Tuesday, June 30, 2015

TME Tuesday - We're Great, But No One Knows It!

One of the songs that I loved when I was a camper (many, MANY moons ago) was one definitely designed to address self-esteem and group cohesion. It's one that struck me this morning as a good starting point for a new Therapeutic Music Experience (TME) for my students. So, here's the song...

Lyrics - https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20140804145854-24169506--we-re-great-but-no-one-knows-it

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1y2KDElAsrg - this group COULDN'T have composed this since I was singing it WAY before the date that video was made

So, how would I use this in a session with clients who need some work on group cohesion or self-esteem? Hmmm.

If I'm working with an individual, we will start by changing the words a bit from "we" to "I." The song itself leads into discussion. "What will you do to be considered great?" "What are the types of things that make people great?" "What is great about you already?"

It is a wonderful mantra and one that I think about even to this day.

This TME is still in development. I may flesh it out this weekend, I may not. We shall see.

How could you use this song/chant with your clients?

Monday, June 29, 2015

Movie Week in Music Therapy

I asked my older adolescents to plan their music therapy sessions for this summer session. They all wanted to watch a movie, so I combined the scavenger hunt from last week to assist them in selecting a movie to watch for the next two weeks.

I usually use movies as a last resort. There are short movies included in my sub plans for when I am away from the music therapy setting, but I rarely watch movies with my clients. I try to have a screen-free environment in music therapy, mainly because my clients spend lots of other time watching the Smart Boards, using iPads, or watching television. This week of movie-watching is something I don't usually do, but I am ready for this.

So, how to incorporate movies into music therapy? I am a movie nut - I have hundreds of movies here at home, so I started strolling around my movie library. My criteria for movie selection? PG or G movies only - all others are not allowed in our school. I also wanted movies that my students were less likely to have seen, so Frozen, Tangled, and other recent movies were out. So, I trolled around the shelves, pulling off movies like Newsies, Fantasia 2000, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, Hercules, the Muppet Movie (1979), Sound of Music, and Schoolhouse Rock Earth. I printed off pictures of the movie covers, cut them into pieces, and then used them in the Scavenger Hunt last week. Each group chose what they wanted to watch - first and second choices.

Almost every group chose Hercules for their first choice, but the second choices varied...

Now, we are not going to simply watch movies, nosiree! We're also going to do word searches, songwriting substitutions, and coloring sheets. I've got some things to prepare this morning, that's for sure.

We're also going to spend some time talking about the themes of the movies that we selected. Hercules is an interesting story, but it has been Disneyfied for this movie. When you start to look for resources to help you make theme ideas, you can find all kinds of things. Use the Google Machine. I typed in "Themes present in Hercules Disney" and found wikipedia information, a Master's Thesis, and an entire packet of Hercules study stuff. So, we're going to have lots of things available to do while watching...

So, off to do a week of movie watching with some of my clients. Now, I just have to figure out what to do with the rest of them... 

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Synthesis Sunday: My Week In Review

I have a confession to make. I haven't done anything this week that could be considered "growth in music therapy." I've just been able to hang on and keep moving one step forward. There are weeks like that.

In the life of every person, there are up weeks and down weeks. This was definitely a down week for me. It started a week ago with deep thoughts and is ending today with more deep thoughts.

My thoughts have been varied this week - here are some of them...
  • It's not my job to "fix" you. Nor is it your job to "fix" me.
  • No one should ever have to do bus duty alone.
  • Why can't clients just get along?
  • I don't really get paid enough.
  • Meetings are often a waste of my time - let's be efficient, relevant, and productive in meetings.
  • Why do I get so tired on Wednesdays? Oh, right, the client-getting-along thing. And the meeting thing.
  • Why is it that I have paralyzing anxiety when I have to do simple medical tests that millions of other women do without an issue? Why?
  • What will the Supreme Court decisions of this week mean in history? I think those decisions will be regarded as turning points in our society and our country!
  • Should I open the Journal of Music Therapy that just arrived? Probably. Will I? Probably not.
  • Why do cats always get upset stomachs in the middle of the night?
  • Why don't I like Doctor Who? Why??
  • Being patient can be a drain on optimism.
  • Why are people scared of change?
  • Why do I insist on keeping so many books?
  • What should I eat for breakfast? Lunch? Dinner?
The last question here is the one that is foremost on my mind right now. Maybe I'll have some spaghetti. That sounds pretty good to me.

I didn't do much to forward my understanding of music as a therapeutic medium this week, but that's fine. Some weeks are better for this than others. Maybe I'll have something more important to synthesize next week. Maybe not. Summer is here, things are hot and humid here, and I tend to be lazy when the weather gets this way. Tell you what. I'll open my JMT this week to see what's going on in the world of research and see if there is anything that is relevant to what I do with my clients on a daily basis.

One step at a time.

Right now, the step is to finish the laundry...

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Historic Times, Indeed

Wow. This has been an amazing week when it comes to the Supreme Court. Whether you agree or disagree with the decisions that were made, this has been a week of history.

I have lived through many historic times, when I come to think about it. Some of them I don't really remember, but I was alive - the end of the Vietnam War, the resignation of Nixon, the Bicentennial in 1976, the Iranian Hostage Crisis, the start of the Space Shuttle program and many other NASA projects (my favorite historical events, by the way), the fall of the Berlin Wall, the tragedies of Challenger and Columbia, 9-11, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and countless other historical moments. I have a feeling that this week is one of the weeks that will be remembered for always as a turning point in the lives of many Americans.

How will the decisions made this week affect me? 

Not much. The ruling on Marriage doesn't affect me other than it will compel my father into many, MANY discussions with me about his opinions (which significantly differ from my own). The ruling on the Affordable Care Act doesn't have a direct effect on me at this point in my life, but it may affect the types of clients that I am able to treat in the future. My hope is that music therapy will become more accessible to people who would benefit, but I am not really sure how this particular decision will move us toward this goal. My attitude? The more people who can access health care means the more people who can access this wonderful treatment modality!

We will see what the future holds for us as individuals and as a profession.

Regardless of your way of thinking about these decisions, it must be recognized that this was a historic week. We are moving through history, present here in this time, and I think this will be a turning point for us as a society.

Go into history, fellow music therapists!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Favorite Things Friday: Music Therapy Webinars

I love running webinars. I enjoy sharing what I'm thinking about in the world of music therapy and finding out what others think as well. Lately, however, I've run out of ideas on what to share with others. I still keep talking to interns, though, and find that their ideas and enthusiasm for this profession rejuvenates my own ideas and enthusiasm.

It always amazes me when we start to talk to each other about ideas, techniques, and such. We are a creative people, us music therapists. Who else do you know who writes music about using the bathroom, how to engage in appropriate social interaction, and keeping our hands to ourselves in one 60 minute session? Maybe the folks at Sesame Workshop come close to the things we do, but maybe not.

Maybe it's time for a new webinar on songwriting, composition, or creative TMEs with familiar instruments...

I wonder where I'll be in a month. Maybe a July webinar is in order.

musictherapyworks.comI've been toying with an idea for a Music Therapy Creativity Camp for some time now. I'm thinking of a place where music therapists can gather (in front of their own computers) to explore and compose new ideas. Maybe we'll meet in July on a Saturday morning...

(I like it when my creative juices get flowing.)

Check out the website for more details on this creativity camp! See you then?

Thursday, June 25, 2015

I Need A Break

Well, yesterday was a comedy of errors. You know the type of day when everything is just a bit off? That was my yesterday.

It started with my blog post about the Wednesday group that I always dread. Writing about it was a bit cathartic - it allowed me to spend some time thinking through my various strategies. I toddled off to work with good expectations for the day.

I should have known that something was up when I pulled into the gas station. The prices at my gas station are less than the gas stations in the town I work, so I always try to fill up at home. The station is a little bit out of my way, but not so much that it doesn't make sense to get gasoline there. I pulled into the station and took note of the price - $2.66 per gallon (I know that there are some folks out there thinking that is expensive and many more who are thinking, "$2.66 a gallon? Where is that? That's a GREAT price!!"). I started the transaction. As I chose my gasoline, I noticed the price on the pump was $2.97. I double-checked the price on the sign, then looked at the pump again. I cancelled the transaction and then went to another pump. Same thing. I think I ruined the day of the person who was working there, but she needed to know that there was a difference (it's illegal to advertise one price and charge another). I left and went to another station about 20 miles away from my home. I paid a little bit more, but not 30 cents more a gallon!

I am doing bus duty solo this week. Bus duty is one of those "other duties as assigned" that happens when you don't have a classroom full of children at 8:00am. During the school year, we have 5 people who do bus duty. During summer school, we have 2 of us. My bus duty partner is currently on vacation, so, this week, there is me. 37 kids, 20 buses, 20 minutes, and me. To add to my stresses (real and imagined), my badge only works occasionally - I think it thinks that I've accessed the building too much and then wants to keep me out of the building for my own safety...or sanity...I'm not sure which! So, I am standing outside the building with four students (approximately half of whom, during this particular trip, did not want to go to school) calling on the walkie talkie for someone to open the door and let us in. (If I can wait 5 minutes, I can get back in by myself, but I cannot have my students waiting for 5 minutes while the technology catches up.) Of course, no one is actually listening to the walkie talkies, so I am standing there pounding on the door trying to keep kids calm, interested in walking into the building, and trying to stay positive through all of this.

Then came sessions. I can't even start to talk about that. I'm thinking that the building heat and humidity is creeping into our ways of relating to each other in not-so-good ways. Kids screamed, kids tried to break things, kids required assistance to be safe. It was exhausting.

I had to finish my therapy day sitting in a meeting. If you know anything about me, you should know that meetings are not my favorite things to do. Even the meetings I chair are not just "sit there and listen" type meetings. There are things to do, tasks, and treats! There were none of those things during this meeting.

I left right after the meeting. Nothing on the iPod fit my mood. I spent lots of time trying to find something to assist me in mood vectoring, but nothing was working for me. I got home, tried to cuddle the cat (she was having NONE of it), and then sat on the bed.

At that point, the bed frame came apart. Apparently there were a couple of screws loose, but still.

I lost it.

It's a good thing that crying can help relieve stress and can wash out hormones from the system, because I needed to have that meltdown. Once I was finished with my little tantrum, I was able to spend some time thinking about the day, the next couple of days, and to find my center again. (It was missing most of the day.)

I had a bad day yesterday. It happens.

I am hoping that the clients for this day will be easy to engage in music therapy, will be ready for whatever challenges we have, and will be patient with me as I continue to work for them and with them. Things will be fine.

Bad days. Without them, how would we know when we are having good days? 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

It's Wednesday Again

...and I awoke with my usual feelings of dread. It amazes me how one group of clients can pull me into a morass of doubt, frustration, and feelings of inadequacy. Last week, I went with the "divide and conquer" strategy. It worked for about 40 minutes before the first major explosion occurred. I am hoping for a repeat of 40 minutes of good things happening before some sort of conflict happens...

Each of these clients would be fine in individual services, but group is what they have available to them. None of them can actually relate to other people in ways that society expects. This translates into disastrous sessions when there is little therapy happening. I awake in the morning, fretting about what might happen (based on actual, real-life experiences), and waste valuable time in a semi-anxious state. I'm a mess really. All on Wednesdays.

I think several things need to change. First, my way of interacting and my expectations of these clients needs to change. For the moment, the primary concern is not going to be about deep changes with therapist. The primary concern will be building stable relationships in the music therapy environment. We are starting with no more than 3 peers in our small groups.

Unfortunately, all of the clients have to be in the same music therapy space, but I do try to keep them apart via proximity and attention focus on staff members. I flit from place to place, keeping any type of appropriate activity going. I also am stepping in as primary behavior manager. I want them to see me as the rule-enforcer and then view their classroom staff members as allies (working on good relationships with those that have to be around them most of the time).

Today, we are going to play a game. We're going to play Down By the Banks with frogs. In this version, no one ever gets "out." The people who have the frog when I sing "kerplop" will do something - make a decision. Probably the tempo decision... As soon as I start to see some discontent going on in the group, I am going to move into instrument play and relaxation - the soundtrack to Inside Out is pretty good for emotional awareness work. We will focus on our coping skills - breathing, ignoring, taking care of ourselves instead of telling others what to do...

We'll see how it works.

It's an interesting life, this music therapy world I live in... 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

TME Tuesday - Emotion Instrument Improvisation

It's Tuesday again!

Happy Tuesday! I may have posted this before, but here it is again. Working on emotion recognition of self and others...

Emotion Instrument Improvisation TME
Purpose: To increase emotional awareness through interpretation of facial/body expression; to express emotion in non-verbal setting; social awareness; fine motor skill development (grasp, hand-eye coordination); discussion of emotional states

Source: Original TME based on “Play how you feel” TME concept. © 2015 by Mary Jane Landaker, MME, MT-BC.

Materials: Orff instruments (at least one for every two group members); Large and small pictures of people with different emotional expressions; OPTIONAL: guitar or accompanying instrument to provide musical support

Environment: Orff instruments assembled (may want to use pentatonic scale for improvisation purposes); group members in area able to see large pictures

Song/Chant/Words: None

Procedure: R = Reinforcement opportunities; C = Redirection/Cue opportunities; A = Assessment
1.      C=offer instrument to each group member. Allow for free play/instrument exploration while instruments are being passed to each group member.
2.      A= assess whether group members are playing independently or need assistance.
3.      R= offer reinforcement for group members who are playing.
4.      R= redirect or model desired behavior for group members who are not playing.
5.      C= offer cut/stop cue to group. (Five countdown)
6.      A= assess whether group members stop with the cue.
7.      R= reinforce group members who stop.
8.      R= redirect group members who do not stop.
9.      C= explain that composers often try to express an emotion when they write songs.
10.  C= show group members one large emotion picture.
11.  R= reinforce group members who identify the emotion displayed.
12.  C= ask group members to play the way they think the music should sound to match that emotion.
13.  C = reassure group members that there is no way to do the task wrong. All contributions are correct and right.
14.  A= assess group members for playing when cued, playing in a manner that represents the emotion, and for watching stop cues.
15.  R= reinforce all attempts to play.
16.  C= ask group members to describe the music that they played.
17.  A= assess whether group members are able to describe emotional aspects along with musical aspects.
18.  R = reinforce all attempts to answer (there is no wrong way to complete the task!)
19.  Repeat steps 10-18 until group members demonstrate awareness of the concept.
20.  C= choose a leader to pick a small card, hide it from view of all of the other group members, and then play that emotion on the instrument without speaking or telegraphing the emotion on their faces or in their bodies.
21.  A= assess which group members volunteer.
22.  R= reinforce all volunteers
23.  R= reassure group members who express hesitation that there is no wrong way to play.
24.  C= ask group members to listen to leader.
25.  A= assess who can direct attention to leader’s solo.
26.  R= reinforce active listeners
27.  R= redirect group members who are challenged by attention to single stimulus.
28.  C= ask group members to guess the emotion.
29.  A= assess whether group members engage in discussion
30.  R= reinforce all contributions to the conversation (emotion interpretation is subjective)
31.  Repeat steps 20-30 until all group members have been the leader, group members show s/s of disengagement, and/or the session time concludes.

Therapeutic Function of Music: Music is the medium in which emotion is portrayed. As such, the music provides the framework for expression. All elements of music can and will be changed to accommodate the ideas of the group members. As all contributions to the musical environment are valid expressions of emotion, any and all music making can occur.


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.

·         Limit the number of emotions presented
·         Ask group members who are non-verbal to choose a picture to match the music.
·         Show group members facial expressions on therapist’s face and then the face of group members.

  • Discuss the concept in terms of movie soundtracks. The music of the movie contributes to how we interpret the information presented.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Here We Are Again, Monday.

I followed my typical Monday morning sleep routine this morning. I awoke early and spent lots of time thinking about what I want to do this week - I'm already stressing about my Wednesday group - and what I have to do this week. I'm trying to figure out what's going on out there in music therapy world and how it applies to me. I'm also juggling medical mysteries and some new appointments and the preparation that goes along with all of these new appointments. In order to counteract my sudden plunges into anxiety, I am trying to focus on other things.

This weekend, I bought some music from iTunes. I found the soundtrack for Inside Out (which, if you haven't already, make plans to see) and for Lava. These tracks are being synced to the iPod right now. I am planning on listening to the music during the day today. I don't know when, but at some time today.

I am going to try to counteract the Monday Blues with some good music, and some good thought patterns.

Today is brand new. There are opportunities out there for me and for everyone to be good, to do good, and to help others be good. The day is breaking (it will be horribly hot and humid), and my air conditioners are all working! The cat is being cuddly, and I'm watching bad television on the Roku box. Life is pretty good.

Go see Inside Out. Really.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Synthesis Sunday: It Is Not My Job to Fix You

My brain and entire being has been struggling to make sense of the situations that happen here all of the time - not just the event of this week, but all of the events that have been controversial, damaging, hateful, and polarizing in my life.

On September 12, 2001, I sat in a classroom with a bunch of graduate students. We were all in shock. It was the day after 9-11, and we were distracted, mourning, and scared. The class was made up of international students - I was in the minority being a born-citizen of the US - and we took turns presenting information on special topics with curriculum and instruction. The man who was scheduled to present on September 12th was someone who was from a country in the Middle East, I believe it was Saudi Arabia, and he maintained his religious requirements for dress and observances.

I will never forget his speech.

He opted not to discuss his topic of the evening, and started to talk about the events of the past day. It was all that anyone was talking about, so it was fine as a topic of interest for us all. The talk, however, quickly offended me. Here's why.

The first part of the discussion was a monologue about how all Americans treated people of his religion in a specific manner, especially the Christians. He painted a picture of "all Americans" as racist, against people who believed in any thing other than Jesus, and against all of his people. He accused us of stereotyping everyone and told us to stop doing it. I sat in shock. He was stereotyping me as one of "those people" and doing the exact same thing that he was telling me NOT to do. 

(For the record, I am not someone who feels that people who believe things differently than I do are wrong. I feel that each person has to find their own way in life, spirituality, and friendships. I constantly strive to advocate for those who choose paths that are different from my own. My way has never been the "right" way. This is an on-going journey that gets very complicated when complex societal situations arise, but I continue to strive.)

This tends to happen quite often. We move into stereotypes because we have some experience with people, cultural expectations, and situations. It's easier to lump everyone into one fell swoop than it is to take the time to get to know each person individually. So, instead of asking someone why they moved across the street when we walked towards them, we settle them into a convenient box entitled "Scared of me because of my..." We don't take the time to find out that they moved across the street because they needed to go that direction. They looked at us, but didn't really think about our "whatever it is that we are self-conscious about" at all. They just noticed that there was no traffic on the street and wanted to move closer to their destination.

One of my struggles with discussions about race, gender, sexuality, spirituality, neurodiversity, age, etc. is that we often fall into arguments that lead to pointing fingers at the other group as needing to change their behavior without acknowledgement that our behavior also has to change.

It is not my job to "fix" someone. 

Strange to see that sentiment coming from a music therapist who attempts to assist clients towards change in their lives, isn't it? I will say it again.

It is not my job to "fix" someone.

What does this mean to me? A client comes to me with a specific goal or objective. I can help the client move towards those goals and objectives, but I cannot do this unless that client wants to do so. If you have ever tried to work with a client who was not willing to work with you, you have realized this reality. You must have cooperation from the other party in order to assist them in growing.

It is NEVER my job to make people into my views of their ideal selves.

I cannot force a person into believing as I believe. I can talk to them. I can engage in discussion and debate, but I cannot subjugate their will into my own. We revile people who have done that throughout history. When you apply force to a situation, you are no longer a therapist. You are a bully.

In these times of racial unrest, I find it difficult to balance out my beliefs and experiences with those of others. I know what discrimination is like. I've experienced it from those who have looked at my surface and made assumptions about how I would respond to various situations. I think they have often been surprised once they actually learned more about me. 

I am continuing to struggle with these thoughts and this topic, but I promise, dear readers, that it will not show up in the blog again - unless I get a breakthrough.

To sum up.

As a therapist, I am aware of the different ways we treat each other. I see it every day, in every situation, and in every interaction that I have with others. I know that I can only control what I do. I know that I am as guilty of stereotyping the behaviors of others as everyone else, but I also know that many of the behavior choices I make are not interpreted as they are intended. I cannot go into a relationship with the expectation that I will change others into my way of thinking, relating, or feeling.

I can try to talk to others, but I cannot make myself responsible for changing their minds. That is their job.


There is nothing wrong with what you think, feel, believe, relate. Be you, and be strong in your beliefs; but know that the other side of being authentic is that it is important to allow others to be their authentic selves as well.

Debate with me. Discuss with me. Disagree with me as much as you want. Let's agree to disagree and let our lives be the richer for experiencing each other.

Rant over?? I think so.