Showing posts from March, 2017

Positive Focus

I think I'm still getting used to this entire time change thing. I've slept in twice this week and am exhausted. You would think that I would have acclimatized, but, no. I think the pattern of Spring Break (AKA, not having to get up at all, much less at a time when I could get ready for work in a relaxed manner) messed up my routine.

As a result, I have a handy situation on which to blame my less-than-stellar therapy sessions this week.

Actually, that's not really fair to me. I only really had three less-than-stellar sessions. The other 11 sessions were fine, and there were some great moments in there as well. Why do I tend to go straight to the negative? Hmm.

Anyway, the 11 sessions that went very well are the ones that I want to focus on right now - moving myself away from the negative and towards the positive. This week, two clients used their communication devices to direct me towards specific interventions. One of the clients typed the name of a song into the iPad with a…

Muppet Break!

Just because I can...

Crucial Conversation Update

I did it. I engaged in a crucial conversation yesterday, and I was able to express my feelings and attitudes about the situation I was forced into. I was also able to get a firm decision by my administrator (at least, she told me that the decision was firm - we'll see if she remembers the other part of the discussion - the notification of the faculty about the decision).

I was able to get a clear path forward on the schedule and how things will work next year.

I was not able to remain rational - I cried a bit.

I still got what I needed from the situation - a change in schedule that makes sense to me and allows me to have what everyone else in the facility has - a set schedule that doesn't have to be changed to accommodate someone else's schedule during two months of the year. 

I'm glad that is over (for, at least, the moment).

I didn't sleep very well last night. A short cat-fight woke me up at 12:47:52am, jarring me awake, and then the storms started rolling in. I doze…

A Crucial Conversation - I Hate These Situations

One of the modules I offer for free to interns is one on Crucial Conversations. It was suggested by an anonymous intern quite a while ago as something that would be valuable to other interns - basically, how to talk to someone when you are in a conflict of some sort. We talk about conflict resolution, active listening, and attempting to remain rational rather than emotional.

I am going to have a crucial conversation today (I hope).

Scheduling for next year has turned into a hot mess. We are adding another classroom, so things will have to change, but everyone is having hissy fits about changing ANYTHING! I am going to engage in my own hissy fit today because I am tired of being the only one who has to change to accommodate the demands of other people.

I am not a person who enjoys confrontation. I tend to go straight into my defensive mode of crying when I have to talk about things that affect my emotions. Anger is expressed through crying. Frustration is expressed through crying. Interes…

Monday Morning

Well, here it is. The first day back after Spring Break. It's time to get back into a therapy routine and focus attention on client progress and treatment again. The past week was a good start towards my personal goals (always trying to get to minimalism - but not succeeding), but it wasn't quite enough time to get bored with my own company and be itching to get back to work.

I didn't accomplish everything I wanted to do (I NEVER do), but I did get some things done. I spent time in the company of other music therapists (got some really good feedback about my presentation topics). I bought some new pants (spent WAY more money than I've spent in the last two years on clothing, but I really needed to have some new uniform pants!). I completed and submitted my CBMT pre-approved provider application so I can start offering CMTE coursework for music therapists. I took naps, had a severe dizzy spell, and cleaned the house a bit. I got lots of kitty snuggles and maintained an a…

Just A Song Sunday: Write Your Own, Get CMTEs!

I am steeped in songwriting these days. I took a final leap yesterday and FINALLY submitted my application to become a CBMT pre-approved provider of continuing education for music therapists (CMTEs) (I've been talking about it for 20 years and FINALLY FINISHED THE PROCESS). As a result, I am starting to generate content for my courses, and songwriting is at the top of the list.

I enjoy writing songs. I like to compose something specifically for a client. I like writing songs that help a client move towards his or her personal therapeutic goals. I've written several collections of original songs with additional therapeutic music experiences, and I think that it's good for music therapists to play around with composition and songwriting to spur creativity. One of the things that I'd wished I'd known a long time ago is that I can earn up to 20 CMTE credits for my songwriting. (It's my own fault, I've got to actually READ the recertification manual to get all th…

Looking Forward - Here's to the Next 24!

Tomorrow is an anniversary for me.

Twenty-four years ago, on March 26th, I finished my last hours as a music therapy intern and became a music therapist.

I celebrate this date occasionally. It was the biggest anniversary event in my life - something I accomplished by myself, and something that was both the beginning of something and the end of something.

I was officially finished with my undergraduate degree and internship. I was no longer a student of music therapy - I was expected to be employed as a therapist and to know how to do my job. I was starting that mythical time in my life as an "entry-level therapist." (Cue the angelic proclamations!)

I wish I could tell you that I felt ready to take on the world of music therapy by storm. I wish I could tell you that I found my life as a music therapist to be all sunshine and rainbows. I wish I could tell you that my music therapy education prepared me for the reality of the jobs that I took over the years. All of those things wou…

My Last Day

It's the last day of break (I go back to the everyday type of schedule tomorrow morning, early). I did what I always do - make big plans and not get through them - but progress was made towards the clear/clean out. I will just have to continue to do my small steps forward everyday to help me get to my goal.

I found a shredding service that only charges 49 cents per pound. Score! It's also on my way home - less than a block away - so, I can shred all of the junk mail once per month and not have to worry about it piling up. (I tend to go through shredders often with the amount of stuff I want to shred. Finding a shredding service takes a load off my mind and gets stuff out of my house. Ooh, I can even make a decorated box for my junk mail and put it right next to my door. That would be a good way to spend part of my last day...) 

There are other things that I want to get accomplished. I have to make a phone call to finish up my worker's compensation case. I hate making phone c…

Thoughtful Thursday: Allowing Myself to Feel

I've been doing lots and lots of thinking during this Spring Break week. 

I was told that a project that I spent hours on was systematically dismantled by fellow staff members while I was at conference. I am not happy about this, but I've decided that I will no longer put myself out in this particular project. I requested two things - a change in group times to avoid having to completely re-do my schedule during the summer months and the addition of another classroom group (since we are adding another classroom group). Apparently, that wasn't something that my co-workers were willing to do, so I have to go back to being the only person on the campus who has to change schedules during the summer session. I have to increase the number of session plans that I have to do during those two months with absolutely no planning time during those same months. I will no longer put myself in the position of working on this master schedule just to have it destroyed by people who are unwi…

Theme and Variations: Part Four

This will be the last in this series of posts (at least, for the current moment). I've enjoyed the thought experiment of making this analogy, and it seems to make sense to me as a way to think of music therapists and the differences we have between us with an eye to the similarities that are also present.

I went to an educational program that was steeped in the tradition of one specific theoretical practice of music therapy, but we were introduced to the themes of all of the other ideas out there in the world. We were never told that our way of doing things was the right way of doing things. We were told that the client was the focus and that the way of approaching therapy with the client should change to accommodate differences in clients. Nothing was off-limits, but our professors recognized their own clinical skills and only felt comfortable teaching us what they knew and believed.

Over the years, I've been accosted by people who were taught one and only one theme. They were …

Theme and Variations: Part Three - What a Client Brings to the Theme

This is part three of a series on Themes and Variations. (If you want to read part one, click here. If you want to read part two, click here.) This is a concept that I am currently thinking through, inspired by experiences at the WRMWAMTA super regional conference that occurred last weekend in Colorado, but it has been influenced by many years of theoretical exploration and clinical practice.

Today's focus? The client.

For me, the most important element of any music therapy session has to be the client. After all, without the client, there would only be a therapist sitting there, playing music for reasons that have nothing to do with therapy, just entertainment of self. (There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with making music for yourself, but I contend that without the client, you cannot be doing music therapy!)

So, we've thought about our greater themes - those which shape how we approach the things we do with clients during sessions. We've spoken about our variations - the one…

Variations on a Theme: Part Two

Some of you may have already read part one of this discussion, but in case you haven't click here for the first part of this analogy.

I propose the concept that we, as music therapists, work within a common musical construct - that of the theme and variations. Our primary structure is that of a specific pitch center and construct.

(Now, I am going to be making some assumptions about what we believe here - these ideas are simply my own, but I think I can make these statements pretty confidently. If not, please feel free to contact me through the comments here on this blog.)

We all believe that music can affect change in the lives of human beings. We believe that, when musical elements are applied by someone who is trained in the concepts and processes of the effect of music on human beings, that music can affect exponential change in the lives of consumers.

For me, this is our foundation. This is our pitch center. The pitch offers the first level of structure - before even the theme s…

Just A Song Sunday: Variations on a Theme

I have recently returned to my home from the super regional conference between the Western region and the Midwestern region of the American Music Therapy Association. It was a good trip - lots of time in the car to myself, a hotel room, and two presentations that were well received. A friend of mine got an award that she wasn't ready for, and I saw some of you there. (Thanks for reading and for talking to me about the blog, by the way!) All in all, it was a good way to start my spring break and get my mind turned towards my quest for a deeper understanding of this profession. I wish I could have been there for the second day of sessions, but life often has other plans, and I had to make it back here for worship leadership this morning (I can't begrudge the pastor his own study leave!). So, I skipped out a day early.

I like attending conferences because they always remind me about why I love being a music therapist. There is something so reaffirming about being with a group of p…

My Conference Time is Over!

Well, it's been fun, but it's almost time to head out and get back home.

I gave two presentations yesterday, and the feedback was tremendous. I spoke about how I strive to become a more research-informed clinician to a group of about 46 folks. I admitted that my journal shelf is pretty but underutilized. I showed them one of my journals - from 3 years ago - still in the plastic covering. Did you know that the plastic covering on our journals starts to actively degrade after 3 years? I left a trail of fragile plastic bits in my wake! Several people thanked me for admitting that I struggle with the integration of research into my clinical practice. I even found out about PICO stuff in the nursing literature (I haven't started to explore that yet, but I hear that it's a way to help you parse through research to find information).

My second presentation yesterday was about navigating slumps. We talked about such uplifting topics as burnout, secondary trauma, and compassion f…

Today is Presentation Day!


By the end of today, I will have finished two presentations and my conference obligations will be done. I awoke at 3am local time and took my shower. I still have to venture out into the night and get my materials, but I am confident that I am ready to talk to music therapists about becoming a more research-informed clinician and about transforming career slumps into career pivots.

I have experienced a couple of "hunh" moments. One was when I arrived and discovered that I have more time to talk this morning than I had planned for. I'm sure that I knew that at one point, but I had conveniently stuffed that information into the dusty corners of my mind. MORE TIME?? I dashed quickly to the computer and added more to the presentation. Now I need to update my handouts on the website, and I am finished! Okay, that's done!

The second "hunh" moment came when the keynote speaker, Jennifer Buchanan, basically spoke on my afternoon's topic last night. I starte…

Alone Time

Today, I spent 8 hours driving in my car to get to my regional conference. I started the journey at 4am (about 50 minutes after I awoke) and arrived at my destination exactly when Google maps predicted I would arrive (I love it when a plan comes together!). I had all that time in the car, looking towards the west and thinking. Actually, I wasn't just thinking, I was also talking out loud and practicing different speeches that I have coming up.

I'm sure I was a sight driving down the freeway, but people don't think twice about people talking to themselves in cars any more. I thank the cell phone for normalizing the act of speaking to someone unseen. Anyway...

I like long drives. I enjoy getting behind the wheel of my little car and driving into the horizon. I like the forced alone time, and I take advantage of it to organize myself and my thoughts.

Today's trip brought me some ideas for some things I'm going to do with my website. I have things all outlined out (verbal…

A Bad Night

I had a bad night last night. It started with a bite from a client - lovely big bruise blossoming on my left leg, continued with a snarky comment from a co-worker about a task I had to complete, and ended with little to no sleep and the start of a cold or allergy response (I think it's an allergy, but we'll see). In the middle of that was a disagreement with my father about insurance companies (I try to avoid any type of political discussion with my father because it ends up with me upset). I'm not sure if the disagreement was due to the fact that I'm not feeling well or if I'm not feeling well because of the disagreement (chicken and egg deal), but I am tired, I can't breathe, and I am ravenously hungry.

I am taking the day off.

I really shouldn't as I am almost out of time, but I don't think I can stay awake enough to drive the hour to work. I already have a group cancelled (they are going on a field trip, we found out late on Monday), and I already hav…


One of my most treasured possessions is an old Boy Scout compass that was my father's all through his Boy Scouting days. It's in really good shape considering that it was my Dad's and that I've got it now. It's probably at least 55 years old and may be more like 60-ish.

That compass has moved with me ever since my grandmother died. It has been to California, Arizona, and now resides with me in my current state. I put it in different places and rediscover it every so often. I even have a vague idea of how to use it as a tool for navigation.

I spend lots of time figuring out ways to navigate during the course of my job. I try to give my clients the tools that they need when going out into the greater world - social interactions, patience, the ability to ignore obnoxious others, actual map skills, you name it. I find myself navigating through my own social mishaps and situations as well.

That may be why I like music as a therapeutic medium. Music is time-framed. You star…

The Anticipation Builds...

Ask any school teacher about the week before break and you will get the same response each time - ugh. We are entering that week at my place of work. I am dreading it, but am also looking forward to it.

My plan is as follows - clients choose what they are going to do in (some) sessions.

Last week, we played Name That Tune. Now, I always fix the games where I get points when my students display unsportsman-like behavior or inappropriate interactions with each other or where I stump everyone in the room with my music selections. I also always cheat at the end with the reckoning of points. Always.

I lost.

We set it up so that they get to choose what happens in the next session (with guidance from me) if they win. If I win, it's business as usual. Three of my groups will be choosing what they are going to do during their therapy hours. I anticipate lots of karaoke and movie watching during those three hours.

I am getting ready for a short week as well as experiencing the week before break…

Just a Song Sunday: New Disney Music for Me!

I am currently downloading the music to the movie Moana. I watched the movie for the first time last night, and I fell in love with the music. While I'm shopping here, I'll probably find some other music that I want and download that as well.

I tend to fall in love with the music from movies more than any other. I think this is probably because I enjoy watching movies much more than just listening to the radio, but there is an emotional element to the music as well. I am very visual, and movies just make things very real to me.

The music pulls me into the movie.

The social work folks at work presented on a movie made about a young man who connected with his family through Disney movies. They were all astonished at how well those movies worked to establish a connection between two people and did not appear to know that this is pretty common (at least in my world, it has been). I've met many clients over the years who identify with Disney animation in ways that are almost visce…

Time to Get Back to Basics

Every so often I start to feel that I am making my life as a music therapist too difficult. I get involved in reading complex ideas, new thoughts, and layered theoretical proposals, and I start to get bogged down. My "woulda/coulda/shoulda" goblins start to go in my head - "You could be doing so much more for your clients." "You should be everything for everyone." "You would be so much better if you only did this and this and this." I've learned, over the years, to realize that these thoughts mean something very important for me - 
Time to get back to basics. I can tend to get a bit too wrapped up in thinking, especially when it comes to my job.
When this happens, it signals that I'm losing track of what makes music such a strong therapeutic medium. I'm starting to think more about what I should be doing rather than taking notice of what my clients are doing with and through the music. I have moved too far into think mode and too far o…

Finally Friday: A Strange Week Indeed

There was another reference to bowels in music therapy yesterday. I laughed and explained why I was laughing (read yesterday's post if this comment confuses you!).

Our week has been eventful, to say the least.

On Tuesday, I arrived at work at 6:45 am and unloaded my car of crates and various electronic devices. I was almost ready to go into the building when a co-worker yelled at me from across the parking lot. "MJ, didn't you get the message? There was storm damage. We can't go into the building because of gas. Didn't want you to completely unload and then have to re-load."

Apparently, my facility was hit hard by a storm on Monday night. It wasn't a tornado, but it was possibly a microburst. The storm ripped off a couple of roofs, forced the evacuation of one of our residences, and ripped the gas lines on the top of the roof of the administration/education wing. The building filled with natural gas, and we couldn't enter.

As a result of all the excitemen…

Thoughtful Thursday: pooooooooo--------------- The Cat Typed the Title, I Swear!

NOTE: This post is not for the squeamish. If you are offended or easily disgusted, I would suggest that you skip this completely and move to one of my other posts. Could I suggest one with the label "Music Therapy Moments?"

I don't usually resort to bathroom humor to get attention, but I really didn't have much to do with the title this morning. I typed the first part - the Thoughtful Thursday part - and then Bella cat walked over the keyboard and typed the next part. It made me laugh.

I decided to keep the title as it seemed apropos of what has been happening in various areas of my life lately. One of my clients whispered to me yesterday, "I have diarrhea." I know of two other people right now who are struggling with good bowel health, and it's always a concern in my life - but, I digress. Trust the cat to get down to the basest of base elements and express that in her own direct way.

No matter how much we may try to pretend, poo is part of the life of ev…

One Step Ahead

I am currently in a time of "hurry up and wait."

This happens to me when I start running out of time to finish projects but have lots to do in the span of a week or two. In two weeks' time, I have two presentations, an inservice day, three deadlines (two are self-imposed and may have to change), a worship service to coordinate, and my regular work. In addition, I am slowly working on clearing my living space.

I thrive when I have lots of things to do and many different projects. I work a bit on everything and will eventually find that things get finished. 

Right now, I am finishing my pre-approved provider application for CBMT. I was thrilled to find that I have enough prior presentations to fill up my menu of choices for music therapists seeking continuing education credits. That's a bunch of work that has already been done. All I have to do now is to transform these presentations into recordings, and I am done!

Things are moving ahead. I alphabetized my visual aids at …

The Mess is Getting Worse

I am currently rearranging my living area to incorporate some new shelves and to move some older shelving to my office areas at work. This is due to the fact that I've already had an inquiry about an intern placement, so I am feeling some pressure to be ready for intern #24 at any moment. That was the impetus I needed to get off my chair and start being proactive. As a result, my living area is more of a mess than usual.

At the moment, the far wall of (what is supposed to be) the dining area is looking pretty good. I have the new shelving over there, and the shelves are filling up with books and boxes and trinkets of various origins. I have some of my personal instruments along the top of the shelving. I have some new canvas boxes that will store various things. I am making shelves for music therapy texts and for songbooks. There are shelves for visual aid making materials and for instruments. I still have three more shelving units to put together, so I have some additional plannin…

Just a Song Sunday: Chord Progressions

Lately, I've been playing around with a chord progression. I haven't turned it into anything other than the progression yet, and I might never add words, but I am enjoying what happens musically, and I use it to center myself.

Here is the progression (I use the key of D most often). All of the chord symbols last for the number of indicated beats:


For some reason, this progression is something that helps me focus. I love the juxtaposition of the vi chord in with the others.

I've been playing this for a long time now - for at least 6 months - without being able to do more with it. I've decided that the progression doesn't need a melody at this point. One day it may include a melody and lyrics. Maybe not.

I don't always attend that closely to the harmonic element of music. It is something that I often take for granted, but there are some progressions that stick with me.

I thrill to most of the harmony written by Andrew Lloyd …