Sunday, January 31, 2016

Supplemental Sunday: The Perks and Perils of Pinterest

I didn't make anything this weekend. It's a busy time of year around my house, so creativity has to be placed to the side, but I am still thinking about things to make for my clinic space to enhance the music therapy treatment of my clients. So, when I have a few minutes to think, I go to Pinterest and browse.

There are definitely good things about Pinterest, but there are many bad things as well. For me, looking at Pinterest gives me a place to get some inspiration, but it is also a time waster. It is amazing how long you can spend looking at pictures without actually accomplishing anything. I see lots of ideas, but I don't actually finish them - I just look.

I have a change in theme this week. We are no longer studying solids, penguins, months, and snowmen. Now we are studying new things, so there need to be some new visuals. One of the topics is liquids. That's an interesting thing to try to write music therapy experiences about, let me tell you. Another topic is fasteners. I can't remember the other two topics, but some of my TME ideas come easily. Others do not. I have two weeks per topic, so there are lots of opportunities to brainstorm TMEs and then make things to match.

I have some things already prepared for this month of February. One of the things I got in my last packet from Music Therapy Mailings was a set of foam hearts. I have the visuals for Valentine's Day ready to go, I just need to figure out how I want to use them with my clients. I also want to make some more so I can use them in several different ways with my large groups.

I tend to be most creative when I just let my mind wander, so here goes...

Here come the ideas - (some are Pinterest inspired, others are my own):

  • Love song lyric matches - cut the hearts in half. Place part of a song lyric on one half and the rest on another. Clients have to find the matches and sing them. If they make sense, then the match is correct. If the song lyrics don't make sense, find the correct match.
  • Button, Button, Who's Got the Button? - This is a game that my grandmother taught me and a bunch of my students, once upon a time. Everyone sits in a circle and you pass a small button around the room. Everyone acts like they are the ones with the button. There is a person in the middle of the circle who has to guess who has the button. I have a simple song that we sing as we pass the button. Even my students with limited awareness of games are able to play this one.
  • I Just Called To Say I Love You - This is a song that I used with my clients many years ago, and I think it could come back. My clients probably don't know it as well as the ones from forever ago, but it's a pretty easy song. We could do a song and word replacement TME where they choose someone to think about and to sing to. We could change the lyrics as needed or just sing as written. I could make an old-fashioned telephone picture with numbers, so the clients who need the practice could punch out telephone numbers while we sing the song...
  • 867-5309 - Another song with a telephone. We could work on number recognition for this one. Poor Jenny - it really was her phone number.
  • President's Day is coming up. I have songs about Presidents that I will bring out and dust off. I also have a bunch of good Presidential visual aids (die-cuts of busts and portraits and coins) that I can bring out for various games and TMEs.
Whoo whoo! February plans are almost finished! Now, what types of supplementals/visuals do I need to make to flesh out these TMEs for my clients? I'm thinking some posters for the Presidents, a telephone or two, and some more things with the foam hearts that I have already - make some more so every person in my groups can have one - and then I am ready!

Time to go back to Pinterest (I have an hour for some time wasting that I can devote to nothing) for more ideas for things I can make...

Happy Sunday, everyone!

Saturday, January 30, 2016

My Continuing Struggles with iThings

I am notoriously bad with devices made by the Apple company. I know that when I write about things like this, there are devout Apple-ites out there who stop reading what I write for a while, but I just can't seem to figure out how to make iThings work and keep them working. There is something about my chemistry, or my brainwaves, or my logic that just gets in the way of all things Apple.

Just to get this out of the way, please know that I am not AGAINST iThings, but I can't use them. I've tried and tried, but I just can't seem to figure them out. Case in point? I am currently having difficulty with my iTunes and iPod connections.

Somehow, over the holiday break I just had, I managed to delete about 20,000 songs off my iPod. I'm not sure how it happened, but it happened. All of those songs just disappeared.

It started off innocently enough. I needed some space on my hard drives and found that there were two copies of music in my system - one on my external drive (where I wanted it) and one on my internal drive (not a place where I wanted my music stored). I tried to eliminate the one on the internal drive and probably ended up deleting every thing. I was successful at getting more space on my computer, but there didn't seem to be a copy function that communicated with iTunes. I could see the files sitting on the external drive, but the iPod couldn't find them. I made sure that I had changed all of the settings within iTunes, but...

Right now, I am cherry-picking through my CDs and copying the files onto my new external hard drive (lots more space for music!!) and am slowly transferring music from CD form into iTunes and the iPod. I am cherry-picking the CDs because the iPod is a major tool for my clientele. They want their music options. So, I am ripping things like my Now! That's What I Call Music series and the Disney music and my compilation CDs.

My struggle with iTunes, the iPod, and other iThings continues. I will strive to figure out this thing that I have when it comes to all things Apple, but I am thinking that after several decades, it probably is out of my reach and comprehension - and that is okay!

The process of going through my CD collection has been interesting. I can remember where I got most of the CDs, and I can often remember who I bought the CD for. Many times, I made purchases to get access to one song for one client who loved that one song, but most of the time, I bought music for me. I was able to find great CD deals, so my CD collection grew and grew. I have music from all over the world and all over the musical genre world as well. I have music for every mood and for most topics! I have theme songs for some of the people in my life. Curious George theme, anyone?? I know popular songs, but I really love obscure ones. My music collection is something that I am proud of and that I use daily!

If I could only find where it was stored on my computer system...


Friday, January 29, 2016

I Forgot to Be Thoughtful! Oh Dear...

I was driving home, heading to physical therapy and the actualization of imagined pain, when I remembered that it was Thursday, and I was writing a series of think pieces on Thursdays. I forgot to be thoughtful yesterday and didn't realize it until Thursday was almost over!! So, I am going to be thoughtful today!

This week's quote from my quote box was from Dale Carnegie. Dale Carnegie was an advocate for change in how we relate to others. One of his foci was workplace relationships, others were just plain old people-to-people relationships. He wrote How To Make Friends and Influence People in 1936, and there are tons of courses, books, articles that you can read if you are interested in learning more about Mr. Carnegie.

I've lived with this quote facing my computer for the past week. I have just one criticism about how the quote is displayed. I think that the change in sentences should be highlighted more than it is, but that's just a visual preference that I have for my own visuals. TANGENT! 

It is amazing how attitudes can change when you are enthusiastic about what you are doing. It is amazing how attitudes can change when you reach down and find some enthusiasm for your tasks and chores. It is amazing how others respond and react to you when you show some enthusiasm and interest in them and what they bring to the world.

Today I have several chores that I have to do that are not really easily filled with enthusiasm, but I have the ability to mix up my schedule today, so I can do a bit of chore and a bit of fun. I have the professional responsibility of clinical documentation (I didn't do last week's Thursday's notes, so I am BEHIND), but I have the fun of reorganizing the reward store for my students! I have the responsibility of cleaning my instruments after this last week's use, but I have the fun of making a catalog for said store! My enthusiasm for the "fun" things will make the "chores" not only tolerable but easier to complete.

Enthusiasm is something that can't really be faked. It is something that you can lose and then find again, but faking it makes it apparent that you really don't want to do the targeted task. 

Don't be a faker. Find your enthusiasm and use it.

Right now, I am enthusiastic about my physical therapy (even though my PT hurts me all the time, over and over again) because I know I am getting stronger and closer to full function. I am enthusiastic about several of my projects. I am enthusiastic about my clients. I am enthusiastic about my family. I am enthusiastic about music therapists and how to support them in their areas (intern webinars start next week! I am ready!!).

There are many things in my life that I am not enthusiastic about, and I am working on changing those things - finding my enthusiasm for different situations again.

Often, little things can spur that enthusiasm. One of the maintenance guys at my facility came into the music therapy room and completed a task that I requested in November 2014... hanging the clock over the door. My room is finally coming together. Our new project? An intercom so that I can hear when tornado drills are announced - pesky little safety expectations - and hanging stereo speakers on a completely curved wall. Then, I will feel that the room is finished. That clock, finally hung on Wednesday, sparked a bit of happiness in me.

What sparks your enthusiasm?

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Running In Circles

There are times when you just have to keep going and going. This is the time of year when I have many different things going on in many different places, and all are doable, they are just all happening right now. So, I go from thought to thought, task to task, and eventually get everything finished.

I have learned to compartmentalize my thoughts and my time. I think this habit used to drive my interns crazy because I had to take time to finish out one train of thought before switching to another. This seemed to be most frustrating for them in the early mornings. That's when I do my clinical documentation and that's when I can think about what my clients did the day before in treatment. My interns would come in during that time and want to chat. I just couldn't do that. It would distract me from what I needed to do and make my documentation time twice as long. I learned how to let my interns know how I needed to work and that I would be able to address them and chat, but it would have to wait until my documentation was finished. They helped me by allowing me to have that compartment of time and thought.

My way of working works for me. I am not stating that everyone should work like me, but it is extremely important to find the way that works for you and TO STICK WITH IT! My 30 minutes on each task/topic/thought pattern helps me accomplish as much as I can during my day. It also allows me to be stimulated and not get sucked into the boredom void.

Today's tasks include OCMT registrations, four music therapy sessions, documentation, (shudder) physical therapy, more OCMT registrations, project for a friend, getting ready for intern webinars (that start next week), arranging 2 evening church services, and looking over a website project for one of my other jobs. In the middle of all of this, I have a student store to arrange (I'm making a catalog for our non-verbal kids to use), IEP goals to look over, and a cat to cuddle.

Circles, circles, circles. I'm off and running today! See you on one of my circles around!!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Wednesday Woes

Do you ever hear a phrase and think, "that would be a good band name?" No? Okay, moving on...

I am woeful today because my body hurts. This is a physical therapist-induced type of hurt, and I know it is good for me, but it really stinks to be in the middle of it all. I am using my balm and my hot/cold patches, but it still hurts. I have to take this hurting body into music therapy sessions and still manage to be therapeutic for the clients who are waiting. This is where self-care becomes oh so important for the well-being of the clients we serve.

I cannot take time away from my job. It is not possible at this time to indulge my selfish whims for a long hot soak in the tub followed by heat and ice packs all through the day. So, I am going to figure out another way to care for myself at the same time I am doing my job. 

Step One: a hearty breakfast of potato, bacon, and cheese chowder! (Have I ever mentioned that I do NOT like eating breakfast food for breakfast? Never have, never will!) 

Step Two: taking pain medications when they are needed today. Extra-strength Tylenol to the rescue! 

Step Three: keep moving. I've got to keep the muscles going so they don't relax into a solid mass of stiffness. 

Step Four: focus on the client. Things fade away when you are outwardly focused rather than inwardly focused.

Step Five: make music. This has been a week of good improvisations that are gone into the ether. I will be making music today. It will be a good day.

The woes I am bringing into this Wednesday are lightening already. Thinking about self-care can bring self-care into focus and actuality. I have a plan!!

Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

TME Tuesday: Take a Song to TME - The Steps I Take

Here it is, Tuesday again, and I am thinking about therapeutic music experiences (TMEs) to share with you. I have some ideas about things I could share, but I think I will veer off into my "teaching" mode and share the process that I take when I am trying to develop a song into a TME.

**Just for the record - therapeutic music experiences or TMEs are what I call what I do in music therapy sessions with my clients - others call them applications, interventions, or other things - I call them TMEs. That's a personal choice, but it is good to define your terms as you are using them so that others may know what you are talking about. TME. There you go.**

Does this happen to you?

You are driving down the road, listening to the radio, and a song comes on. You start to engage with the song on a nonverbal level first, responding to the rhythm, the melody, the chord structure, and then you start hearing the words. All of a sudden, the music spurs a thought about a particular client! The song goes from something on the radio to a potential TME!! Hooray! Who doesn't love new ideas??

How do you move the song from something on the radio into a music therapy session?

Here's how I do it...

(I think visually, so charts like this help me to organize the processes that I take as a music therapist. If you don't think visually, this may be a bit overwhelming for you. Shoot me an email or make a comment below, and I can send this in prose rather than pictures.)

As I am looking over this graphic, I realize that I have missed something EXTREMELY important that always is part of my consideration about what music I use with my clients - the MUSICAL CHARACTERISTICS THEMSELVES!! I usually have this information another graphic, but it does need to be included here as well...I've never noticed until now. I'll change this graphic to include those elements as they are part of why we use the music we use with the people we use it with...

In case you've missed it, here's the song chart that I use to parse out different musical elements...

There you go. My process for developing TMEs in several graphic presentations. How do you go about composing or building experiences for your clients? Please let me know below in the comments!!

Time for me to search for some pictures to spark some improvisation later this afternoon - happy TME creation!!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Why Don't People Sing Anymore?

One of my increasingly many part-time jobs is that of church music director. I love the congregation I work for, and I am very appreciative of the pastor that I work for as well. I've been an employee of the church for many years and have watched things change and change and change. One of the things that I've noticed is that not many people sing in church anymore. The most amazing thing for me is that people I have been told sing solos in school and in bands stand there with their mouths firmly shut during hymns. It makes me wonder why.

Now, I am a singer. Except for some time in preschool when I didn't sing in front of strange people (I cried instead), I have been a singer all of my life. I have loved singing in groups, singing solos, singing when no one was around to hear. When I am in a congregation of people singing hymns, I choose a line and sing it in my own octave (except when people start to turn around - then I go back to the Soprano part). I love the opportunity to sing out loud with other people - I don't get a chance to just sing too often, so I take advantage.

I look out over my congregation and find that the stars of the high school musicals just stand there with their mouths firmly shut. I don't know why. One of the moms of a former high schooler told me that her almost-graduated college student is interested in music therapy as a career. I was amazed because she NEVER sings in church! I have difficulty imagining her as a music therapist since I haven't ever seen her actually sing.

We, as a society, don't seem to be musickers any more. I hear stories of sitting around the television and singing along with Mitch. My family used to watch Lawrence Welk and Sonny and Cher and Donnie and Marie. The original Muppet Show was full of music and singing and silly things. My family would sing every time we got into a car. My brother, sister, and I spent lots of time around our record player, learning how to part sing with the Muppets. We all sang in church choirs and made music in school bands. My entire family were musickers and sang often.

What I don't know is whether my upbringing was unusual or whether we have had a societal change away from making our own music. Do we now have a music-saturated culture that keeps people from making their own music? Is the attitude out there something along the lines of "Why should we sing when we can just put on a pair of headphones and let a professional do it?" Or is the attitude more like, "I could NEVER sing as well as ____, so I'm not even going to try?" Or is the attitude outside of my own music and music therapy experiences more like, "I was told once never to sing, so I don't?"

You know, 20 years ago, we would look at people a bit askance who were singing on the streets when they approached us. Now, you just assume that there is an earbud in that person's ear and don't even think about it. If you are me, you appreciate the self-assurance that the person has to be singing where others can hear. The way we access and use music has changed dramatically in the past 20 years. We now have the ability to get music from anyplace at anytime from the ether. This has changed how we relate to music.

When music is available easily, do we feel that we don't have to make our own? Do we feel that the music presented professionally is better than our own? Do we feel that there is less value in making music now that we can get any and all types of music at any and all times? Do we feel that we need to "leave the musicking to the professionals" rather than experience it for ourselves?

Is this why we, as music therapists, have such difficulty with the idea of iPod programs? We know about the beneficial physiological, psychological, emotional, and behavioral effects of music on human bodies. We know that there are different responses when the music in the environment is recorded or live. We know that there may be some responses when a pair of headphones is placed on someone's head, but that there are more responses available than just what is noticed during iPod times. 

But, on the other hand, is this why the idea of iPod programs is so popular? It is a way to bring music into lives without the expectation or rigors of making music. It is a way to support music experiences and may have been started by people who don't feel comfortable making their own music (just my own musings and NOT AT ALL supported - just an opinion and a thought being expressed here...).

If we compartmentalize our musicking into "places where I can sing" and "places where I can't/won't sing," I think we lose something as a group of music makers and as a society. When we compartmentalize our singing and making music, we limit its presence, its purpose, and its power. When my congregants sing only in school and not in church, they are compartmentalizing their music. They are making a judgement that their music should only be shared in one environment with one group of people at one time. It's a shame that they seem to think that music is something for one place and not for another.

One of my favorite songs is Sing. Enjoy this link and "don't worry if it's not good enough for anyone else to hear. Just sing, sing a song."

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Supplemental Sunday: Frogs and Something Simple

This week had a frog-focus for my upper elementary and middle school clients. I don't know why, but I wanted to do some frog-themed things with them. They are the right age for playing and doing some absurd things, so it just seemed to fit well with these clients rather than the others that I see on a weekly basis.

We played a game.

This is a silly little game that really helps me determine whether or not my client is able to remember (skill 1) and complete (skill 2) multi-step directives. In addition, there is some number recognition work (skill 3), symbol recognition development (skill 4), fine motor practice (skill 5), proprioceptive opportunities (skill 6), visual attention (skill 7), social interaction (skill 8), and cooperation with others (skill 9). There are other skills that occur during this silly little game as well. It's amazing how much you can address in one silly little game.

Full disclosure here - this silly little game did not have to be frog-themed, but I have some really cute frog visuals that I made several years ago, so this game became "The Frog Hop Game." It's origins were from one of the student who played the game this week. He was going through a frog-focus at the time and would do anything and everything if there was a frog involved. He's not that way any more, but he still played the game.

Isn't he cute??
The game was set up in this way. I have large frogs and small frogs. They are identical frogs from a school-supply company. I bought a big frog notepad and a small frog notepad and promptly came home and made visuals. I laminated them immediately (that's how much I liked them!!)!! I drew dice numbers on the stomachs of all of the frogs. On the large frogs, I wrote "Play 6 times," under the number. On the small frogs, there was a number on the front and a picture of a rhythm instrument was on the back. There were two teams. One person from each team got two dice - one red, one green. They tossed the dice and then picked up the small frog indicated by the green die. They then flipped over the small frog, found the instrument indicated on the back, and then took the instrument to the frog indicated by the red die. They then played the instrument the number of times indicated on the frog. At the end, they turned in their instrument and passed both dice to the next person on their team.

Nothing to do with frogs, right? I simply used the frog visuals because they were convenient, visually appealing, and fun. I could use any visual aid for this particular skill set, but for me, frogs were easiest!

My clients appeared to enjoy the challenges and spent quite a bit of time playing the game. They reminded each other what to do and then supported each other through counting (this was not prompted by me but a very cool development!).

Something simple became something enjoyed with little to no effort on my side of things. I gleaned lots of information about my new clients (and my long-time clients as well), and they seemed to have a good time figuring out how to complete the tasks. To finish this TME off, I think I will add a time element where they have to complete all of the tasks in one verse of a song... hmmm.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

The To-Do List Just Grows and Grows

'Tis the season for MJ to start getting stressed out. It is Online Conference for Music Therapy season. If you haven't heard about this Conference (affectionately known as OCMT), you aren't alone, but I'm going to tell you a bit about this conference.

This is the first, completely online, international conference for music therapy. We've been running these opportunities for 5 years now, and each year gets better and better. 

Now, in the interest of full disclosure...
I am a founding member of this conference, and I am the treasurer and Continuing Education Director, so take what I say with a grain of salt. I like this conference because I get to know and hear about music therapy from around the world. I don't like the insane 24 hours of behind the scenes work and stress that comes from being one of the people who runs this conference, but there are downsides to every conference. This one just happens to be electronic in nature...

In the next (shudder) 13 days, my life will be increasingly taken over by OCMT tasks, thoughts, and stressors. There's going to be lots and lots of emails, registration forms, CMTE questions and jobs to do. There are deadlines that I will have to be firm on (difficult to do, but necessary). There will be jobs to do at certain times. There will be glitches. There will be audio issues. All of these things are part of being in the electronic world.

The thing that I will remember about this conference is the same thing that I remember after each one of these conferences. 

The stress, work, and hassle of doing this is more than worth it.
This conference is a great thing!
I am proud to be part of bringing this conference to music therapists from around the world.

At the end of the conference, when I collapse into my bed, I always feel like we've done something good. That's what matters.

I hope you are able to attend our conference. It would be wonderful to see you there.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Giving Myself the Gift of Being Late

I am going to be late today (well, not really late, as I will be arriving to work at the time I am supposed to arrive at work, but it will be later than I usually arrive at work). I am going to refrain from leaving my home at 6am to arrive at work at about 6:50am. I am going to leave my house at 6:30 - not a minute earlier. I have to get gas this morning, so I probably won't be leaving my town until after 6:30am. Oooh, the thrill!

I am not a late person. I am a very early person. I made my entrance into this world three weeks after I was expected (much to my mother's dismay!), and my family accuses me of trying to catch up from that very first, very late appointment. Unfortunately, my family members are also early people, so we are often the very first people to arrive for any type of event.

This gift of being late is something that simultaneously is a good thing and something that may make me stressed out. When I can plan it, being later than usual is something that feels like self-care. When I can't plan it, I get stressed out about being late and that increases my tension. Today, it is going to be a gift of self-care.

It is amazing how self-care can be something as simple as leaving 30 minutes later than you usually do. Self-care does not need to be elaborate like a cruise. Self-care is as simple as finding something that makes you happy and that you can enjoy. This kind of goes back to the post from yesterday - happiness doesn't come when it is manufactured. Happiness happens, but you have to notice.

I am going to spend my extra 30 minutes at home watching a television show that I enjoy (Parks and Recreation), eating something I enjoy (cheesy mashed potatoes), and taking some time to revel in this day. It is truly a gift.

Then, I will put on my new, heavy coat, my hat, and my gloves and venture out into the winter morning to go to work, all the better for my extra 30 minutes.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Thoughtful Thursday: Lots to Think About

You may have noticed that I missed a day blogging. (In all actuality, you probably didn't notice, but I like to think that someone out there reads this blog daily!! Hi, Janice!) Yesterday was spent at work after staying at work because we had a significant icing of all roads, and I have bad tires right now that don't really grip the road the way they should. So, I spent the night at work, sleeping on the music therapy room floor in my sleeping bags and on my carpet squares. It was a pretty comfortable experience, and I am glad that I stayed since the reports of what was going on outside were pretty scary (lots of people's cars sliding into ditches, others shooting off the shoulders, and still others ramming into those others). I've adopted a "stay put" type of attitude when it comes to snow and ice.


This has been the quotation that I have glanced at over the past couple of weeks. I've not paid much attention to this sentiment over said couple of weeks, but as I think about it more intentionally for this post, I think I agree with this. Happiness is not something that you can manufacture. If you set out with a goal of makings others happy, you may fail. Happiness is more mindful than that, and each of us makes our own happiness.

Have you ever thought, "if I could/would just do/get _____, I would be completely happy," done exactly those things, and then found out that you really weren't as happy as you thought you would be? I have. I've thought about changing my place geographically (though, on winter days, I do think I could be much happier in Southern California than here), changing my job, changing my friend base, changing my hair style, changing the food I am eating, you name it - the list goes on and on and on. Then I change something and find that my happiness perception doesn't change with the new circumstance. I think this comes from an idea that things and situations outside of myself are more important to my happiness than the things that live within myself.

Many magical music therapy moments go unnoticed by me when I am wrapped up in making happiness changes in my own life. When I slow down and spend time simply being in those moments, I can see happiness in things that I don't often perceive. The smirk that a student gives when they think they've stumped me. The teenage girl who blushes after she receives a compliment on how she sings. The small child who sings his first words ever and then gets startled by how everyone else responds. These are things that are happiness for me. Not the new car or the new job or the stuff that I continue to buy, but the smiles, the blushes, the singing. By paying attention, I find my happiness.

There are times when paying attention to others is a struggle. I am a social introvert - I enjoy being around people and seek out opportunities to do so, but still need time away from people to relax and recharge. When I do not take the time I need to recharge, I start to miss those magical music therapy moments and my happiness level with my job starts to decrease. When I do take time to refresh away from others, I go into my job responsibilities with more attention to what is happening with the others around me.

So, part of these moments of happiness is intentional thought. The other part is self-care.

There you go.

Happy Thursday, friends!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

TME Tuesday: The Snow Is Coming

Our first Winter Weather Advisory is due to start in about 4.5 hours. We're supposed to get 2 inches of snow covered by a nice coating of ice in about 12 hours. I do not like snow, but ice is worse for me.

Anyway, in honor of our blizzard-type weather coming on its way to our locale - here is a TME idea. Do you know those rain storms that we therapists (and others) do with clients? You know, the ones where you use rain instruments like rain sticks and shakers, and then thunder tubes and ocean drums to make it sound like rain? How about making a blizzard instead?

For me and mine, the blizzard idea means changing some of the instruments. I tend to go with the metallic rhythm instruments to get a more frosty sound. Other than that, the TME pretty much stays the same. I tend to use a script so my clients know what's going on in our story, but a script is not necessary with clients who can image on their own.

I tried to do this last week with my clients, but many of them were just interested in playing the instruments - not doing something purposeful. If tomorrow is a snow day, we will do blizzards in the music therapy room. If not, who knows!

P.S. if you want more information about the therapeutic purposes of this TME, please consider purchasing sing about winter - it includes this TME as well as many other winter-themed TMEs and resources.

Monday, January 18, 2016

More on Arts Based Research

I actually opened the latest edition of the Journal of Music Therapy (if you haven't read the post titled, "My Shameful Secret," catch up on my secret), and I've read most of it now. I haven't found much that really affects my day-to-day interactions with my clients, but I am thinking about self-care and personal processing in a different way.

I have always used arts and crafts to relax and unwind, but I haven't really used either in my processing of music therapy situations. I am learning a bit about how to look at my artistic expressions through a processor's eye.

For me, though, I think I want to keep most of my processes as self-care rather than as processing. I enjoy making things with my hands and do not want to make some things with an eye on viewing them within a clinical context. So, I am in search of another way to create that will allow me to express my feelings about my job without making my relaxation things work-related.

What can I do?

I always draw inside out mandalas, but I think I may try contained mandalas for my processing. Have you ever seen these? You start with a circle and then start to draw. You typically (so I've been told) start with an idea or concept that you are struggling with or that you are rejoicing about and then make something that reflects your feelings. You then verbally describe what you were thinking about when you were drawing. You also keep those as evidence of what was going on in your life in the moment. People who are practiced in the use of mandalas can see trends in the art of individuals. Maybe my art therapist friend will help me during our (just lately) infrequent peer supervision sessions to see trends in what I express.

There are many different ways to express oneself, and I hope that you find what is right for you. I'm going to try my own thing and see what happens. 

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Supplemental Sunday: Transferring From Paper to Laminate

I love making things for my clients to use during music therapy. Over the years, I have made file folder activities, sentence strips, lyric sheets, schedules, large things, small things, good things, and bad things as well. Over the years, I have developed a system to test my visuals with my clients.

First step - make the visual aids. DO NOT LAMINATE!
Second step - try with clients. Don't fret if the visual aids get destroyed - it's important to see how clients like the concept and the execution of the concept.
Last step - if clients seemed to find the visual aids helpful to the TME, then make a new version and LAMINATE! If they didn't, write the idea down for the files and then don't keep the originals. If you find clients who will be able to use the visuals later on, then you can make them and laminate them now.

Lamination is my way of indicating that an idea is an effective one. Since I pay for my own laminating materials, I tend to get somewhat picky about what I am going to laminate. I just see dollar signs when I reach for the laminate.

Having said all of this, I had an idea last week that I tried out this week that I will be laminating. Do you remember last week's Supplemental Sunday post? There was a picture of a white circle on a black background. I added carrot noses to each of the visuals that I put together before presenting them to clients. I made face pieces (eyes, mouths, and tears) and put them on the background with poster putty so we could move those pieces around. My clients seemed to love it. There was lots of giggling and interaction during the TME about emotions and making the snowman look like the emotion. It's time to laminate this!!

I also finished the color folders that I've been talking about for quite a long time. There is a music-themed follow the lines deal where you start at different places around the picture, trace the line with the color indicated, and then there is an abstracty-type picture with an eighth note in the center. There is a color recognition game board - like Candy Land. Then, there are two matching folders - matching colored crayons and color-labeled crayons to colored envelopes and color words to envelopes.

I now have to find my TMEs to go along with all of these folders. I do have lots of color songs, but nothing specifically for these visuals. I can adapt and extend things I already know, but I want some more to supplement my library. I foresee lots of improvisation in my near future. That's the most fun anyway, so I'll improvise with my clients and see what happens. That's the best part of all! IMPROVISATION!!

Happy Sunday!!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Working on My Goals

I've done exactly one of my four monthly things so far this month. I went to a free paper crafting class. Now, the reason that I signed up for this was to meet some new people who have similar interests to mine. The issue with this? I was the only one who signed up for the class.

This is a typical thing for me. If I plan a party, it snows too much for anyone to travel. If I sign up for an event, no one else signs up. If I am in charge of a surprise, the guest of honor goes into labor, has a car accident, or something else happens.

So, that didn't go as planned, but that will not thwart me from my plans to do something out of my house every month. It will also not thwart (I like that word - thwart, thwart, thwart) my quest to complete the other three goals that I identified. I still need to make a contact, complete a home improvement, and give away a box or a bag of stuff this month.

I am still a bit hampered by post-surgery restrictions, but I hope that those are lifted a bit at my next appointment (on Monday). I want to be able to pick up more than 5 pounds. My guitar is 6 pounds, so I've been learning the ukulele a bit faster than I originally planned, but that's fine. It's stretching my brain. I need that at this point. I feel like my brain is atrophying along with my poor leg muscles.

My first plan for home improvement? Some wooden bookshelves. I take boards and then make them into bookshelf units. These will have to hold boxes of instruments, so they will have to be more like 2X10s and not the little ones that I make for my paperbacks, but I can see them in my mind, and they are good. I just need to be able to carry these boards and board pieces from the car to home and then manipulate them into position. I can do it!! If I'm not cleared to carry things on Monday, then I think I will re-do my bathroom to use my new R2-D2 towels!

(Did I mention that I had an R2-D2 kind of Christmas??)

In the midst of these goals, I am spending time reading things, thinking about things, and trying to figure out new challenges for myself. There will be some more thoughts and more challenges, I am sure, but that's okay.

I'm still working on my goals... and here is a picture of the paper craft I made last week...

It's an accordion-fold Valentine's Day card. I now know how to make these.

Happy Saturday!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Thoughtful Thursday: Writing As My Therapy

Yesterday, I revealed my shameful secret that I didn't really enjoy or even try to read much music therapy research. Now, there is a talk radio show, run by Janice Lindstrom and Meganne Masko, that does talk about the research being done in our field, so I am not the only one who is seeking this research to practice link. That's reassuring as it seems, at times, that I am solitary in my opinions about this profession. Here is proof I am not alone. (By the way, here is the link to the most recent Journal Club podcast. Check it out!)

I went back to work and during my planning time, I delved my way back into the most recent edition of the Journal of Music Therapy (JMT, 52(4)). This is the special focus edition. I read through the thoughts of Carolyn Kenny and Simon Gilbertson (who I have kind of "met" through the Online Conference for Music Therapy - coming soon!!). I am starting to understand what is meant by Arts Based Research and am finding that, while it doesn't have much to do with my clinical hands-on work with my clients, it is certainly more applicable to my life as a therapist.

Shall I expand on this?

One of the things that I feel is essential in the life of a therapist is self-reflection and personal processing. Some of us do this with another person - this is called supervision. Some of us do this in other ways. Some of us go back and forth depending on what our situation is and how we are reacting and responding to the world at the time.

What this edition of the JMT is demonstrating to me is that processing situations and happenings within music therapy (and other life circumstances) can be done in many different ways. It may not be the easiest thing for some of us to put our experiences into words until we have first channeled those experiences into art. There is something so unique about the process of music and therapy that may elude us when we try to put it into words. By placing the experience into another medium (or even keeping it in the music medium), we may be able to translate what we are emoting into other forms of communication. We may not, but the expression of those experiences help us to figure out what went on in the session and in the event.

For me, my primary way of processing music therapy is through this blog. As you know (if you have read some of my other posts), some of what I write is intended for others (TME Tuesdays, Supplemental Sundays, and the like), but other posts are just for me. That's why I don't have a theme for every day. I like being able to process things that are happening in my life in this format. It helps me keep track of trends and my responses to things.

Find your way to ponder what it is we do as therapists. If that is painting or doodling or writing songs or meditating or singing karaoke or taking trips, then just do it.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

My Shameful Secret, and How I am Fixing It

Yesterday, I did something I haven't done in a really long time (alert - this is the shameful secret that I don't admit often). I opened the most recent Journal of Music Therapy. Can you believe it? I actually opened it up, but that's not all. I actually started to read it!! I don't read much research and feel that most of it doesn't really do anything for me as a clinician. That's such a center of shame for me as I usually put the unopened journals on the journal shelf without even looking to see what is in them. (Shame!)

Now, before I opened this edition, I had a plan in place. I was going to work on a project that I've been thinking about for a long time, trying to translate the research being done into my clinical practice. This is something that I don't think we do well for our clinical folks - making the research something that is very relevant to each of us who live in the day-to-day trenches of music therapy treatment. There should be a link between these two things - research and practice - but I don't often feel it.

The other side of this is practice to research. Of all of the music therapy researchers out there, the person who I feel personifies this the best is Dr. Michael Thaut. I think that he was able to take a research question and find out the reasons why things were happening in a clinical situation through his research (and ability to use machines to see inside the body and the brain that most of us do not have access to). He then was able to take the information that he found in his research and see how it worked within a clinical setting with clients. Full circle research to practice, practice to research. I wish more of us could do that.

So, the plan was to sit down, find something that had some relevance to my clients and clinical practice, and start my processing procedure. I had a movie going on the computer for background noise. I had a big glass of water. I was in the comfortable chair at work, and I started to open up the journal.


Surprise! The entire journal edition is on Arts Based Research.

Momentarily stymied, I sat and looked at the Table of Contents.

"Well, this isn't going to work," I thought in some confusion, "It won't really be a 'research to my practice' type of thing." Then I started reading.

My process for reading research is to write notes, identify words that I need to look up, and to write down questions that I think of while I am reading. I use composition books, post-it-notes, and different handwriting styles while I am processing what's being said in the articles. At the end of the article, I look over the questions that I have, look up as many of the words as possible, and ponder what I've written. (Just in case you are wondering, pondering looks like staring into space.)

So, I started reading the JMT. It was interesting. I found some things that I could transfer into my own professional development. There hasn't been much yet about using arts based research or specific techniques to use with my clients, but those revelations may come.

It is my goal to finish reading the JMT by January 22nd. I have already learned lots about arts based research, but still don't really feel that it has much to do about my day-to-day existence. I will see if there is anything I can glean from this edition of the JMT for my own processing techniques. Off to read the second article.

I have opened the JMT. Next step? Go and open the other unopened journals on my journal shelf.