do while I am at home during my stay-cation. In the process, I will also be selling some things on ebay, taking things to the local thrift stores, and clearing things out of my small little home. I'll still be doing my regular posts, but there may be a creativity theme going on this week. Stay tuned.


Thursday, March 12, 2015

5 Things an Internship Director Wishes That Music Therapy Students Knew Before Starting Internship

I spent some time with some music therapy students just recently, and it started me thinking about the challenges that our academicians face on a daily basis of teaching all the things students need to know about being a music therapist. All of this deep thinking led me to pondering what I expect students to be able to do when they walk into my internship. I am not making any claims about what other Internship Directors expect, but this is my thought process and hope for my interns...
  1. Functional Music Skills - this is the biggie. I want my interns to be able to play their guitars in the keys of C,D,E,A, and G. I want them to be able to play in the keys of e, d, and a minor. I want them to already know a couple of different strums and fingerpicking patterns. I want them to know how to play many different chord progressions on both the guitar and the keyboard. Period. Now, all of those skills will be strengthened during their internship, but interns need to have the basic skills as part of their repertoire before they start their internship.
  2. A General Overview of Music Therapy Techniques with Different Populations - I do NOT expect that incoming interns will know lots about music therapy treatment for children and adolescents with developmental disabilities and psychiatric concerns, but I DO expect that they will have some general information about human development, characteristics of exceptionality, and the ability to find out information about specific diagnoses using a variety of materials and sources. I don't want to be the one to teach an intern about using Google Scholar to find materials. I don't have the time.
  3. The Beginning of Critical Thought - Ooh, boy. This one is a biggie! Incoming interns need to have a foundation in problem solving. Problem solving goes into all aspects of clinical interaction and responsibilities. I want a student who can think about where to start looking for answers to the questions that he or she has about a client or about music therapy or about anything else. Students need to be encouraged to figure out answers to difficult questions, led into figuring out the solution, not just told what to do. This is a developmental skill that can be further developed during the internship, but it is really nice when the intern has already started the process and doesn't have to be taught every step of the way...
  4. Training in Professional Interactions and Expectations - In this era of informal interaction via social media, I have found that prospective interns often feel that informality is the way to interact with professionals, especially in the initial contact. This is not appropriate. In fact, when I get a "Dear Mary" email, I ignore it. It is not professional and does not deserve a response from me.
  5. Some of the Things That Await Them During Internship - I wish we did a better job of letting music therapy students know what was going to happen in their internships - typical responses, things to know, etc. It amazes me when students are surprised that most of the music therapy internships out there do not have stipends. Interns need to know that they will be exhausted, very busy, and challenged more than they expect, and that most (if not all) interns feel the same exact way!
I know there are more that other Internship Directors would add to the list, but this is a good start. How can we do this? How can we ensure that all music therapy students have the foundational skills that we think they need when they start their internships? Is there a way we can standardize these topics in music therapy education? Is there a need to do so? Do others see this as well? I wonder. There are times when I think I am the only one who sees these as issues, but then there are times when I know that I am not alone.

Prospective interns out there, be professional, ask questions, learn as much as you can about as much as you can before anything else. Take advantage of resources, mentors, and professionals. Ask the questions that make you curious and keep asking until you get an answer. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Having To Think More Deeply About Music Therapy

The past 60 hours have been a whirlwind and have encouraged me to continue to think more deeply about music, therapy, music therapy, and me. There is something about being deeply immersed in a new environment with a bunch of other music therapy-minded people to shake up how you perceive yourself and your role in the larger picture of the future of the profession. 

Of course, I usually spend some time thinking about what it is we music therapists do and how we do it on a daily basis, but being around people who know what happens in a music therapy session but who are unfamiliar with me and how I do those sessions forces me to think about music therapy from a wider perspective. Being the focus of a series of question and answer periods forces me to keep on my toes. It is also mentally exhausting.

I love participating in situations where I have to think about what I do and then try to explain that to others. It is fascinating to see how our profession is perceived by fellow musicians who do not practice therapy, how novice therapists see their jobs, and how folks from differing theoretical backgrounds engage in discussion about the small things that make up music therapy.

It's time to be quiet, spend some time alone, and think about the things that happened during this last adventure.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

TME Tuesday - Musical Mad-Libs

I enjoy enfolding music into educational experiences and would spend much of my time developing TMEs for teachers attempting to teach kids who are musical learners in educational settings (special and typical). One of the fun ways that I use is not my own idea, but is adapted from a children's game, Mad-Libs. This is a great way to review parts of speech as well as to just be silly.

Basically, what you do is take any familiar song, take out key words, and then ask students to replace the words using the parts of speech categories. Sing the new words and listen to the absurdity.

Here is an example: Sing to the tune of Home on the Range

Oh, v _________________________ me a
n _________________________, where the
n _________________________ 
v _________________________, where the
n _________________________ and the
n _________________________
v _________________________. Where seldom is
v _________________________ a(n)
adj _________________________
n _________________________, and the
n _________________________ are not 
adj _________________________ all
n _________________________.

N _________________________,
n _________________________ on the
n _________________________. where the
n _________________________ and the
n _________________________
v _________________________. Where seldom is
v _________________________ a(n)
adj _________________________
n _________________________, and the
n _________________________ are not
adj _________________________ all
n _________________________.