Skip to main content


Showing posts from January, 2017

My Music Therapy Moment

Yesterday, I had a Music Therapy Moment ! This deserves the italics because it was a time where I felt that music therapy was working and making things better for a client. It was an individual session. This client is really engaged by electronics and spends most of our time together either messing up the iPod or trying to play a DVD. Yesterday, however, the iPod was in my bag which I left at home. The client wasn't able to do anything in the routine. So, what did we do? We made music. The client found a microphone and set it up on the stand (we didn't plug it in). I played the piano - a blues riff in C. We scatted. My non-verbal client used the microphone to sing - syllables - and I sang too. We made music for about 15 minutes before the experience came to an end. We moved from the piano to the guitar back to the piano. We scatted, we "whoa-oed," we slid up and down the scale. We created a musical piece that existed in the moment and for the two of us...and then

Deciding To Act

There are many things going on right now in this country, in my state, in my city, and in my home. These are all things that are not any of my doing (Well, except for the stuff in my home), but that are affecting how I approach the world around me.  I can't quite reconcile the values that I hold dear with the things that are happening, so I am struggling to figure out what type of action I need to take in this new situation. I do know that the first step is to decide to do something. Until now, I have been trying to avoid things that upset me (which means absolutely NO radio or television news - it's ALL upsetting!). I don't think I can do that anymore. It's time to decide. The question is, what can I do? This is lots like therapy. The first thing that has to happen is that someone has to decide to act - to change, to seek assistance, to make something different. That first person is usually the client (or someone concerned about the client's life and well-b

Just a Song Sunday: Elements of Music

One of the things that I think about lots and lots is how I use the music with my clients. I think about all of the elements of music and how they all combine together to make for those music therapy moments - both the good ones and the not-so-good ones. I believe that any song can be the basis of a therapeutic intervention if the therapist and the client are able to manipulate the tool (music) to accommodate client needs and objectives. You can change the tempo, the rhythm, the harmonics, the melody, the pitch, the lyrics, the meter, the form, and the dynamics of the music. Here are some of the songs that I've analyzed over the years to make the options that I have available to me during specific songs more apparent to me during music therapy implementation. Let me know if you have any questions...  


Here's what is going on in my corner of the music therapy world these days... Centers - classes have been short-staffed these days, so centers have not gone as I would like them to. This happens every time I try to get centers started - staff members aren't around. Okay. I should remember this, but I always hope that things will actually change. So, back to the drawing board. The most successful center-type thing that I've ever done was using notebooks (3-ring binders) with small groups using identical visual aids while I continued the musical interaction. I think I can tweak the center idea to work with this type of interaction - the binders, I mean. Online Conference for Music Therapy - There is a week left before the conference begins. That means that my fellow Board Members are running around like chickens with our heads cut off - lots of energy but some of the effort is futile. My posts may become a bit more harried as the conference approaches. I am running both

Thoughtful Thursday: A Cluttered Mind

It's Thursday, and that means it is intern webinar day. I run a free webinar series for interns every couple of months or so, and the topics range from being a leader to marketing to time management. (By the way, if you are interested in more information on my webinars, click here .) Tonight's webinar topic is "Self-Care and the Music Therapist." I always seem to schedule this particular webinar topic when I am the most stressed. This is a good thing as it reminds me of my own self-care practices (or lack thereof) and promotes the idea that self-care is something crucial in the daily life of every therapist. I have the opportunity to remember why it is important to take time to be mindful of self. Currently, I am getting a presentation together, thinking about a sermon for Sunday (one that can be easily chopped up and adjusted to accommodate others), coordinating registration for the Online Conference for Music Therapy , running music therapy groups, trying to fig

Website Wednesday: What Music Therapy Isn't

It's music therapy advocacy month, and I enjoy the process of looking at music therapy posts, websites, and blogs to see what else is out there for us music therapy-types. This is sometimes a silly idea, other times it's an exercise in tolerance, yet other times it is frustrating. I was strolling around the internet this morning, and I thought I would see what was out there. I wasn't disappointed. One blogger wrote about "music therapy. It's where you take three songs that have significance in your life and write about them on your blog." Oh dear. I have to decide if I go through the process of commenting on this random blogger's page or just let it go. I tend to be a person who just lets it go. This random mommy (what she called herself on the blog) is not doing music therapy, but she was told this by another mommy blogger, so she is just spreading some misinformation. We've all done that at one time or another. The idea itself is sound, b

One Thing at a Time

This morning, I awoke very early with a list of the things that I have to get done running through my head. This, unfortunately, isn't all that unusual for me, but the nature of the things on the list were a bit different from the usual. Today's list included filing taxes for the non-profit I work for, filing my own taxes (I'm almost ready for that one), starting a presentation I'm giving in two weeks but that is due on Saturday, new recordings for my website, doing laundry so I could wear my uniform today, finding resources for the sermon I have to give on Sunday at one of my other part-time jobs, and coordinating the upcoming Online Conference for Music Therapy. This is the time of year where I get overwhelmed by things very quickly and have little to no motivation to do what I should be doing. This is the time of year when I spend lots of time in "self-care" which is not really "self-care" but is "avoiding my responsibilities." That is

Centers - Again

Well, week two of this experiment went about as could be expected. I got some good anecdotal information about my students, and I am now revising my centers yet again. I realize I need MANY more things to do, covering a wide range of interests, academic levels, and attention spans. Now, to be fair to myself, I knew most of that already, but this week REALLY reinforced that which I already knew to be true. I was fascinated by who would and who would not go listen to something on the computer. Only about half of my students would wear headphones - the others either took them off immediately or refused to leave the singing carpet to begin with. I had thought that being able to listen to someone other than me would be a big draw, but I was wrong for about half of my students. Interesting. This week is supposed to be two center start-off week. I have some animal themed things to do. There is a sensory box full of dyed pasta (It was fun to make, and I hope it's completely dry now)

Just a Song Sunday: We Shall Overcome

I'm not going to sugar coat it - this has been a rough week for me. I have had to take a break from news, from friends who have very passionate views about everything and often in direct conflict with each other, and from social media of all sorts. I took a break. I looked at my email, but that was it, from Thursday evening until Saturday afternoon. What did I find? Two days was not enough to have a hiatus. The rhetoric from all sides was just as vehement, just as nasty, and just as jarring as it would have been earlier had I been part of the discussion. I am to the point where I am hiding people from my newsfeed without qualms. I think it's time to weed out my friend list. I just don't want to read the nasty stuff that people say about groups of "others." There are no others. There is just us. This week, which started with a celebration of the birth of a man who changed things for others and ended with marches celebrating the strength of ordinary people,

Thoughtful Thursday: About Advocacy

January is Music Therapy Advocacy Month here in the States. Apparently we focus on our quest for title recognition during this month. I've never been one who liked making cold contacts, and the thought of talking to one of my elected representatives just frightens me to my very toes, so I focus on being a local advocate for music therapy. My advocacy journey takes me into classrooms, onto social media, into international conferences, and into homes of clients. This year, I've spoken about music therapy to my physical therapist, to a grant developer, and to my friends (lots to my friends!!). My advocacy journey includes doing my job to the best of my ability. My advocacy journey has included being an internship director to foster the skills of the new generation of music therapists. My advocacy journey includes the day to day sessions, contacts, and examples that I try to present to the world. How do you advocate the importance of this therapeutic medium to others in

Website Wednesday: Daniel Tiger's Music Game

I have always harbored a secret desire to work for Sesame Workshop. Sesame Street was a big part of my childhood, along with Mr. Rogers and Captain Kangaroo, and I have always been interested in the use of music to teach kids about things.  Most of my therapeutic music experience (TME) development over the years has been focused on teaching about things, but many times, my clients don't want to learn about things. They need other forms of treatment from me, so my academic TMEs just sit in my TME file, waiting patiently for others to want them. I bring all this up to introduce my website pick for today. It's from the people at PBS and offers kids an opportunity to do some improvisation centered around emotional expression. You can find the website here . I tried to play around with it this morning, but my computer was too slow to make it very interesting. I like this because it links the idea of music as an expressive agent with the emotions of kids. There are other game

Time For a Second Center Introduction

Today is the day that I introduce a second center type into my music therapy environment. Today we will embark on the adventure known as "Listen."  When I started brainstorming for this experiment in how to handle large groups of clients that are not conveniently arranged based on therapeutic goals, I had a view that included three different, distinct centers. I think this will still be the best way to do things in my space, but I am still trying to get things completely arranged in my space and in my head. Last week was the debut of "Explore." It went pretty well, but I did not end up with any materials afterwards - the last group cleaned me out and took their instruments (not what I intended when I planned the center, but I went with it anyway). They took every last piece of pasta and all of the pom-poms. I've decided that we will no longer take things away from the music therapy room unless they are paper. It's just too expensive otherwise. I went t

In a Rut in 2017 - Already

I've been struggling with blog post timings lately. I also feel like most of what I'm writing is not really all that interesting, so I've started posts that have never made it to the light of day (or the computer screen). I've had some late mornings, so blogging went by the wayside as I tried to get to work before the ice started or to finish coordinating my new music therapy room. I feel like I'm out of the loop when it comes to what is happening in the greater music therapy world. I have no idea what is happening in the area of state authorizations or education regulations or anything else. I feel like my music therapy world has shrunk to my little corner of the globe, and I'm not sure that's a bad thing. I still feel like I am in a rut when it comes to writing about music therapy. It's time to break out of that rut and find smooth ground again. You lucky readers, you! You get to go through my stream of consciousness right now as I try to figure

Just a Song Sunday: The Songs of My Life

All of my career, I've been fascinated by the idea that music plays a strong role in identity, remembrance, and interaction. I have studied incidental learning based on the presence of music. I have spent much time asking clients about their musical preferences and I've thought lots about my own musical preferences and what they will mean for my future music therapists. I am sure that many of you music therapists out there have been involved with and in music for most of your lives. I've been a singer for as long as I can remember. My family lore includes knowing every single song presented at preschool but refusing to sing at the performances - just standing in the middle of the group wailing at the top of my lungs. A magic dress changed all that - all of a sudden my social anxiety cleared up, and I found my voice! My love of music led me to sing in various church choirs, and I eventually decided to play cornet in band. I had to choose between being in band and in choi

Week One: New Room, New Center, Honest Review...

Here it is! My beautiful new room. In the past week, I've been able to do music therapy sessions with all of my students, and I started to introduce the idea of doing centers with six of my eleven large groups. It went pretty well this week. I've already made some adjustments and will be working hard to get other things put together before everything works effectively, but things went pretty well. I have made a data sheet for my paraeducators to fill out when they are with their students in the centers. They will keep track of our behavior management system, the amount of time kids engage in the center itself, and how much assistance the kids needed to complete the station. I changed from a paper-based format to a laminated sheet and have figured out how to accommodate client changes (four of my clients left in the 30 minutes after I laminated things - no prior notification!) without having to laminate things over and over again. I still have some things to work out.

Thoughtful Thursday: Starting to Think about Presentation Topics

I am starting my process of presentation preparation. I have three presentations to give this year (so far) - one at the Online Conference for Music Therapy (registration is open - join us!) and two at the Mid-Western/Western Super Regional Conference in Denver. I am starting to try to get my thoughts together enough to start planning for these presentations. I always propose presentations that interest me. I spend some time thinking about what I've learned lately that others may be interested in, and I write the proposal. When the proposal is accepted, I usually stop thinking about things until closer to the presentation date. That date is coming up fast, so it's time to start the next step. My next step is starting a spiel in the car. I live about an hour away from my workplace (on purpose), and I have a good long commute. With that much time, I often talk through ideas and practice what I am going to say. I also have super sticky post-it notes and a pen in my car, so I

Website Wednesday: Flying Pigs Campfire Songbook

I am a camp and scouting nerd. I freely admit it. Many years of being a Girl Scout, a very brief stint as an Explorer Scout, and years and years of camping in all forms and states has made me very appreciative of campfire songs. When I am looking for a silly something to lure my clients into interactions, I go for the Flying Pigs Campfire Songbook . (Don't you just LOVE the name of this book?) Now, I am the first to admit that I don't know all the songs in this book, but I've found YouTube links to most of the few that I haven't sung around a campfire in my life. For the ones that I just haven't found anywhere, I make up my own melodies! Some of my favorites for therapy? A Ram Sam Sam Boom Chicka Boom Come On and Sing With Me Doodley Doo - I know this one as Wadaliactcha ...oh, there are so many more that I love. The songs can be adapted and used for all types of goals and objectives. I can make any song work for therapy, and these tend to be funnier th

The Electronics Curse Strikes Again

I have written before about my difficulty with all things "i" - iPods, iTunes, iPads - but yesterday, I managed to break out of my iThing difficulty and lead straight into just general electronics. My computer died yesterday. Not the one at home that has had so many problems over the past several months, but the one at work that I have to use to document, communicate, and help clients learn about composition and other stuff. It completely froze and was nonfunctional. I had seen the signs. Things didn't stop when I asked them to stop. There were several re-boots that just didn't seem to be appropriate. Typing was slow. The signs were there. The thing that really got to me, though, was that the iPod stopped working as well. I'm hoping that the iPod will eventually start to work (it is an iPod Classic - not made anymore) and will give me what I want as a tool for music therapy. (I can't stream music with the ease that I can find it on the iPod.) If all else

This is It!

Today is the day I start off with my new ideas about how to work with large groups of students who all have significant needs. I will introduce the first center to them today - Explore. We are going to make water bottle shakers at the first center this week. I want every student to go through the center during these first days in order to get all the staff members trained on how to fill out the data I want/need. I have confidence that the clients will be able to do these centers, but I am not so sure about the staff members. I am nervous. Not as nervous as I get when a new intern starts, but more nervous than usual on a Monday morning. My staff members are the unknown variable in this equation aimed at reducing therapy group size, increasing opportunities for attention, and offering unique music experiences on a weekly basis. If I can make this something that they can understand and just do as a matter of habit, the entire program will work. If not, it will all go down into the dumps

Just a Song Sunday: Practical Application

It's time to start putting all of the things that I've been writing about into actual practice. Next week, I start a new way of doing therapy with some of my students. We are going to do one station - explore - while others are doing some active musicking with me on the carpet. I will be monitoring what all of my clients are doing and will also be using the music to support and promote specific actions and responses from all of them. I intend to run different songs during center times - each group that spends time with me on the carpet will have music that is shaped to them and that will be different than the music for the other group that comes to see me. Everyone will be able to hear all of the music, so it should work well to have different music for the different groups, but I haven't actually tried this particular setup yet, so I'm not exactly sure how things will end up going. We are starting this by making some shakers in the explore center. I'm going t

The Power of Pinterest

I admit it, I get easily distracted by things on Pinterest. I tried REALLY hard to resist the urge to sit in front of my computer, looking at pictures, but it really has become a very good tool for me. (That's my lame excuse, and I am STICKING to it!) I currently have 10 boards - 7 that are public and 3 that are secret. I am not following many people (just my sister) because I just can't go that route. I feel the same way about following people on Twitter - I have 11 accounts that I follow, and that's all. I just can't keep up when there are many people to pay attention to. I am still learning how to let other people know about the things that I do in my life and role as a music therapist. I have learned to use more aspects of social media, but I am always interested in what others are doing as well. I incorporate tips into my professional goals. Readers, what tools do you use in social media? What do you think is the best/most effective way to increase your visib

Friday Evening - Or Pre-vening At Least - Thoughts

I didn't get much time to write this morning, so I am making it up to myself by writing another post on this early weekend hour. The first week of the new year is almost over, and MY ROOM IS FINISHED!! It only took me 2 weeks... Oh, I feel the need to say that again. MY ROOM IS FINISHED! I am feeling things that I haven't felt in a long time. I am feeling happy. I am feeling that I can move. I am feeling like I have enough space to do the things that I have wanted to do with my clients but haven't been able to do because we had no personal space available. That isn't a problem any more! Do you ever feel like you are trapped? In a dead-end job? In a bad relationship? In a car sitting in the middle of the freeway? I do, and it is the most frustrating experience that I have (and it happens on a pretty regular basis). My last music therapy environment felt like a trap. It was dark, small, and irregular in shape (the only wall was a curved wall - bounced sound a

Finding My Way - A Short Post (More Writing Tonight)

This is going to be a short post because I refused to get up this morning, so now I am running a bit later than usual. My room is finally starting to approach completion. The last bit of moving happened yesterday, so I can clean the other storage area and get some shelving from the basement downstairs. I also received my headphones for my listening center and will be getting my junction box ordered this weekend. The only thing I'm waiting for now is the student computer to arrive, and then I will be finished! I have no idea where things are yet, but I am getting a good idea. I've sorted most of the materials by how I intend to use them - there is an explore cabinet, a listening cabinet, and a learning cabinet. I also have a therapy cabinet with the materials that I use more often than not. Eventually my office and storage areas will also be organized, but that won't happen for some time as I am behind on my notes and a revamp of how we do our notes. I have to finish my cl

Thoughtful Thursday: Getting to Know You Again

I did it. I finished the first sessions in my new room setup, and it is interesting how different things are already, even though things aren't completely organized or settled yet.  The view from the door I am enjoying the new, larger space. I think the clients will as well. We spent most of the time yesterday roaming the room and figuring out what was in the cabinets. Group members started on the carpet, sang an opening song with me, and then were given the opportunity to explore the area. There were tables with books and fidgets. There were choice cards for playing the big instruments that are usually kept locked away in the cabinet. What will eventually be the center area The big instrument area The group area - looking at the office door Some of the clients acted as I expected. Some of them started off refusing to move around the new space. They sat and looked around. It took them some time before they moved around the room, looking at things th

Website Wednesday: YouTube, of Course!!

All of my website searches seem to include You Tube. All of them. So, why haven't I written about it before? Because I think that everyone uses You Tube the way I use You Tube. I guess I'm wrong because I can find the answers to questions that others post quickly when I use Google and You Tube, and they can't seem to find the same resources. Ooh, getting into snarkiness here - must move on! Anyway, do you want to see some cool new ways to play a cabasa? Type it into the search window and, voila - you tube video ! Need a little Muppet music in your life? Again, search Muppet Music, and there are many different choices ! When I have a question, I immediately turn to my online resources - Google and You Tube. I only turn to others when there is no information on those sites that make sense - believe it or not, I've never found a topic that isn't represented on those sites. Just to finish things off, here is one of my You Tube videos (actually, my only one so far

Tuesday - School Is Changing

Today is Tuesday, and I am going into work to go through active shooter training. This is not something I want to do or something that I am looking forward to, but it seems to be the norm these days if you work in a school. Our scenario will include police officers roaming around the building, shooting blanks, and hunting us. I am having anxiety dreams and nothing has happened yet. This is the environment of my worst dreams usually, being chased by people who are out to get me, and today, I get to live it. My rational brain knows the reason behind this training. Schools are vulnerable to attack by people who have several different agendas. It is unfortunate that this is the case, but it is. Schools contain vulnerable and protected people (the future) and have a huge impact on idea development and subsequent actions. School attacks make statements, so we who work in schools have to learn how to keep the children in our care safe and alive. My rational brain knows why we are going to d

Just a Song Sunday: The Purposeful Use of Song

I missed a post last Sunday as I was traveling across the nation, but I am here this Sunday with yet another post about the idea of using "song" in music therapy sessions. Let me fill you in on what is currently happening in my life that is making me think the way I am thinking... I have moved to a new music therapy room. This new space is huge (especially when compared to my last space), and I am going to try to split up the VERY large groups that I treat into smaller groups for centers (small activities that address specific goal areas but that do not require a music therapist to run them all). I have several ideas about how to do this, but the one thing that will happen is that there will a purposeful use of song and musical elements throughout the session that will unite what happens in the centers with what is happening with me as the therapist. For example (and please keep in mind that I haven't actually started trying to run these centers yet, they are still