Showing posts from October, 2016

Step One - Organizing Thoughts into Pictures

I've started my graphic organizer for the concept of how I think about shaping music to each client. It's a bit more difficult that I thought it would be since I can't seem to pin down what I am trying to convey, but it's a start.

This is my way of showing that any song can be used for therapeutic intervention with any client. I just cannot figure out how to show that quite yet. It's coming, but slowly.

I'll be hashing out this concept for some time on Sundays - trying to pin down exactly what I want to say about this idea. It's my process. I fiddle with things and thoughts until they solidify into something concrete. Right now, nothing is solid. It's all liquid.

What I have right now is the three things that I think are the most important about music therapy - client state of being, client preferences for music, and client goals and objectives. Then comes the music. That's where I start to get fuzzy, but I will focus as I keep going on.

Just A Song Sunday: Shaping the Music to the Client

If you've read some of the posts in this series, you know how I feel about requests for things like "rap songs for my client." (If I start to explain, this will devolve into a rant, so I'm not going to do that right now.) Instead of ranting, I am going to speak about something else - shaping music to fit the client.

Yes, I do use songs in my music therapy sessions. I am not someone who only improvises music. I use recordings, I use the songs of others, and I do improvise. I try to make the music presented fit the needs of the clients sitting in front of me. 

I do not believe that there is any one song that will fix or elicit specific responses from every client. But, I do believe that music can elicit specific responses from every client when that music is shaped around the client, preferences, goals, and situations.

I am still trying to figure out how to explain this concept to others. I think I can get there eventually, but it's not quite concise in my mind yet. R…

My Favorite Moment This Week

My session plans this week included some Halloween-themed therapeutic music experiences (TMEs). I wanted groups to make recordings of silly Halloween stories, but quickly found that I had overestimated the interest of my clients in this particular idea. I had to change my plans on the fly, so I did.

Even in the midst of changing my mind about what we were going to do in our session, there were some music therapy moments that just made things worthwhile.

So, I had all of my novelty instruments ready for the sound effect idea that I had, so I altered my own idea into that of instrument exploration and singing Halloween Carols. The novelty instruments are those that are unique - people clackers, plastic instruments, thunder tubes, noisemakers, and other soundmakers - things that don't come out of the cabinet too often. I don't often use those instruments as part of my therapeutic interventions - I keep them novel.

We chose instruments from the box whenever we wanted to do so. We pla…


At the beginning of this month, I was driving home and happened to look up to see a gorgeous rainbow in the sky. It was a full rainbow, stretching from one side of the horizon to the other. The colors on the right side were the most vibrant colors I have ever seen. I had to stop by the side of the road to take pictures and keep this rainbow in my mind through the visual reminders.

There are some who say that taking pictures keeps us from actually engaging in the moments going on around us, but that's not how I experience the world. I take pictures so I can capture a memory.

Now, I didn't just take pictures, I also just sat and stared at the beauty that was before me. I spent some of my time (which is something I don't do easily - spending extra time doing something mindful) just observing the rainbow and thinking about all of the people who were driving around me who may not have seen the bow in front of them. I took my time, reveled in the sight in front of me, and then sta…

Thoughtful Thursday: The Benefits and Drawbacks of Technology in the Music Therapy Session

I had to be gone for a day due to continuing technological issues that I have been having. I hate it when things just simply stop working, ESPECIALLY when the thing that stops working is less than 3 months old and contains everything that I need for upcoming presentations (one in less than 14 hours) and all of my ways to connect with the outside world. Needless to say, I spent most of the last 24 hours trying to figure out what I was going to do without technology.

My answer?

Take the useless computer back to where I bought it, get a new computer while sending out the other one to see if it can be fixed, and then spend some time setting up this new computer. I have the ability to bring back the new one if the old(er) one can be fixed. If it can't be saved, then the computer company owes me my money back (gotta love warranties).

The best thing about yesterday was when the Geek Squad guy couldn't get it to work either! There is a bit of justification when the malfunction happens in…

16 Days...Well, For Me, 14 Days

It's about that time again. I am getting ready for the American Music Therapy Association's national conference. This is something that I do every year at about this time. The fancy clothes laundry is done and waiting to be put in the garment bag. A couple of the presentations are fleshed out, but not all of them. I have my driving directions and my budget all worked out. I am ready for the experience as well.

I enjoy going to conference every year and spend lots of time looking forward to the experience.

This is my first year in quite a while where I don't have to go to meetings. I get to go to presentations and see what others are thinking and doing in music therapy. I am taking 2 CMTE courses (one on Ethics and Spirituality to cover my Ethics requirement) and have to attend the business meeting on Friday (which I usually dash in and out of every year). I have four presentations to be part of (two of my own and two for OCMT) on Friday and Saturday. Once I finish my two pre…

Research-Informed Clinician: The Last Post in the Series

I am getting my presentations ready for the American Music Therapy Association's national conference next month. I was accepted to present about my process of becoming a more research-informed clinician, and I am pulling together the information that I want to share about the process that works for me. As I've been putting the PowerPoint presentation together, I have been evaluating my process and progress towards becoming more research-informed.

I also received an edition of Music Therapy Perspectives on Saturday, so it prompted these thoughts.

During the presentation itself, I will lead attendees through my process. It was selected as part of the Music Therapy Research 2025 initiative, so I guess that I'll talk a bit about the importance of research to clinicians while in the middle of trying to figure it out for myself. I still struggle with the use of research to inform my clinical decisions, but I am getting better at discussing this topic. That's progress, right?


Just a Song Sunday: It Starts with a Random Song

This morning, I put my iPod on shuffle and took the first song that popped up. (By the way, it happened to be I Like to Move It as performed by Reel to Reel - this is going to be too easy!) I was thinking that I would take any song and demonstrate how I could make it meet client goals and present levels of performance.

For me, this process always starts with the clients. Let's say I am working with a group of older adults who are in post-stroke rehabilitation treatment. Everyone in the group has upper extremity range of motion goals. This song comes on, and I have to make it something that encourages progress on my clients' goals.

(By the way, this song is almost too easy for this group. I'll do another, more difficult group in just a bit.)

There are a couple of things that complicate the use of this song with this group. First of all, it is out of most of the music preferences of the group. It will probably not be extremely familiar to all of my clients, but the song has bee…

Feeling Rough

Every so often, I have to work a 12-hour day in my role as a school-based music therapist. I dread those days with a passion, primarily because I spend most of the day sitting in my small, dark music therapy room with occasional breaks for (shudder) team-building exercises, and then I end up sicker than a dog afterwards.

I've been able to avoid most of our 12-hour days this year because administration scheduled them on Wednesdays - I have another job on Wednesday evenings, so I get to work flex time rather than going through the rigor of 12-hour days. We've finished three of our five 12-hour days in the first three months of school - only two more to go.

This last day, the one where I did most of the 12-hours (but not all - I left after 11 hours because I felt sick and had already worked overtime that week), left me exhausted. I slept in until 7:30 yesterday morning and 7:00 this morning. My allergies are morphing into something else - at this point, I can't tell if it is co…

Alive Inside - I Finally Saw It

For several years now, there's been lots of talk about a program called Music and Memory. This program was developed by a Social Worker named Dan Cohen, and encourages folks to provide music to older persons with a variety of diagnoses. This program was showcased in a film called, Alive Inside, and has introduced the concept of music as enrichment to millions of people.

I'm coming to watching this film a bit later than everyone else. Yesterday afternoon, I decided to see if I could find the film on YouTube so I could watch it during my long day at work. I found the film, subtitled in Portuguese (which I REALLY want to learn), and watched it from front to back.

I cried.

The film really spoke to me as a music therapist who has seen, first hand, the types of reactions and responses that were shown in the film. I was happy to see that others were seeing these reactions and were trying to do something about it. I mourned the fact that the filmmakers did not contrast the iPod program a…

Thoughtful Thursday: There Are No Words

I don't usually engage too much in political rants, discussions, or (shudder) debates. I tend to make up my mind very quickly, and then I go through the process of what we call democracy in a private manner. Please forgive me for this rant about what we've been through the last 2.5 years.

I am tired of politics.

I am tired of how everyone seems to say one thing but really mean something else. I am tired of how nothing seems to get done because candidates seem to forget that our government is a three-way partnership, not an oligarchy or a dictatorship. As a single individual, I could make all sorts of promises about what I would do when given part of the power, but I still have to figure out how to convince everyone else to support and approve my plan. We seem to forget that fact during political campaigns.

I am tired of people who claim to be or who claim to want to be MY "representative in (fill-in-the-blank) congress, house, white house, etc." I don't recall any o…

Website Wednesday: Incredibox

I am having lots of fun with this new series - I hope that you are having a bit of fun discovering these (maybe new to you, maybe not) sites.

Today's website is AKA Incredibox!

If you've never played with this program, get ready for some giggles, especially if you are a fan of acappella music! 

What I like is that I can record, save, and create with my students using only my computer, email, and website access - I don't have to download ANYTHING! In my facility, apps are not supported without tons of paperwork and rigamarole, so anything easily accessed is terrific!

Anyway, head over to this link, and play a while. You won't regret it. It's tons of fun!!

Happy Wednesday!

Diving Into a New Focus

I am going to be spending some time this week researching a new client population. I have an important conversation about music therapy in a different form later this week, and I need to refresh my ideas about music as a therapeutic medium for people other than those I work with primarily. This is exciting and somewhat daunting as well.

When I am tasked with these types of discussions and "performances," I find my path through the information in my textbooks and my journals.

Fortunately, I believe that music therapy is not something that dictates only one way. What do I mean by that? Ooh. It is difficult to explain, but important to explain as well. 

Here's what I think I mean.

A music therapist who is centered in how elements of music can affect human physiology, psychology, and behavior can adapt the tool (music) to accommodate differences in each client. Sure, there are specific protocols that have been developed and researched, but a sophisticated music therapist should …

Someone Just Asked...

Over on social media, someone just asked about whether there were other music therapists who just didn't use music for their own relaxation/self-care routines. I admit that I am one of those music therapists.

After making music, putting myself into the music all day long, I can't seem to use it for relaxation outside of the job, and I realize that IT'S OKAY! 

I used to feel guilty that my relationship with music had changed. No more. Now I realize that my relationship with music is what it is and does not have any inherent value. It just is.

What do I do to relax? I draw. I craft. I write. I read anything and everything. I occasionally pick up my ukulele or my keyboard to compose something for work. I watch copious amounts of television - mainly mysteries or conspiracy shows. I cook a bit. I spend time online, looking at all types of websites for all types of purposes. In addition, I spend lots of time thinking about music therapy as a treatment modality for others.

Today is a…

Just A Song Sunday: The Elements of Music for Music Therapists

I admit that if you are a long-term reader of this blog, you will have seen this chart before (and you will see it again, if you continue to read!). This is how I think about music as a therapeutic medium. Just this way. In a mind map and flow chart as presented here...


The information that I present here is the result of many conversations with a former classmate of mine, Deanna Hanson Abromeit. She has written more about this topic (but I haven't read her book yet - I should probably pick up a copy about this topic to see which direction she went with our discussions), and it has become the basis of what I do in my clinical work. 

If you are interested in how I parse a song using this chart, look at the posts entitled Song Synthesis Sunday for variations of this chart.

Let me explain how I use this little idea...

Over the years, I have read many requests for "a song" to use with a particular client. I've never really been sure what these therapists meant when …

Creative Check-In

Last week, I was sitting in my home, looking for something that I wanted to do. I had grocery shopped and was cooking something, the dishes were washing and I had an itch to create something. My brain was trying to create, but didn't have any type of direction.

I went on Pinterest (not always the best idea) to see if I could find inspiration and direction. I'm not exactly sure how this came about, but I decided on some lyric word art.

One of the things that most people don't know about me is that I love graphic arts. If I hadn't found music therapy as my passion at such a young age, I may have gone into typography or graphic design as a career. I love making words and lettering into art intended just for me. I've forgotten how much I love writing and drawing.

So, I decided on lyric word art as my project.

Then I faced my second dilemma.
What lyrics?The problem with being a music therapist is that I don't have just one favorite song, I have many, MANY favorite songs.…

Almost There - Two Mini-Breaks

A book that I love, Bridget Jones' Diary, introduced me to a lovely term - "mini-break." I love that term - and all it implies. I get to have two mini-breaks this next week along with only two days of group sessions. Of course, I also have to work extra hours and spend time sitting in my room while others do conferences, but that's okay. I can do that to get two three-day weekends.

What is so compelling about a mini-break?

It's a brief change from what usually happens and tends to be something different from the norm. In the book, Bridget gets whisked away to a hotel for a romantic getaway. My mini-breaks are not so exotic or exciting. Mine are simply days to luxuriate in relaxation away from the stressors of work. They are still very important to me.

My Monday break will include a Doctor's appointment and avoiding an inservice. My Friday break has nothing as a priority at this time. I anticipate some cooking, some cleaning, some movie watching, and some naps du…

Thoughtful Thursday: Making Up My Mind

"Strength is a matter of a made up mind." ~ John Beecher
I went searching for something to think about this morning as I was flailing about, trying to come up with something to write about today, and found this quotation.

I am exhausted and going into a day of difficult sessions. I have terrible allergies right now and just want to stay in bed and cuddle with the cat all morning. If I can stick it out, tomorrow is an individual-only day (no group treatment), and I get Monday off to go to the doctor and to have some "me" time. Then, I have three and a half days and another 3-day weekend. At this point, right now, I am dreading going to work and giving myself a headache thinking about it.

It's time to make up my mind.

Strength is an attitude as well as a trait. I am not physically as strong as I would like, but I try very hard to be strong in attitude. Sometimes, I am strong. Other times, I am not.

My strength is foreknowledge and years of experience. I know that one …

Website Wednesday: Kelly Riley's Online Classroom

Do you ever go out onto Google to explore the music therapy world? I do. I search for music therapy blogs, websites, and tools on a regular basis. I like to see what others are doing out there in the cyberspace world. That's one of the reasons that I'm doing this Wednesday series - linking us all to different things out there.

Today's website is one that I've played with for many, MANY years. Kelly Riley's Online Classroom is a great source for music education and enrichment games. I've enjoyed playing many of these games over the years - especially the Incredibox games.

Split into elementary education grade levels, these games can be a good review for musicians (such as myself - Whack-a-Note is fun for note recognition), or can encourage creative responses from the players. I also like the Isle of Tune for simple cause and effect work.

If you have some extra time, check out this website, especially if you work with school-aged clients. While the site itself is no…

Am I Trying Too Hard?

I feel like a failure. Right now, some of my clients are refusing to go to music therapy with me. A couple of others do everything they can do to get out of treatment. There are many more who appear to be motivated by music therapy and who want to be in treatment with me, but the ones that don't are the ones that haunt me.

I've thought about this for many, MANY weeks now.

Fortunately, I have some validation from others who feel the same way about their treatment areas. There are others who are struggling with many of the same clients in treatment situations.

What does this tell me?

I am only responsible for my own contributions. I cannot force anyone to engage in therapy - that would not be therapy. I can only keep trying to engage folks and changing that engagement as I can.

Even so, I still carry around feelings of failure.

I want to reach everyone. I want to be able to interact with all of the people that come my way. I want to (and I shudder to even write this right here, right …

The Continuing Saga of MJ and the iPod

The iPod Classic that I had purchased for my program keeps giving me fits. This has happened many times, so I should be able to predict that it will not work the way I want/need it to work, but I keep thinking it will be okay.

It isn't - it really isn't.

I went to the updated, fully synced iPod on Thursday to listen to music with a client and found that things hadn't synced the way they were supposed to. I had spent an entire week updating and then resynching the iPod to find that it hadn't actually synched all of my music - just bits and pieces of it. So, I redid the synch this weekend - all weekend long.

I am sure that there are some readers who are thinking, right now, "Why don't you just stream the music you need?" Well. My music therapy room is not covered by our wi-fi system, and I don't want to access my personal music files through my cloud system at work using their access points. That's just a whole other can of worms...

Anyway, I've bee…

Just A Song Sunday: I Think I've Found My Focus!

A week ago, I was writing about wanting to figure out what I wanted to do with this new blog topic. At this time, I think I know what I want to do with this series of posts. Here goes - 

I think I will take these posts to talk about my ideas about the elements of music and how we shape them to take any song and make it a therapeutic music experience (TME).

So, what I'm thinking is this - I'm thinking about combining my old Song Synthesis Sunday ideas with my new focus on the elements and bringing that together into a discussion about how we use music as our help our make things happen.

In the next several weeks, I'm going to write about each of the elements listed here - the ones with the gray bands on the left side of the boxes.

Stay tuned for more information - starting next week!

Happy Sunday.

Starting the Stress Cycle of Conference Time

I have four conference presentations to prepare for the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) national conference next month. Two of them are almost finished, but two of them (the ones that I'm doing on my own) are not even started.

I do have the descriptions of what I want to talk about and the learner objectives already planned, but now I have to take what I wrote in my proposal and actually make it work as a reality.

Don't get me wrong. I love this process, but I usually have things a bit more planned by now. That's the part that is stressing me out today. So, I am going to take some time to organize and arrange my thoughts on my two topics and get things started.

I just went over to my LinkedIn account and found avideo from YouTube explaining how to plan your presentations. What serendipity! Now I am going to watch this short blurb and then start to arrange my thoughts.

My process is simple - I outline. I outline, I rearrange, and I polish. Right now I have to start wi…

Deep Thinking on This Friday Morning

Is it really Friday? I definitely hope so, but I'm really not sure. There haven't been many typical things happening this week, so I have lost track of time and my routine. I think it is Friday...

Anyway, I have spent some time lately thinking about thinking.

I spend lots of time thinking about my version of music therapy in my corner of the world with my clients. This view of music therapy is very narrow - informed by my experiences and philosophy. It is my way of doing music therapy. This local view of music therapy is something, but it is not all that music therapy should be.

I firmly believe that my way of doing music therapy is not the only way or even the best way for others - it is simply the best way for me to do music therapy right now and right here.

I used to have the task of thinking of music therapy in a more global manner. It was challenging to break out of my own opinions, but it was also very enriching. I haven't thought in that way for quite a time now.

I think…

Thoughtful Thursday - Stretching the Boundaries

This week, I'm trying some new things that I've never done before with the intent of stretching myself past my usual comfort zone and into the great unknown.

Not that this week hasn't been chock full of challenging situations, disappointments, and frustrations. It has, but it has also been full of good moments and mindful minutes. I was lucky enough to see a full rainbow on my drive home on Tuesday.

I had to stop on the side of the road and take a series of pictures. It was one of the most beautiful rainbows I have ever seen - you could see all of the colors stretching across the sky in brilliant glory. This picture does not do it justice, but it prompts the memory of that moment in an almost visceral manner.

I sat on the side of the road for a bit just watching the rainbow grow and shrink as the light source changed. I did something that is very difficult for me - I just sat.

I am trying to fit in more times like this one - more moments in my day to just sit without thinking …

Website Wednesday - Music Therapy Kids

I am going to start featuring a website every Wednesday morning. (Just so you know, I don't get anything at all for talking about these different websites. They are just things I've found and liked.) Here is today's featured site...

Music Therapy KidsI often go on random Google searches to see what other people are saying out there in the music therapy world. These searches often lead me to the same old websites, but I occasionally find new ideas and new websites to read. I found music therapy kids this way - through a simple search. 

I like this site (and just realized we use the same font - I wonder if that's why I had such an attraction to the site to begin with!!), and I like what I can find there. There are products, suggestions, and tips for both the music therapist and for the parents and caregivers of persons with diagnoses of autism spectrum disorder. 

Go check it out!

See you next Wednesday?

Looking Forward To...

The weather is changing here in my corner of the world. We are in the between stage of autumn, and the temperatures, precipitation patterns, and local views are starting to show all of us that we are heading towards winter. Leaves haven't really started to change yet, but they are getting ready.

Autumn is a great season, and I enjoy this time of year more than any other.

This season, I am looking forward to presenting at AMTA, working with the Online Conference for Music Therapy, taking some time to enjoy the time itself, and creating new things for music therapists to use in their places in the world. sing aboutfriends and family is my newest project - I'm getting ideas pulled together to launch that edition in December. (If you are interested in the other editions, available now, click this link.)

This is going to be short since I have to work a 44 hour week and have things to do tonight, so I need to get going to work to start my longer day.

What are you looking forward to? I a…

Tools of the Trade - MJ vs. iThings (the Continuing Saga)

I'm having some difficulty with my iPod. Again.

It is currently re-syncing everything that was on it before because it all of a sudden just stopped working. Things went missing and stuff just left. I've found out that this has happened to others as well, so now I'm not feeling like iThings have a personal vendetta against me, but still...

I have become accustomed to the convenience of having my music library at my fingertips. It's nice to have a small device that stores ALL of my music during music therapy sessions. I can arrange playlists during the middle of the session and have them for all the subsequent sessions. It is a great device.

...when it works.

I've always had better luck with Windows stuff, but there aren't any Windows-compatible devices with the storage that I want for my library.

For music therapists, the convenience of portable music files is wonderful. No more CD books full of music to lug around. No more cassette tape devices and tapes to fast for…

Just a Song Sunday - Introduction

I've been spending quite a bit of time thinking about what I want in a blog. Specifically, I've been thinking about what I want to write about in this blog, and my thoughts have been skittering around quite a bit. I used my method for brainstorming (using my bullet journal) and came up with the idea that I still like doing some things with topics, so Just a Song Sunday evolved.

One of the things that irks me is when a fellow music therapist makes a big deal about getting a song to sing to a client. "What song should I sing for a client aged 14 with such and such a diagnosis?" For me, that kind of statement makes me think that the therapist in question feels that a song is a prescription. When you find the magical song, everything that the client is working on will miraculously be accomplished.

I'm sure that that type of magical thinking isn't really happening, but that is what it seems.

I do not believe that the song is what matters, but that it is how music is …

Happy Saturday! It's a New Month AND a New Bullet Journal!

It is a new month. October is here and I am ready for it!!

I've been doing a bit of experimentation with organization lately, using a very simple bullet journal to keep track of things that I need to do. To start with, I used a small book that my mom or sister gave to me that I used for therapeutic music experience ideas at the beginning, but that was the perfect size for me to use to get started. That book is almost full, and I was in a bit of a dilemma about what format to use next when this small journal arrived as part of my mailing from Music Therapy Mailings. I love getting my envelope every month - which reminds me, I need to up my subscription. I missed a mailing this month...

This small book arrived just about the time I was starting to look around for something to use as my next bullet journal. I think Tracy reads my mind sometimes - it's spooky!

When I started to use this format for organizing my time and events, I made the fatal error of looking for information on Pin…