Monday, October 31, 2016

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Just A Song Sunday: Shaping the Music to the Client

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

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

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

I am still trying to figure out how to explain this concept to others. I think I can get there eventually, but it's not quite concise in my mind yet. Right now, I think my idea is centered around the concept that any song can be shaped to address any client need or goal. I think that I can take any song and make it into something that my client will engage in simply by changing musical elements to those that I know will affect my client's responses to the music.

It is time to get out my graphic organizing software and diagram my ideas about this topic. I'll post more about this later. I'm going to my Inspiration program right now and start to figure out what I mean.

Happy Sunday!

Saturday, October 29, 2016

My Favorite Moment This Week

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

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

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

We chose instruments from the box whenever we wanted to do so. We played them with hesitancy as well as with vigor. Sometimes it was cacophony. Sometimes it started to organize into recognizable patterns. Sometimes we would start to vocalize, and the simple TME became something meaningful for us all. (Music therapy!)

One of my favorite moments this week was with a group of high schoolers. There was a young lady in the group who was very loud. She usually has two volumes - whisper and bellow. She was stuck in bellow mode during music therapy. She sang every song. She echoed everything that I said (just in case the others weren't listening to me, I guess), and she laughed heartily. Her group mates thought she was a bit loud, but accepted her and her volume without difficulty.

Later, she was doing some counseling with her LPC and her family. (They were in a common area with the doors open, so everyone could hear what was going on). Apparently, she sang There's a Spider on the Floor to her family, her LPC, and the entire building. She was able to recall all of the verses that I had taught her (with my own awkward rhymes when I couldn't remember the original or when I wanted to adapt them a bit). What a perfect way to be affirmed as a therapist - a client wanting to share what they have learned in the music therapy sessions with others.

I didn't hear her singing - I was busy at the time - but lots of others did and shared the experience with me in private and public conversations.

That's why I do the job I do. There are these moments that happen. They make the difficult parts of the job bearable because there are clients out there that will remember the silly Halloween carol that you share about the spider on the floor, and they will sing it with abandon for all to hear!

Find your moments. Happy Saturday!

Friday, October 28, 2016


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

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

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

(Now's the time when I try to get all philosophical-like and make this experience something that directly relates to music therapy...)

For me, the biggest thing that stuck with me is the thought of the people who weren't noticing what was happening in the sky in front of them. This is what I think happens when many people look at a music therapy session. They cannot notice what happens in front of them.

One of the statements that sticks in my craw is "happy children making happy sounds." My administrators make comments like that all the time when describing what I do to other people. It takes every fiber in my being not to scream, "YOU HAVE NO CLUE WHAT I DO!" There is so much more happening during a music therapy session that is apparently not visible to the untrained eye.

There are times when I don't notice these things either, so I guess I should be a bit more patient with the others. I know that there are times when I don't notice the responses of clients to the music. I know that there are times when I go right past something important and beautiful - just like those folks who drove past the rainbow.

When I start to feel disconnected from what is happening with music, I simplify my treatment. I had planned a complex Halloween story with my groups this week. It became pretty evident pretty quickly that my clients were not able to concentrate on what I had planned. As a result, I changed my plan to playing the novel instruments that I was going to use for the story. 

We simply made music with the instruments. 

I didn't stress (much) about finishing the goal of symbol to sound correlation. I didn't focus on trying to celebrate a holiday that already takes up too much time (in my opinion). I just realized that my desire for my clients to make up a Halloween story was just that - MY desire - not what my clients wanted to do. So, I changed my mind.

When a group of diverse clients start to make music together in a way that exemplifies some of Sears' initial ideas about the strength of music making in a social setting, it is magic.

Sometimes that magic is fleeting, but those perfect music therapy moments do occur, and they are wonderful. 

Take time to notice the small things around you. You never know when you will find a perfect music therapy moment, or a new idea, or a rainbow stretching across the sky.

Happy Friday.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

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

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

My answer?

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

The best thing about yesterday was when the Geek Squad guy couldn't get it to work either! There is a bit of justification when the malfunction happens in front of the "fixers." I hate it when something doesn't work at home but works when you get someone to look at it. I felt justified yesterday when he couldn't get it to work either.

The worst thing about yesterday was having to pay for another computer so soon after paying for the other one. I won't be able to buy frivolous things at the conference next month - just one small, high-quality item. Poor me (insert lots of sarcasm here).


Enough about my travails in the world of technology these days. Let's get to the music therapy point, shall we?

In these days of screens for everything, I think we often use them a bit more that we really need to. They are convenient tools and can store so much information that it is almost natural to use them in all aspects of what we do as therapists. Kids take to screens naturally and are attracted to what they can do with electronics. 

The problem with technology playing a lead role in music therapy sessions is that of dependence. Music therapy becomes something you go through in order to play on the iPod or the SMART board or on YouTube.

What happens when things stop working?

My music therapy clinic is a screen-free therapy space. This is purposeful. My students have so many different screen things that they do during their education. I didn't want to become dependent on what I could do with a screen, so I opted for different instruments instead of getting a SMART board. I only really miss the lack of a big screen when I am not in the therapy room - I usually leave music movies for my groups to watch. They complain about my television (circa 1984) which switches back and forth between vibrant color and muted colors. My attitude? Tough.

I want to make music therapy a place where my clients don't spend time playing with apps but where they play real instruments and engage with others.

Now, this is just my opinion about screens in music therapy. I know that there are many therapists out there who use iPads and other devices to assist their clients in accomplishing goals and objectives. I know that these devices assist music therapists that need to access lots of different songs that may be unfamiliar to them. I also know that without endless information at my fingertips, I have to rely upon my knowledge of music theory to help me figure out music in the moment.

Now, don't think that I am completely technology-free in my music therapy life. I am certainly not, but I am free of computer devices when I am in music therapy sessions (except for the iPod - I always have the iPod, just in case). This is because of my difficulty with electronic things (as illustrated by my recent frustrations with my computers) and because I try to figure out ways to engage my clients without something to plug in.

I am going to spend some time today looking at things that I can do with technology that I've never done before, but I don't think I will bring these into the music therapy environment just yet.

Happy Thursday. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

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

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

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

This is my first year in quite a while where I don't have to go to meetings. I get to go to presentations and see what others are thinking and doing in music therapy. I am taking 2 CMTE courses (one on Ethics and Spirituality to cover my Ethics requirement) and have to attend the business meeting on Friday (which I usually dash in and out of every year). I have four presentations to be part of (two of my own and two for OCMT) on Friday and Saturday. Once I finish my two presentations (Friday late and Saturday mid-morning), I get to contribute to the OCMT presentations and then I am finished. At some point, I will get into my car and drive south to home. I will decide if I stay until the end of the conference or if I leave early. I love driving to conferences - it makes things very flexible.

I also decided to take the Monday after conference off for recovery purposes. I find that I need a day to recuperate after the social whirlwind that is conference. I have a list of things for my clients to do in my absence, and I have rearranged every thing in the music therapy room so my clients can find things to do while I am gone. The only things missing right now are the karaoke CDs. I'll take them next week.

Two weeks from today, I start my AMTA journey. Will I see you there? If you see me, PLEASE introduce yourself. Thanks!

Monday, October 24, 2016

Research-Informed Clinician: The Last Post in the Series

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

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

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

My process is something that is becoming a habit rather than a process needing instructions, so I think I'm becoming more research-informed. I know that I look at research offerings with a more critical eye than I did before this process started. I also know that I still don't find answers to my questions in the current research literature. It is not easy extrapolating answers to clinical questions when the current trend in much of our literature is not necessarily focused on clinical questions. Most of the research I've read lately has to do with either increasing research methodology or becoming a better therapist - not necessarily focusing on what to do with clients in the music therapy clinic. When this type of research happens, it's up to me to figure out how to find answers to the questions that I have about the effect of music on my clients.

What to do?

Dive into older research.

I have a dilemma with my current population where there just aren't that many current music therapy research articles about my population. There are a bit more articles if I go back outside the normal time parameters, but my clinical questions aren't necessarily answered by those older articles. As a result, I have to use my experience as both clinician and researcher to try to figure out answers.

I am continuing to ask myself my clinical questions and continue to search for answers in research (both music therapy and non-music therapy articles). Believe it or not, I get more answers from outside the music therapy literature than I do from within. The more I read, the more questions I end up with at the end of reading. I think that's a good thing.

Will I see you in Sandusky? If so, consider stopping by on Friday afternoon for some practice in reading research to find answers to clinical questions. I'll start you off on your own journey!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Just a Song Sunday: It Starts with a Random Song

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

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

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

There are a couple of things that complicate the use of this song with this group. First of all, it is out of most of the music preferences of the group. It will probably not be extremely familiar to all of my clients, but the song has been played enough in movies and commercials that they will probably have some familiarity with it. The second complication is that the recorded version is at a set tempo which may not allow for changing the element to accommodate people moving at different times, but we can work around that as well.

There are some good things about this song as well. The lyrics are repetitive and encourage people to "move it, move it." There is a steady tempo that is expressed through deep bass pulses and a short bass line. 

So, this song may be a good choice to get folks moving - even older adults who may not be as familiar with this song as other clients.

Let's take this song and place it within a treatment for anxiety. How can this song be used for in this type of treatment? I would never use just this song, as is, to be the treatment for anxiety, but I could use this as part of a sequence of music to assist my client to work through those feelings of anxiety. This song could be the first song in an iso-principle directed playlist - this song would encourage the first step for me - getting out excess energy and tiring the body. The next song would have less movement and more directed thought. I could also use a karaoke version of this song (none of the original lyrics) and ask the client(s) to write their own words to the song based on their own anxiety themes.

If you've been reading these posts, you know that I am a proponent of taking music and making it fit the clients in front of me. This is just one way of thinking about our tool, music. 

If you are invested in the goals and objectives of your clients, then you can take any music and shape it around your clients.

There you go. See you next Sunday!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Feeling Rough

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

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

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

Yesterday, I spoke to a student in an Introduction to Music Therapy class from a new education program here in the Midwest. This student asked me some basic questions - how did I become a music therapist, what is the most challenging aspect of being an MT, and what is the best thing about being a music therapist. The student stated that she was going to change her major from music therapy to special education. I asked her how she found me, expecting something like, "I searched the web," but, no. She found me through the AMTA website - just searched for therapists nearby.

Too funny.

I spent a little time putting together a visual aid for next week's sessions - Halloween carols and choice visuals for my non-verbal clients. It is nowhere near to finished. I need to sit down and keep plugging away at the assembly, then laminate everything, and then figure out if other therapists will be interested in the product. I'll use it next week with most of my clients. It's the only Halloween thing I will do, so I want it to be enough.

Here are the things I need to do:
  1. Laundry - there is always laundry to do, so this stays on my list all the time
  2. Dishes - ditto
  3. Pick up medications - I have to wait until 9 am before the pharmacy opens, so here I sit, waiting until I can actually go and get my meds. I don't usually wait until I have used all of it, but it kinda snuck up on me this week
  4. Visual Aids - Halloween Carols and icons to use when picking songs to sing - I am almost finished with the prototype and then need to make 4 more to cover all of my clients
  5. Plan meals for next week - I need to figure out how to be more effective with planning my work lunches. I want to take my lunch to work since I tend to feel more healthy when I do so, but I have this difficulty with actually making lunches in the early morning. So, I need to plan a bit more and then FOLLOW THE PLAN! (That's the hardest part for me - following the plan)
Here are the things I want to do:
  1. Cry
  2. Sleep
  3. Cry some more
  4. Eat mashed potatoes made with chicken broth to help with the ick that's happening right now
  5. Figure out what I want to do with the rest of my life...
This is a common list for when I get sick and tired. I cry. I sleep. I eat things that aren't very good for me, and I stress about all of my life choices - every challenge, every failure, every bad relationship. Until I can get my brain to find the positive things that are around me (and there are LOTS of positives in my life - Hi, Janice!!), I'm not fit for human company. Once I get rid of the negative mind goblins, I am on the road to recovery.

My next step? Go get my medication from the pharmacy and then come back home to make mashed potatoes with chicken broth. Then I will snuggle into my bed and keep making visual aids. I will wallow in my negativity and will know that it's not true - it's just my fever talking.

Goodbye for now, dedicated readers (I figure you have to be dedicated to read this self-pitying post!!). Tomorrow is Just a Song Sunday. See you then?


Friday, October 21, 2016

Alive Inside - I Finally Saw It

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

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

I cried.

The film really spoke to me as a music therapist who has seen, first hand, the types of reactions and responses that were shown in the film. I was happy to see that others were seeing these reactions and were trying to do something about it. I mourned the fact that the filmmakers did not contrast the iPod program and results with those of music therapists who go deeper into these responses through careful and evidenced-based application of music and musical elements. The power of the iPod was evident, but there was little to no mention about the next step in the process.

I wonder about those loved ones who see this film and believe that using an iPod will change their family members into alert people who show less involvement with their diagnosis. I wonder what will happen if they don't see the same results that were demonstrated during the film.

I'm going to spend some more time thinking about all of this...

Happy Friday (a bit later than usual!!)

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Thoughtful Thursday: There Are No Words

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

I am tired of politics.

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

I am tired of people who claim to be or who claim to want to be MY "representative in (fill-in-the-blank) congress, house, white house, etc." I don't recall any of those people calling me or anyone I know to actually ask us how we feel about specific issues. You cannot be MY representative when you do not care about what I think or need.

I am tired of political seasons that start 5 minutes after the election and keep going until after the election.

I am tired of people making claims that they know good and well will never happen.

I want someone to stand up and say, "I really would like to reform the tax code, but realize that I will have to figure out how to convince members of Congress to help me develop a lawful system that represents the interests of all people. I know that this will be difficult, but I am willing to work long and hard to get this done."

I know that there are people out there who talk this type of talk, but others don't seem to want this type of honesty in their public leaders. I do, though. I would be a staunch defender of someone who would be brave enough to make the comments that I want to hear. I think I could get behind a leader like that and finally take my political views and opinions into a public forum.

Having said all this, here is the last thing that I believe about our political system.

If you don't vote, you shouldn't complain.

I am getting my ballot in the mail pretty soon. I will fill it out, send it back in, and then be ready to go on a trip on election day. Who I vote for, what I vote for, and why I vote the way I vote is nobody's business but my own. The only question I ever answer is "Do you intend to vote?"

The answer is always, "Yes."

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Website Wednesday: Incredibox

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

Today's website is AKA Incredibox!

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

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

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

Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Diving Into a New Focus

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

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

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

Here's what I think I mean.

A music therapist who is centered in how elements of music can affect human physiology, psychology, and behavior can adapt the tool (music) to accommodate differences in each client. Sure, there are specific protocols that have been developed and researched, but a sophisticated music therapist should be able to provide therapy services for each human being based on what is known about music and humans.

I root myself in what I know about humans. I read as much as I can about how music changes neurological processes which then change outward responses and behaviors. My Psych in Music texts come in handy here. 

My commutes will be spent practicing my spiel. I love that our society talks so much on devices now. Twenty years ago, people thought I was a bit silly when they saw me talking to myself in the car. Now they just think I'm on the phone with someone. It's wonderful! I sing to myself, I talk to myself, and I spend quite a bit of time rehearsing important conversations. No one even looks twice!

What types of things do you use to research music therapy with different populations? Let me know in the comments!

Time to get the day started.

Happy Tuesday, all!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Someone Just Asked...

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

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

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

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

Today is a day off. Everyone else is going to an all-day inservice on Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). The topic is relevant to many of our clients (I believe), but the person in charge is just too arrogant for me to be around all day, so I found a way out. I have a doctor's appointment at 10:15 and rationalized that it would be very difficult to drive 45 minutes to work, leave, drive 45 minutes to the doctor, go back, and try to figure out what I've missed. I know quite a bit about SPD already, and don't need the CMTEs, so I decided to have a true day off.

I have some plans.

I have to take a shower to get ready for the knee check. I am going to the doctor, and I think I'll go see Masterminds early this afternoon. After that, some shopping for various sundries, and then back home. It will be a good day. (And, did you notice? No music making in it at all! And that's okay!!)

Happy Monday.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

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

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


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

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

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

Over the years, I have read many requests for "a song" to use with a particular client. I've never really been sure what these therapists meant when they asked for "a song" to use with their clients. Do they really not know how to make any music into a therapeutic intervention or experience? Do they really not realize that you can use any element to shift any music into something that will fit any client?

I guess they don't.

I do, and I think it's because I've moved into this form of thinking about the music that I present to my clients. I know what I can adapt when I present any and all music to my clients within the session. If I am using live music, I can change all kinds of things to fit my client and what they need from the music. If I am using recorded music, I have more limitations, but I can still find ways to use the music to fit my clients.

I use this chart with each piece of music in the following manner:
  1. What are the possibilities for each element of music? For example, what is the tempo of the music? Can it be changed and/or adapted? What happens if I change the tempo of the piece? How does the music change? How does the client respond to the change in tempo?
  2. Write those possibilities down in the chart
  3. Practice the music while changing different elements - become very familiar with the piece, including memorizing the lyrics as they are and with variations
  4. Brainstorm all of the goal areas addressed by and with the music - is this a piece that could encourage motor development? Articulation? Crossing mid-line? Social interaction? Other goal areas? If a particular element is changed, do the goal areas change?
  5. Develop therapeutic music experience (TME) plan centered around the brainstorming
  6. Use with clients and adapt the plan
This exercise provides me with greater insight into my tool, my focus, my clinical process. It demonstrates to me that the song itself is not always the most important part of the music therapy session - it is the different elements of music that I use that are important. It is how the client reacts and interacts to the music that is important. It is the combination of music, therapist, and client that makes a music therapy session effective or not...playlist or interaction... entertainment or therapy...

Enjoy this next week, fellow therapists! 

Saturday, October 15, 2016

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

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

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

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

Then I faced my second dilemma.

What lyrics?

The problem with being a music therapist is that I don't have just one favorite song, I have many, MANY favorite songs. I love music from all types of places and times. I love some songs because of their lyrics. I love others in spite of their lyrics. I had to figure out what song to choose.

This was time for some mindfulness. I closed my eyes and just let songs drift through my head. The one that I stopped on was The River as sung by Garth Brooks. I've always loved that song.

I printed off the lyrics and then went to my relaxation spot for drawing and thinking.

I read the lyrics several times until a phrase popped out at me. "So don't you sit upon the shoreline and say you're satisfied. Choose to chance the rapids, and dare to dance the tide."

That was it. That was the message I needed to think about at that time, in that place.

The lyric word art developed from there. The targeted lyric was where I started to write. I did my own font idea - kinda calligraphy meets left-handed sprawl - and didn't stress too much about whether things matched. After the initial lyric was on the page, there was way too much empty space left. I needed to fill it up.

I decided to keep going with words until the empty space became full. All of the words in the picture are words in the song, but I just used them randomly with no clear purpose or structure. I saw a word, and I put it into the spaces available.

When everything was full, it was difficult to see the targeted lyric. So, I used some color to highlight the target words.

Next time I do this (and I feel that it will be sooner rather than later), I am going to try to use less words and more pictures or borders. I may also use more of the lyrics. We'll see. The best thing about creating is that the process is more important than the product. The product is something to take pride in, but the process is what can fulfill my creative spirit.

Any suggestions for the next round of lyrics?

Happy Saturday, all!

Friday, October 14, 2016

Almost There - Two Mini-Breaks

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

What is so compelling about a mini-break?

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

My Monday break will include a Doctor's appointment and avoiding an inservice. My Friday break has nothing as a priority at this time. I anticipate some cooking, some cleaning, some movie watching, and some naps during my mini-breaks. I might even tackle the shredding that I need to do.

I'm going to head to work now for a day of individual sessions. When this day is over, I'll be on my mini-break. I am looking forward to it!



Thursday, October 13, 2016

Thoughtful Thursday: Making Up My Mind

"Strength is a matter of a made up mind." ~ John Beecher

I went searching for something to think about this morning as I was flailing about, trying to come up with something to write about today, and found this quotation.

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

It's time to make up my mind.

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

My strength is foreknowledge and years of experience. I know that one particular client is targeting others physically. I know the ones that the client is currently threatening. I will do what I can to keep the attention on me and not the peers. The session itself is low-demand. No one is able to do anything remotely like music therapy this week (including me), so that group will be playing with manipulatives rather than making music.

My strength comes in my knowledge of people, my awareness of what is happening within the group, and my dedication to what I do for the people I am around.

I am going to put on my strength as I put on my uniform and go into the work world.

Happy Thursday.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Website Wednesday: Kelly Riley's Online Classroom

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

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

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

If you have some extra time, check out this website, especially if you work with school-aged clients. While the site itself is not a music therapy site, it can offer links to new information and challenge us (as therapists) to find therapeutic benefits in these games and applications.

Happy Website Wednesday!


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Am I Trying Too Hard?

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

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

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

What does this tell me?

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

Even so, I still carry around feelings of failure.

I want to reach everyone. I want to be able to interact with all of the people that come my way. I want to (and I shudder to even write this right here, right now because it is just that corny) help the world!

When a client takes time to shout obscenities at and about me, I have two different thoughts that occur. The first is that they are really threatened by something in the music therapy room - me, or music, or therapy. The second is that it is difficult to separate comments that are not always meant to be personal from the personal. As a result, I tend to spend way too much time thinking about these things than I should.

My goblins come out. You know the ones - the woulda, coulda, shoulda goblins. The ones that keep me thinking about the clients I don't get connected to rather than the clients that I do connect to. Those goblins.

It's time to shift into mindfulness and deflection mode.

Deflection - the comments that are made are not always personal to me. Sometimes they are, but most of the time they aren't. They are a result of other experiences that my clients bring to the session and get expressed to me. I know this from my readings, research, and experience working with clients with trauma backgrounds. When it happens, though, I tend to take it personally. That needs to stop.

Mindfulness - focus on the clients who are interested, happy, and engaged during music therapy sessions. Those are the clients who are benefiting from music therapy.

I'm going to ruminate on this a bit more. See you tomorrow!

Monday, October 10, 2016

The Continuing Saga of MJ and the iPod

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

It isn't - it really isn't.

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

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

Anyway, I've been trying to figure out how to configure the music files on my computer in a way that allows me to access them easily wherever I am. It's taking me lots of time, and every time I think I've mastered the idea, I'm shown that I am wrong!!

I am going to take the iPod back to work today to be used the way I always use it - with my clients. I'm also going to use it to avoid the constant discussion/rehash/mess that NPR is going to be this morning with the aftermath of the debate last night. I have some new television shows to watch this afternoon during some soon-to-be open times (the speech pathologist has decided to get snippy when I try to take kids - even though I scheduled my times first. I'm going to be the bigger person and change my schedule rather than have to put up with the snippy comments and rude behavior of the professional in the room.) while I put together some thoughts.

Let's hope that every thing works the way it is supposed to work today.

We shall see.

Sunday, October 09, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

Stay tuned for more information - starting next week!

Happy Sunday.

Saturday, October 08, 2016

Starting the Stress Cycle of Conference Time

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

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

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

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

My process is simple - I outline. I outline, I rearrange, and I polish. Right now I have to start with the outline, and I will do so. Once I finish, I will be able to refine my ideas and get things into my presentations. Then, I will spend many of my commuting hours from now until conference, practicing my talk. It will come together, and I will feel confident once it is time to talk to others about my topics.

Right now, though, I am in the thought and formulation stage, so things aren't where I can start to practice. Time to go to work! See you tomorrow.

Friday, October 07, 2016

Deep Thinking on This Friday Morning

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

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

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

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

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

I think there is a danger in narrowing my view of music therapy into only this space and this time.

The best thing for opening my eyes to what music therapy is for others is talking to those others about how we do our work. I spend time talking to interns about what I think music therapy is. I often challenge them to contradict me, challenge my ideas, and talk about what they feel about definitions, opinions, and other ideas that may be contradictory to what we've learned in our music therapy education. Most of them rarely interact with me in that way, but I hope that they start to think about music therapy in a more inclusive manner after our conversations (albeit, very one-sided conversations).

The other thing that helps me figure out how my view of our profession differs from that of others is the Online Conference for Music Therapy. This international conference offers me a glimpse into the role of music therapy in areas all around the world. I love hearing from music therapists from Greece about how music therapy is working with refugees fleeing from Syria. I find discussions with therapists from India to be very enlightening. I always end up feeling stimulated and challenged by that conference experience - my view of music therapy seems very narrow when I hear about how others spend their time practicing.

I wish I had enough money to purchase every single music therapy text ever written. I would spend time reading all of the thoughts of the great music therapy philosophers, technicians, and theorists. I would want to see what they have in common and where they diverge. I know that there is something that we all have in common. For me, that commonality is the purposeful application of music for the benefit of our clients. I wonder if others would see that as well.

Deep thoughts for this Friday. I'm going to work, so I'll see you later! 

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Thoughtful Thursday - Stretching the Boundaries

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

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

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

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

I am trying to fit in more times like this one - more moments in my day to just sit without thinking or wondering or planning. It's difficult for me to do, but I am getting better at noticing the moments around me.

Stretch your own boundaries in some way this week. Try something new, step out of your comfort zone, look for inspiration. 

Me? I'm going to be taking head shot portraits this afternoon. (Big time stretch of my comfort-zone boundaries!) My friend is going to take the pictures. I'm going to do the whole makeup, color from my wardrobe, and smiling for the camera thing. I might hate the requirement for this, but I need to do it, so I am going to stretch.

I am also challenging myself to improvising more with my clients. More music in the moment rather than music from the session plan. Stretch!!

What will you do this week to stretch your comfort zone just a bit more?

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Website Wednesday - Music Therapy Kids

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

Music Therapy Kids

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

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

Go check it out!

See you next Wednesday?

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Looking Forward To...

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

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

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

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

What are you looking forward to? I am going to enjoy this season of change while it is here.


Monday, October 03, 2016

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

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

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

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

...when it works.

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

For music therapists, the convenience of portable music files is wonderful. No more CD books full of music to lug around. No more cassette tape devices and tapes to fast forward to find the correct musical cue.

Now, I bet some of you are thinking about keeping music in the cloud. My issues with that are that my access to wi-fi is nonexistent in my job environment. Having things in the cloud is great, but useless if you cannot access those things at the moment that you want or need them.

My next move is to figure out what is next. If my iThings aren't going to work reliably, then I will have to do something else.

So, off I go on a familiar journey, trying to figure out how to use my music library in my music therapy sessions.

Happy Monday.

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Just a Song Sunday - Introduction

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

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

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

I do not believe that the song is what matters, but that it is how music is used by the therapist and the client that matters in music therapy.

Is this easy to understand? I always feel that I start babbling when I start trying to explain what I mean.

Long time readers of this blog know that I have spent many of my Sunday posts working on analyzing specific songs based on their musical elements. I have worked on this idea and philosophy for a long time, but I don't think I have really clearly defined it to myself yet, so still have some difficulty explaining it to others.

So, what do I intend to do on these Sunday mornings with this topic?

To be honest, I'm not quite sure what I intend to do. I've thought about many different things and here are some of the ideas and pitfalls:
  • demonstrating how a song can be changed to accommodate clients' needs - is this giving non-music therapists some of our education and training?
  • taking a random song and making it into a TME - again, this seems like giving away ideas for free
  • refining my ideas about this idea...
In the meantime, check out the blog label (located on the left side of the page here) Synthesis Sunday and Sing A Song Sunday. You'll find some song analyses, some ideas for clients, and things I've thought about many times.

I'll be back next Sunday with something to report or display.

Saturday, October 01, 2016

Happy Saturday! It's a New Month AND a New Bullet Journal!
My new Bullet Journal - Courtesy of Music Therapy Mailings!
It is a new month. October is here and I am ready for it!!

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

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

When I started to use this format for organizing my time and events, I made the fatal error of looking for information on Pinterest. This was a bad thing for me to do because it showed me lots of wonderful drawings, formats, fancy things that are not really part of my repertoire yet (or may never be). There are so many different things that people use their journals for that are just not all that practical for me.

So, I am finding my own way.

What is happening right now is that my bullet journal (or bujo if you're part of the creative crew) is a glorified to-do list. I have started from both the front and the back of the book, and I am trying to organize what I need to do, what I actually did, and ideas that I want to work on into the pages. My calendar is at the front of the book and the idea pages are in the back of the book. I did some blog rejuvenation creativity work earlier this week - the journal gave me a place to work on my mind map and keep it with everything else.

This format is starting to work for me, and I'm going to keep it up.

One of the topics that I talk to music therapy interns about is Time Management. During our discussions, I stress that one size does NOT fit all when it comes to finding a management strategy. What works for me may not work for you - and THAT'S FINE! 

For me, this is working. I don't always put things on my list, but when I do, I pay attention. Today's list? Blogging (check), blogging on a new website (not done yet), OCMT Board of Directors meeting (in about an hour), cleaning something here at home (TBD, but I'm thinking the living room needs some desperate attention!). That's it.

Folks who are hard core bullet journalers use theirs as journal and mindfulness tool as well as a task manager. I haven't started those things yet, but I think I will try it for this new month. I'll spend some time every day thinking about what has gone well and what needs some attention in my life. I also think I'll write something about each day - a way to keep track of me and my moods during this new month. 

I'm also on the lookout for another journal to start in about four months or so - depends on how fast I can fill this book!

Off to start my tasks and to get ready for the week. Happy music therapy-ing, all!