Saturday, April 30, 2016

4 Textbooks Music Therapists Need to Own

This is an opinionated blog post. Be warned now. I am writing from my very own, very biased opinions about what types of texts you, fellow music therapist, should have on your reference book shelf. Feel free to add, subtract, or argue with my statements here. I'd love to hear what you think about this post...

I am a music therapist with almost 24 years of professional experience. I have been working with a variety of populations for many years, but most of my music therapy life has been spent working with children and adolescents with developmental disabilities and concurrent psychiatric concerns. I have been a teacher, a clinical supervisor, and an internship director, so I think I have a pretty good idea about the types of textbooks that are important for music therapists to have at their fingertips. Here's my list of the textbooks that I think we all need to own...

  1. A Good Music Theory Book - A time ago, I asked interns what advice they would offer to music therapy students. Every single one said "DON'T SELL YOUR THEORY BOOK BACK!" They went on to say that their music theory book was the one thing that they regretted giving away. I agree. Having that theory book within arm's reach gives you a foundation when you are trying to figure out chord progressions or are composing music for specific uses. I'm not saying that you need to keep the exact textbook that you used as a music therapy student, but find a theory book that really helps you understand the basic bones of your medium.
  2. An Introduction to Music Therapy Book - These basic textbooks are excellent tools for advocacy and mentoring others about what music therapy is and can be. I've lent my copies of these texts to several people who were interested in learning more about music therapy. I've also used mine over and over again when making fact sheets and/or information packets for people who are interested in music therapy. I'm partial to An introduction to music therapy theory and practice by Davis, Gfeller, and Thaut, but The new music therapist's handbook by Susanne Hanser is also good for an overview of this complex profession.
  3. At Least One Advanced Clinical Theory Book - This text will vary based on the type of music therapy that you use during your treatment sessions. Mine include texts from Darrow, Cassity and Cassity, Thaut, and Goodman. (Let me know if you want a bibliography of my reference shelf - I'll share!)
  4. A Clinical How-To Text - My favorite "How-To" music therapy book is Music therapy: A fieldwork primer by Ronald M. Borczon. This text speaks to how-to run music therapy sessions and covers lots of situations that occur. I do not agree with every single statement that Mr. Borczon makes, but I feel that the text itself presents a great way to format my sessions and how I act within them. I also like Treatment planning for music therapy cases by Anita Gadberry, but I am a bit biased towards that text since I contributed to it! I found that the rest of the text (not just my contribution!!) was also good for helping me focus my session planning, treatment delivery, and evaluation techniques.
  5. Miscellaneous - When I started thinking about this post, I thought things like "Everyone needs a chord dictionary." Then I remembered that people don't carry chord dictionaries around with them anymore - they just use the internet. I figure it's the same with a music dictionary or music encyclopedia - no one really needs the actual books anymore - just get online. I still love having my book copies, but they aren't really practical when I am moving around the world trying to do therapy. The tablet is so much more convenient for looking up anything and everything.
  6. Treasures - I have a textbook that I treasure. It is a first edition copy of Music in Therapy edited by E. Thayer Gaston. The book was being thrown out at my facility shortly after I arrived. I saved it and still keep that text to refer to every so often. William Sears's chapter to that book is one of my textual foundations and provides me with many reasons why I do what I do within this world of music therapy. Keep something on your shelf that reminds you why you go through this process of being a music therapist day after day, month after month, and year after year. It will be different for us all, but that is why music therapy is such a wonderfully diverse profession. Find your treasure.
Are there others that you think we need to keep handy? What types of textbooks do we need to have available at any and all times?

Thanks for reading!

Friday, April 29, 2016

Tardy. Not Good For Me.

Yesterday, I awoke at 5:50am - two hours later than I usually awaken. Needless to say, I started the day in panic mode and had to get going in a rush to get to work when I wanted to get to work. I am usually leaving for work at 5:50 am, not just waking up. I made it to work when I wanted to get there and was able to go through the rest of the day without feeling that panic that usually sticks around me when I am late for something...anything...

For me, tardiness is an unforgivable curse in myself. I am not as insisting about it in others as I am in myself. I cannot abide being late. That one guest that shows up at the time on the invitation when you are still getting ready for the party? Yep. That's me. I have learned over the years that it is better for the hostess if I stay in the car and wait until I can see another guest than to ring the doorbell at 6:59 by myself.

Isn't it interesting how some ideas and expectations are difficult to tolerate in yourself? I can't abide being tardy for something, but I have no problem with dirty dishes sitting in my sink. I am a stickler for organization in my music therapy clinical space and not so much at my house (though my mother grudgingly admits that there is an organizational structure to how my stuff gets piled up around me). I am someone who will pile things into the car and carry them around for weeks and weeks but who will not manage to get to the grocery store until all I have left in my cupboard is a can of sardines and some chocolate chips. (Yes, I like the occasional sardine. Don't judge me - they are fishy, oily goodness!)

I do what I can to minimize the effects of tardiness in my life. I give myself permission to leave early for important appointments. I take a book with me everywhere so I have something to do while I am waiting for my appointment. I do not stress about being early - and I leave in enough time to make sure I don't have panic moments about being late. 

Today I am going to leave later than usual on purpose. There will be some moments when I have some twinges of panic about not getting to work really early, but there is nothing to do that requires my early presence today. I'm caught up on my documentation, the school store won't be available until after 9am, and I don't have much to do that is work-related other than session planning for next week and most of that is finished as well. So, that means an additional 30 minutes at home this morning.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Starting to Run

I am in a strange place in my rehabilitation process. If you don't know by now, (welcome, reader!) I had a complete tear of my left Anterior Cruciate Ligament last July. It was in a work-related incident where a client became very destructive towards my $1200 keyboard. I got pushed, I twisted, and the knee just popped. I had surgery to replace the ACL in December, and I started physical therapy in January. I've been in PT almost every week since that time. (I had to skip one week when my PT was completely booked - not my fault and the only "break" I've had since my injury.) I am currently feeling both accomplished and depressed about my injury as well as my recovery.

I think I've hit the "But I Should Be Completely Better By Now" wall in my recovery process.

I can recognize how far I've progressed in my recovery. After all, I can now bend my knee almost as much as I can bend the other knee. I walk without support (except at work where I still have to wear my brace). I can walk without a limp when I concentrate. My clients are noticing that my gait is becoming more smooth (nice change of pace, that! My kids noticing my gait rather than me noticing theirs...).

My PT seems to know that I am going through this period of time in my recovery (it probably is something that all of us go through at about 20 weeks post-surgery). He told me that I have really progressed well. I am pressing 250 pounds with my left leg right now. I am jumping, and last week started running!! I still can't do some of the moves that I need to be able to do in order to be recertified in the physical behavior management system that we use to ensure client safety, but I am allowed to try them. Couldn't do that three weeks ago. I started kneeling on Monday (in my brace, but still - hooray - I need to be able to do that for behavior management and CPR). I am able to do so much more than I have been able to do since surgery, but I am starting to be impatient.

How does this relate to my role as therapist?

The thing that is making this entire process a bit more palatable is the conversation that my PT initiated on my progress. He recognized something in me and my attitude towards doing things around the gym and was able to pull out the therapeutic relationship part of being any therapist and took the time to talk to me about my progress. That is such an important part of being a therapist - reflecting on the process and reminding our clients (who may be frustrated or unaware) of the progress that they have made towards their goals, as well as setting clear goals for when the process is over. (That is something that is missing from my therapy - I don't know when it will be over. I'm not sure what I need to demonstrate in order to be considered "rehabilitated." I know what I want to do, but I'm not sure the workers compensation folks will agree with my exit criterion. Hmmm.)

Every therapist has to realize that there has to be an end to the therapeutic process. Sometimes clients cannot or do not want to end therapy, but it needs to happen at some point. We, as therapists, have to realize that our job has to come to an end. That is the point of therapy - getting clients to a place where they no longer need us in order to do what they need to do.

This is something that is difficult for me to do based on the life circumstances of my clients. They do not often stay for set periods of time. They are often discharged from my treatment (and the program) based on things like availability of homes or insurance money or legislative decisions. These changes often occur at a moment's notice without any type of time for termination of the therapeutic relationship. I have to let many of my clients go into a world where music therapy is not possible. 

On the other hand, I get to provide music therapy for each and every client that walks into our facility - there is no requirement for "qualifying" for music therapy - it is a guarantee for all of my clients. That's definitely a benefit to my job. I know that all of my clients get to explore the world of music for therapeutic benefit for at least part of their lives.

It is important for therapists to point out progress to clients. It is important to celebrate what has been accomplished and what is now possible because of hard work. It is important to recognize what music therapy can do for a client. (By the way, this is why we document and track data!!)

Go out there and celebrate that client who is now able to regulate his or her emotional response to someone else through music therapy techniques. Celebrate the client who sings during preferred music and is starting to use sentences. Celebrate the client who is starting to run after not being able to stand for a long time.


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

TME Tuesday: We Like To Eat, Eat, Eat, Eat, Eat!

I had a moment last week when I had five minutes left in a session, and I asked my students what they wanted to sing about. They chose food, and I rapidly flipped through my mental file of food-based songs and wasn't satisfied with any of them. So, I made one up on the spot.

It seemed to be pretty popular - kids started singing right away, which is usually my indication that they are attending and interested in what is happening. After the session, I jotted down the melody and the words so it wouldn't get away!

Here is it, in its roughest form - solfege and lyrics. I haven't done the rhythm yet - that will take some time with the composition software that I just don't have at the moment - but here it is. I sing it with lots of syncopation (which I love when I am composing songs). To read this format, please note that all words are one syllable and each word has its own note (except for the last one which can be anything - change the rhythm to fit the word, but do not change the melody).

We Like to Eat, Eat, Eat, Eat, Eat
Therapeutic Music Experience
Mary Jane Landaker, MME, MT-BC

Copyright 2016 by Mary Jane Landaker, MME, MT-BC. All Rights Reserved.


We like to eat, eat, eat, eat, eat!


We like to eat, eat, eat, eat, eat! 


We like to eat, eat, eat, eat, eat!


We like to eat __________! 

Eventually I will develop this into a full-blown therapeutic music experience, but today is not that day. I have the melody written down, so it is fixed. I have used it a couple of times in sessions since its composition, and clients are responding. Right now, it is just a little song.  Eventually it will be a full-fledged TME.

Happy Tuesday, dear reader!! Go into the world singing!!

Monday, April 25, 2016

Reinventing Myself as Therapist

I spend quite a bit of time thinking (more these days since I am STILL on light duty due to my recovering knee) and have found that I am in a state of flux as a therapist.

This happens to me every so often during my career and is never a bad thing. I believe that every music therapist (actually, every therapist - music or other) has to go through periods of self-examination and change in order to survive the rigors of the job. I also think that these times can either make or break a career. How I progress will help me to determine if and where I want to go as a music therapist.

Here are the questions I ask myself during these times...
  • Where do I want to be?
  • What do I want to do?
  • What gives me joy right now?
  • What makes me stressed right now?
  • Am I being effective as a therapist? How am I defining "effectiveness?"
  • Do I like my job? Why or why not?
  • What intrigues me in music therapy right now?
  • What is my creativity level?
  • What is my current philosophy of music, therapy, and music therapy?
  • What do I want to do with my life as a music therapist?
  • What type of music therapy and/or therapist would be best for my clients right here, right now?
The answers change based on the day, the moment, and the situation. I think that the changes in the answers help me to continue my exploration. The flux doesn't really stop until the answers to these questions become more solid. Solid answers start to show me the way I want to go in my professional development. I journal and blog about these questions and look for resources to help me figure out what it is I want and need from my career.

So, what brings on these periods of reinvention? Oh, anything and everything. Sometimes I can identify what is going on in my life that leads me to this evaluation. Sometimes I can't. This time, I know what is happening, and why I am doing all of this questioning.

I am not sure that my body is going to be able to do the job that I have now. The last time I had to physically manage aggressive behavior, I broke. I've been on light duty for 10 months, had to have surgery, and am still not able to do any of the things that I need to do to safely manage aggression. I don't know if I will ever be able to do those things again. If I cannot do these things with a clinical population that I absolutely love, will I be able to find a new population that I will love as much? I am in the mid-point of my career - very experienced but very expensive - that complicates a job search. My parents are going to retire. They aren't sure if they can afford to retire. That makes me nervous since I am not sure that I can support them financially as well as supporting myself, but I feel some responsibility for them and their standard of living. In addition, friends around me are going on with their lives, and I feel like I am stagnating here where I am.

All of these things are happening simultaneously, so I'm questioning what I know and what I want.

I've been through these times before. It happened when I started my career - do I even WANT to be a music therapist? What do I want to do? Where do I want to live? It happened when I started graduate school - do I want to STILL be a music therapist? What else is out there? It happened when I finished graduate school - why do I want to do this? Each time, I have come out of the process with a clearer understanding of what I want to do and how I want to be in this profession. I believe that I will work through this and emerge stronger in the end.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Supplemental Sunday: I Got A Package!!

For the past six months, I have been a subscriber of Music Therapy Mailings, a fun service offered to music therapists by Tracy Reif, MT-BC. For $25 per month, I get an envelope around about the 15th that has a medley of things to use with clients. I never know what I'm going to get, so the arrival of the envelope is always a thrill!

This month's envelope included several things that will supplement therapeutic music experiences for my clients. There is a book-in-progress for What A Wonderful World - the lyrics are printed on blank sheets, waiting for decoration and lamination. There is a full book for Earth Day - Help Our Earth - a piggy-back song. There is a lyric/melody sheet for Pick A Bale of Cotton, some cotton shapes for use as recommended by thte song sheet, a highlighter (because, who doesn't need another highlighter?) and teo sets of Dr. Seuss cards - numbers and letters.

The best thing about this is the mystery. Sometimes I get lots of little things. Sometimes I get a big thing and not much else. It is always evident that Tracy puts lots of thought into what she sends her subscribers. She also always adds a personal note - a great touch.

Some of the best TMEs come from surprises. I always look forward to getting this envelope in the mail because it stimulates my thinking about what I can do with my clients in ways that I would have never stumbled upon myself. Once I have the supplementals, it becomes my job to come up with the therapeutic use of music to match my clients' goals and objectives. Lots of creativity, stimulation, and results come from each one of those envelopes.

I am getting ready to sign up for my third subscription cycle. I am having too much fun right now to stop!

Here is the link to the website. I hope you enjoy this just as much as I do!

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Session Contour or "How to Arrange Your Sessions So Your Fellow Teachers Don't Hate You When You Send Your Students to Them"

I had to apologize to several teachers this week.

I am going to take about 55% of the responsibility for these apologies, and I am going to blame the full moon for the 45%. (I love when I can blame SOMETHING on moon phases!) My session contour was really poor this week. I tried to find an arc to my sessions, but my students went up and up and up and did not come down again, no matter what I tried with them!

I first heard the concept of "session contour" from one of my music therapy professors. If I wanted to do so, I could probably figure out who first used the term, but I don't really want to delve into layers and layers of research at 5:14 in the morning, so I am just going to stop with the person who first told me about the concept. "Session contour" refers to how a therapist organizes the musical elements of his/her therapeutic music experiences (TMEs) to move clients from one emotional/behavioral/energy/arousal level to others during the session time. 

For me, it's always easier to understand with an example. Let's see. A client enters the music therapy room in a state of high anxiety and aggression. It is the job of the music therapist to assist the client in decreasing feelings of anxiety and calming the aggression (at least, that is often my job in my facility). This can be (and should be) done with music and musical elements in the music therapy session.

Most of the time, I can return my clients to their classrooms in a state that is more conducive to learning than when they arrived in my music therapy room. I didn't do this very well this week, but no one had to be removed from the therapy room or caused major damage for long periods after the music therapy session, so my contour wasn't too bad. I just ended up sending kids who were in high energy states rather than in concentration states back to their classrooms.

Here is my session plan for this week:

Opening TME - I use this to assess the activity level of group members
Musician of the Month reveal - for some, this was a story; for others, this was a continuation of the guessing game we've played for the last several weeks
Ball Bouncing Game - we used music selections from our MotM (see above) to bounce balls to peers. Two rules - bounce the ball on the ground and say the name of the person you are bouncing to BEFORE the ball leaves your hands. (This is where the session contour starts going up dramatically.)
Some groups used graduation song rehearsal as a cool-down, followed by singing from our songbook. Other groups participated in measured breathing for their cool-down.
Closing TME - again, assessment of the success of the session.
Session Contour when things don't always go as expected!

This week's sessions never really went down to what I consider "optimal educational attention." This is a term that I use to describe the way I would want students to enter a classroom of my own. It is difficult to qualify, but includes students who are able to sit and listen to the teacher. My clients did calm down a bit from the melee of throwing balls all over the music room (we use between 1-4 balls during this TME), but that calming was only momentary. As soon as the structure changed (during transition), that energy returned in full force! By the time we had walked to classrooms, the noise, the energy, and the interaction were back in full force!! My fellow teachers had to figure out how to calm their students - something I do for them on a pretty regular basis.

More often than not, I can run a session with session contour that works for my clients. I know how to manipulate music, musical elements, children's engagement and interest in what is happening, and many other things as well. There are times, however, when things just don't go as planned, and I cannot keep up with the changes no matter how hard I try! Them's the breaks, and I don't stress about it... much.

This is just a long-winded way of saying that I feel it is important to make sure that you return clients in a better mood/space/attention level/participation/you-name-it than how you found them. If I do my job well, my fellow teachers don't know what has gone into the session, and my clients don't really know it either. If not, then teachers have to do the calming that I usually do within the session. (It's good for them to do this every so often!)

Long story, short (aren't you glad that you waded through all of this, just to find out that I've encapsulated this into a short statement at the end?), session contour means using the iso-principle and the elements of music to assist your clients in reaching their social/emotional and behavioral optimal levels.

Happy Saturday.


Friday, April 22, 2016

Eras are Ending

It's true.

With the death of Prince yesterday, it is becoming evident that youth and adolescence is over. While I can't say I was ever a real big fan of Prince's, his music was prevalent and somewhat controversial when I was growing up. 

I think most of the controversy came from his persona rather than his music, but he was one of those artists who combined the persona with his music. As complaints about who he was happened, more and more of my friends found him to be a role model. I think that may have been more a response to what their parents were saying than anything else, but the music was sound and demanding listening to, strengthening that bond and recognition.

My parents were not really all that hip to music trends when I was growing up. Dad likes classical music and classic rock that reminds him of his nostalgia days. Mom likes Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton, and the Kingston Trio and never really listens to music. She prefers singing herself to listening to something that just randomly pops up on a radio. Neither of them really objected to anything that I listened to when I was growing up. (Mom would object if she could hear the music when she was standing in the hallway - she was convinced that I would be deaf because I wanted to hear my music loud enough to be able to hear it from 3 feet away from the tiny transistor radio that my dad gave to me. You should have heard the rant when I got my first Walkman!!)

I never really had to choose a favorite performer. I had permission to love any and all music that came my way, and I did, and I still do. That ability to love music without linking it to an adolescent rebellion may have made it so I didn't identify strongly with one performer over another. Sure, I loved Prince's music, but I never really felt that I needed to dress like him or become identified with one person over any other.

I wonder if I missed out. I had friends who would go through periods of time where they would dress and act like their favorite performers. I would be their friend regardless of the Madonna look or the Prince ruffles (I did have to draw the line at a sparkly Michael Jackson glove for everyday wear, though). I never had the money or ability to dress in any type of trend. I could, however, listen to the music (through my little bitty transistor radio set to 2 on the volume dial). While my outward appearance didn't change to reflect who I would listen to, my inner experience was enriched beyond belief!

Today, as I head off to work, I will be listening for and singing snippets from the music of my adolescence. When Doves Cry seems pretty appropriate for today.

It may be the end of an era, but the music will always live on.

Thursday, April 21, 2016


The title of today's post is brought to you courtesy of Bella-cat who feels an urge to stand on the keyboard on a regular basis. I'm not sure what it means, but I bet you didn't either and that's why you are here, looking at this blog right now. So, now I have to figure out how to write a post that is worthy of this title.

It is Thoughtful Thursday. I'm not thinking very much right now except for how much my body hurts after physical therapy yesterday and whether I will walk or shuffle into the music therapy room at work - probably shuffle.

I have a quotation sitting on my desk within my gaze right now, but I haven't been with it long enough to have a coherent thought about it yet. You'll have to wait until next week for that one. So, shifting topics now...

I was asked to sing at a wedding two Saturdays from now. The bride and groom are friends of mine. I've known them for a long time and have had the pleasure of watching their romance grow. The mister sings in my choir at my church job. He and his first wife moved to our area after I started working there. She passed away about 10 years ago. He has given me some of her mementos and lots of her yarn over the years. He is in his eighties and is a sweet, sweet man. The missus-to-be is also a member of the congregation. She is one of those people who loves everyone and every thing. She is also very sweet, and the two of them are perfect together. Her first husband passed away many years ago - I never met him. They are going to blend their lives together on the 30th.

It's going to be a big wedding, I think. They didn't bother with invitations, but just issued a general invitation to all of our church family. Bits and pieces of their extended families will be there and probably everyone from church will be there as well. The bride is doing almost everything for the wedding herself - the decorations, the arrangements, and everything else. She's a bit nervous that there won't be too many people there. I think she will be amazed at how many people do arrive. They are well-loved individually, and, as I stated before, we've all watched their romance bloom over the past five years. We are all very happy for them.

The groom asked me if I would sing at the wedding last night. I am touched and thrilled to be able to contribute something to their day. I am going to be singing a song that they love - He Touched Me  - at some time during the ceremony. 

It is time to go out and buy a new thing to wear for this wedding. (None of my wedding-suitable clothing actually fits me as I am right now. Sigh.) I don't like shopping, but I will do it for them. My sister is telling me to find an entirely new outfit including jewelry which is something I NEVER do. I don't buy jewelry - it is usually mine through an inheritance. I have rarely bought myself some sort of jewelry to wear. If I do buy jewelry, it's often hematite, a metal I like the look and feel of, and it is relatively inexpensive as well - double good stuff for me. I am thinking that this occasion requires a bit more, well, something. My sister (who loves shopping and dressing others up) wanted me to take my tablet and Skype with her during the entire experience. I drew the line right there! She is expecting pictures of various outfits sent to her on a regular basis during the day so she can "help" me make a decision. It is probably stressing her out that she is 1,500 miles away and can't take me shopping. She also likes to dress up my father and mother in outfits she designs. I think she is a frustrated party planner/personal shopper and takes her frustrations out on me (and I take it because I ABHOR shopping for clothes!).

During the upcoming shopping trip (my sister is recommending that I go to at least seven stores to comparison shop - shudder), the thought in my mind will be the gift of sharing the upcoming wedding with people who I love dearly. Being a part of the celebration is such a joy that the shopping will eventually be worth it!

It is time to figure out what this has to do with music, therapy, and me. (The "me" part is evident, isn't it?) I get to share music with two people that I love and who love me as well. The music will add something to their celebration, because that is something that music does - it adds to.

Happy Thursday.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Man In Black

This week is Musician of the Month week. This is the week that I reveal the musician that has been posted on the wall for the last four weeks. I add a clue every week and refuse to confirm or deny any and all guesses during the month before.

This month's musician is Johnny Cash, the Man in Black.

I use my Musician of the Month idea to introduce my clients to music that they might not ever experience otherwise. My clients often have one genre that they identify with and don't ever waver from their belief that they like only that genre, but often find that they do enjoy a variety of music once they hear other things. They may say that they only listen to rap, but they can all sing along to many other types of songs.

I try to find a variety of musicians to be my featured performer. We've found out information about John Williams, Beyonce, Beethoven, and we will be learning about the BeeGees, Adele, and others as I find them. I try to cover a variety of musical genres and time frames. I also try to feature women composers and performers. This upcoming month should have been a female performer, but I have a friend who is retiring who loves the BeeGees, so I'm using them this month (it's my last chance [sad face emoji]). The next month will be Adele, and I'm not sure who will be featured in July - maybe Rachel Portman - ooh, I love Rachel Portman and she will be a good match with John Williams!! That planning is finished.

Every musician gets a small booklet about their lives. There is a picture and information culled from Wikipedia. Did you know that Johnny Cash had to change his name from J.R. to Johnny because of the US Air Force? After we learn a bit about our musician, we then listen to some of their music. The music is embedded in the other TMEs that we have scheduled during the session. Sometimes we sing songs, sometimes we use the music as background to stimulate specific responses, sometimes we engage in relaxation exercises using the music. I also bring the music out other times to test for information retention - they remember our featured musicians - Hooray, proof of learning!

Many of my clients do not get music education or awareness in the places where they come from. If they do, the education is not really tailored towards them or their particular ways of learning. They know the name Beethoven, but more from the dog movies than from the music. They identify specific music from the movies where the music was used rather than as something separate from the movie. While my primary job function is not music education, I do feel that my clients benefit from learning about music in our setting. Music therapy is often the first "music class" where they are actually able to engage in a way that makes sense to them (they have often told me, or their parents have told me these things), so I feel a bit of responsibility towards increasing their music awareness in a therapy environment.

The best things about this idea are a) it takes little planning time (it takes more time to figure out who I want to feature than anything else - and now I have the next THREE musicians chosen! That chore is done!); b) it doesn't interrupt my other sessions (I keep the board near the door so folks can see it during transitions); and c) even the staff members are intrigued by the hints and clues revealed each week. Best type of TME ever! The ones that take little extra time but are still engaging are the best!

It's time to go reveal the MotM to another set of students this morning. Happy Wednesday, all!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

TME Tuesday:

Here's an idea from a recent edition of sing about travel. Please enjoy! 

Therapeutic Music Experience
Lonesome Traveler
Mary Jane Landaker, MME, MT-BC 

Purpose: To stimulate discussion about traveling, being alone, and other topics; to encourage entrainment to an external stimulus; social interaction

Source: Hays, L. (1950). Lonesome Traveler. TME development and procedure © 2015 by Mary Jane Landaker, MME, MT-BC

Materials: OPTIONAL: accompanying instrument; rhythm instruments for group members

Environment: Group members where they can hear the song leader.

This song has been covered by many different groups. Here is a link to the performance by The Weavers:

I am a weary and lonesome traveler,
C                          Gm
I am a weary and lonesome traveler,
I am a weary and lonesome traveler,
C         D             Gm
I been a travelin' on.

Travelin' in the mountains, and in the valley,
C                      Gm
Travelin' in the mountains, and in the valley,
Travelin' in the mountains, and in the valley,
C     D          Gm
I'm travelin' on.

Traveled with the rich, traveled with the poor,
Traveled with the rich, traveled with the poor,
Traveled with the rich, traveled with the poor,
I'm travelin' on.

I've been travelin' on the road to freedom,
Been lookin' for the road to freedom,
I've been travelin' to the road to freedom
And I've been travelin' on.

I've been a-carryin' a heavy load
I've been a-carryin' a heavy load
I've been a-carryin' a heavy load
But I keep travelin' on.

This whole world is in a sad condition
This whole world is in a sad condition
This whole world is in a sad condition
But I keep on travelin' on.

I will travel on until I get to freedom
I will travel on until I get to freedom
I will travel on until I get to freedom
I will keep on travelin' on.

Procedure: R = Reinforcement opportunities; C = Redirection/Cue opportunities; A = Assessment
1.      C= start singing song.
2.      A= assess whether group members start to demonstrate awareness or entrainment behaviors during the song.
3.      R=reinforce all attempts and efforts to sing, to move, and to engage during the song presentation.
4.      C=choose whether to sing the song in its entirety or to stop singing after one verse and a chorus. Ask group members to analyze the song lyrics.
a.       Have you ever traveled by yourself?
b.      Have you ever felt like the singer in this song?
c.       Where have you traveled?
d.      How have you traveled?
e.       If you were going on a trip right now, where would you want to go?
f.        How would you get there
g.      Advanced question: Do you feel like you have the freedom that the singer is looking for?
h.      Other questions as appropriate for the group members
5.      A=assess whether group members are able to answer the question.
6.      R=reinforce all responses.
7.      C=sing song again, encouraging group members to sing along.
8.      A=assess whether group members can sing along.
9.      R=reinforce all attempts by group members to sing.
10.  C=ask group members to change the lyrics to illustrate their lives.
11.  A=assess whether group members are able to complete task.
12.  R=reinforce all responses through singing the song again and changing the lyrics to match what group members suggest.
13.  C=continue until group members have one turn each, start to show signs of boredom, or time runs out.

Therapeutic Function of Music:
The repetitive nature of the song makes it easy to remember and replicate. The upbeat tempo encourages entrainment and movement to the music. The lyrics repeat, offering several opportunities to engage group members in verbal interaction and singing.

Primarily step-based; repetitive pattern
Variable based on client needs and preferences
Variable based on client needs and preferences
Variable based on client needs and preferences
Minor format – i, IV, V – modal harmony

Verse - Chorus
Variable based on client needs and preferences
Variable based on client needs and preferences
Repetitive; offer a story; easily varied to accommodate group members’ contributions
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.

·         Rewrite the words to illustrate what group members experience in their traveling to and from treatment or in the community.

  • Ask group members to write about their own traveling experiences.


Monday, April 18, 2016

Session Planning - My Way

Today, I have three music therapy groups - two short duration groups and one long duration group. I know that we are going to have our Musician of the Month reveal this week and two themes to incorporate, but that is all that I have planned at this point. It is my plan to arrive at work, arrange the room the way I like it, and then plan the rest of my sessions for the week.

Here's how I do this - please keep in mind that this is just how I do things. It is not a requirement for others to do it this way or even to like what I do. This works for me, and that's what's important for me.

I do not write large, detailed session plans. I do write detailed Therapeutic Music Experience (TME) plans and could use those to write more detailed session plans, but I've found that to be a waste of my clinical time. My session planning consists of writing down one or two targeted TMEs for every group session that I'll run during the week. These tend to be the same across all groups (for example, the Musician of the Month reveal will happen in some way for all of my clients). After I have those targeted TMEs, I also write down several other TMEs to use as options for my groups. I write down any materials I need to compile before I start my treatment day. That way, I don't have to leave the group area for the cabinet area. Every time I leave the group area, I lose client attention.

I view my session plans as possibilities rather than requirements. I've always been one to attempt to match the client in the musical space he or she starts the session in and go from there. This is much easier to do when I am working with only one or two clients. It is much more difficult when working with a group of 12 clients, but it can still be done. Meeting the clients where they are strengthens their attention to what we are trying to do in the session.

My session format is fluid. I make clinical decisions about what to do when based on how my clients are interacting with me, with each other, and with the music throughout the session. Since their attention levels change, my plans also change to accommodate them. If a group comes in and everyone seems angry, they will probably not be as interested in listening to the background of a musician as they might be in line dancing or drumming. Once they are able to express or release their emotions, they may be in a better place for listening. 

When I was a young music therapy student, I had a practicum supervisor who wanted me to write very detailed session plans and then follow those plans like a script. She would check off what I did when I said I would (in my plan) and then would ask me to justify why I didn't do what I said I would do after the session. I guess I was able to justify this enough because she awarded me "the most flexible therapist" award at the end of the semester. For me, it just made sense to flip-flop the order of the session to give my little children clients a chance to wiggle before sitting down to do an academic task. It didn't seem as obvious to her. That still fascinates me.

Again, this is my routine. Hers was very different from my own. I learned lots about myself through working with her.

If you are currently a music therapy student or intern, here is a takeaway for you - learn to write things the way that your supervisor tells you to. Think about how things work for you and then translate what your supervisor tells you into what works for you. When asked to justify your decisions, be strong and explain your reasoning. If you cannot explain your reasoning, you can't do things the way you want to do them. Once you can explain your reasoning, you have learned the primary lesson - figuring out what works best for you is important and something to strive for rather than to avoid. Just because your supervisor is teaching you in a particular way, you do not have to use that method forever and ever. You have to use that method for the semester you are being supervised by that particular person. That's all. Once you grow up, you can do things the way that works best for you. Try to figure out what that way is for you.

So, this week's sessions will include some discussion about our Musician of the Month, some talk about weather and the other theme (I can't remember it right now), practicing our graduation songs, and doing other TMEs - some formally planned, some improvised, some by client request. Every session will be different because every group is different, and that is okay. That's therapy.

Happy Monday, all.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Supplemental Sunday: Dry Erase Sleeves

Oriental Trading Company has these things that I absolutely love - dry erase sleeves.
Basically, the premise is that you put your visual aids (lyric sheets, pictures, etc.) into these clear folders and, voila, you've got dry erase materials. I love these things because I can make some unfinished materials, try them out with my clients, and then make new ones that I can laminate for durability later. My clients seem to like them as well. There is something about being able to use a dry erase marker that makes my clients happy. I like it, too!

This is one of those things that makes my therapy life easier - working smarter, not harder! It's a supplemental for the supplementals and it works!!                                                                                                                         

Saturday, April 16, 2016

You Have Two Days Left... come up with a presentation proposal for the American Music Therapy Association's National Conference.

I have a music therapy friend who is relatively new to the profession (for me, that means anyone who hasn't had to recertify through the Certification Board for Music Therapy yet - just so you can have a reference point) who has caught the presentation bug. At first, this person felt the way I felt as a relative newbie - "Why would ANYONE want to hear what I have to say?" It took lots of persuading, but this person took the chance and sent in a presentation proposal for the regional conference that was not only accepted, but well-attended as well.

When I was a newbie, I felt the same way about presenting for music therapists. "How could I think that I had anything to contribute to the lives of other therapists with more practice experience?" A friend of mine asked me to co-present and the experience was a good thing. Lots of people came to listen to two new music therapists talk about working with persons with multiple challenges. After that, I realized that each and every one of us has a story to share and lessons to teach others.

So, how do you come up with ideas for presentation proposals? Here's what I do.

At the end of every conference, I write down a list of ideas for proposals and a list of things that I want to know more about. When proposal time gets closer, I look over that list and decide what I want to pursue. I also think about what I can tell others. There are things that I know because I work where I work and how my clients interact with the world, and those things make my story something to share with others.

You have important things to share. You have a unique story in this world of music therapy, and there is something that you can say that someone else needs to hear. Take a leap into sharing that story with others and submit a proposal!

Here's the link to the proposal form. Use it. I want to hear what you have to say!

Friday, April 15, 2016

The Follies of Friday

I woke up this morning with a really good idea for a blog post that made me think, "I need to get this down as soon as possible." Of course, by the time I actually got myself to the computer to write, the idea had just... gone.

So, you are stuck with this blog post instead. Maybe the other one will eventually materialize, but that's just the breaks. (That's why I have super sticky post-it notes on my desk and in the car. You never know when good ideas will strike - don't let them go away!!)

I have today off. We get a random day off in the middle of April just because. Today is that day. I have an early morning Skype date with a friend of mine (we're working on a project, but just like to talk to each other as well) and then I think I'll go grocery shopping. It's also payday, so I can afford to buy ANYTHING I WANT! Speaking of that, I should probably eat before I go shopping - otherwise I will buy ANYTHING I WANT - that's never a good thing. Then, I want to finish my last several AMTA presentation proposals to submit before the deadline next Monday.

Today is the 15th, my "What will I do next" planning day for the website and my professional life. On the 15th of every month, I spend some time thinking about stuff. Sometimes I get good ideas, sometimes I don't. We'll see what happens today. 

I am currently watching Bunheads on Freeform, and there is a recurring commercial about stopping smoking so that cats will live. The premise appears to be that smokers cause cancer in cats due to the secondhand smoke thing. The commercial tries to use the idea that if people smoke, all the cats will die, and then there will be no more cat videos. I wonder why someone thought that would be a good idea for a commercial.

Sorry for the random nature of this post - it's what happens when I lose the good idea that I had in the wee hours of the morning. 

It may be time for some fresh air...

It's time to move into this day, to plan, to shop, to eat Chinese food, to talk to my friend, and to spend time getting my home environment straightened up a bit.

Have a wonderful day, music therapists! 

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Thoughtful Thursday: Dare to be Ourselves

Oh, Shirley Briggs. What a quotation I have here on my desk. It's simultaneously something that should (goblin) evident and is still challenging.

Be ourselves.

Personally, this is a lesson that I've learned over and over again. It brings back thoughts about junior high school when I was truly a tagalong. It brings back thoughts about high school where some of the folks that I knew at church pitied me and my "lack of friends." They really didn't know me at all, and my mother leaped to my defense and then supported my decision not to participate in their delusions and activities. She also pointed out to the one person who was insistent that I was socially inept that when my name was announced during the Senior award banquet, the entire auditorium erupted. When that person's daughter was announced, there was polite clapping. (Gotta love a mom who waits for her moment to prove her point!!)

Professionally, I think this is a lesson that we are still learning. Over and over again. When the founders of the profession started up, they tried really hard to make us part of the established medical/psychological structure. We had to prove ourselves to psychologists, psychiatrists, and medical doctors in order to be considered "peers." We didn't get there. In my opinion, this is because we are not peers of those professionals. What we do is significantly different from what they do.

That is okay. In fact, it is important to understand. One of the best things about music therapy is that it is something unto itself. Sure, we can try to compare ourselves to other professionals, but, in the end, music therapy offers clients something unique from everything else. It is our job to show others how unique we are to those who make decisions about treatment, money, and hiring. That's where we often fail.

How do we demonstrate how unique and wonderful we are? We talk about what happens within the brain when music is used in therapy. We pull in information from other professions, and we make transfers into our own situations. We spend time talking to those who use music for different purposes, and we support them as folks who can do some of the work we cannot do. Then, we show as many people as we can that what we do is amazing.

Never apologize for "just being the music therapist." We are unique in what we know about humans and about music. Like the people in high school who had a skewed view about me and how I interacted with the world, it will take time to demonstrate to the naysayers of the world of our benefit, our value, and our necessity, but I believe we will get there...someday.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

TME Tuesday: An Old-Favorite Repurposed

I love it when ideas pop into my head fully formed. It doesn't happen very often, but when it does, it is almost magical. Some of my most popular TMEs with my students are those types of ideas - almost meant to be, if you know what I mean.

So, yesterday I was sitting in my spot at work. During the morning transition period, I am in that place to be "spy" on the older students who now have "independence" to transition from the breakfast room to their classrooms without walking in a straight line. No one has realized that my function in the morning is to be hall monitor. They be-bop past me saying things like, "Mary Jane, I get to walk down the hallway BY MYSELF!"


I was sitting in the sunshine, keeping myself occupied through making origami fortune tellers (or some know them as cootie catchers), and the idea popped into my head.

I struggle with teaching my students about notation. I've figured out how to teach rhythm and rhythm notation, but I cannot seem to crack staff-based notation. They don't really understand note placement and how it relates to instruments, so this is something I try to chip away at once per month. This is the week for notation...

I decided we would still work on making melodies and bringing them to the piano. I looked down at the fortune teller in my hand and an idea popped into my head. Fortune telling notation.

It worked. Here's how we did it.

I made the fortune tellers this time around because I wanted us to get to melody development as soon as I could. The outside was labeled with four types of notes - eighth, quarter, half, and whole. (They had to remember their first choice in order to develop the melody - long term memory). Inside was labeled with notes on the treble staff. The inside portion included the note names written on the staff in their proper location.
Kids worked in pairs, one using the fortune teller and the other making the decisions. Once they got to the end of the process, the fortune teller had to tell me the type of note and then describe where the note should be placed on the master staff. Then they switched roles.

Some got it right off. Others had difficulty coordinating the movements (fine motor skill development). Yet others were unable to figure out how to describe the note location. I'll be working more on that skill with those kids (assessment).

We will use these in different ways in the upcoming weeks, and I'll be writing up a formal TME with goal and objective areas for my sing about fun and games coming in June.

Let me know if you use this with your clients. I'd like to know how you use the idea. How do you change it to work with your clients in your area? Comment below!!