Be Prepared: A Glimpse Inside My (Actual) Music Therapy Toolbox

www.musictherapyworks.comI am a proponent of being prepared for almost everything. This is a holdout from my active Scouting days - the motto is "Be Prepared," and that motto has served me well over the past decades. Part of how I approach music therapy sessions is certainly rooted in that philosophy - I understand that the way I envision a session going is only one of a myriad of possibilities. As a result, I try to think about many aspects of my life through this motto. Be prepared.

I have a toolbox that I keep in my office (and my home office). 

This is an actual toolbox, full of tools, and not a metaphor for the things that I do with my clients. Just want to make that clear. My toolbox at work fits in a pencil box (at home, it's a bit larger, but it includes all my tools, not just the ones that I need to maintain instruments, etc.). Here's what is included in my music therapy toolbox:
  • Drum Key - when you need one, you really need one. It doesn't take up much space, so keep one handy
  • Bridge Pin Puller - Removes bridge pins from the guitar bridge
  • Wire Cutters - to clip steel strings once they are back on the guitar
  • Super Glue - to glue things shut or together or to something else
  • Small Hammer - I have one that has all sorts of screwdrivers inside of it. My mom finds them for me, and I get one in my stocking almost every Christmas holiday. It has made my repairs easier many, many times!
  • Screwdrivers - all sorts, including Phillips, flat-head, precision, large, small, long and short. I have two sets - one is inside my small hammer and the other is a set of precision screwdrivers in a small box (tiny screwdrivers - they are SO cute, and SO useful!!)
  • Electrical tape - NOT duct tape (it is too sticky) - Get the electrical tape. I have "repaired" many electric wire connections using this tape. It also allows me to cover broken shaker eggs without having to deal with the excessive adhesive left by duct tape
  • Pliers - it's best to get a pair that allows you to change the width of the grip
  • Pen/Pencil - a good musician always has a pencil available, and there are just times when you need a pencil or a pen when making repairs
  • Sharpie Marker - same thing - you never know when you may need one, so just keep one in the toolbox 
  • Small scissors - I keep a pair of small, kids scissors to cut the tape. They are not sharp, but they do the job
This toolbox goes with me everywhere. When I was an itinerant therapist, it stayed in my storage closet or car so I could keep it close to the instruments. I was then able to use it when I needed it. Now that I have a home base again, it stays in my office in its drawer, waiting for me to use it. I used it this week to change a guitar string, a simple job, but one that needed tools to make it a quick fix.

With my toolbox, I am able to change and repair just about anything that I have in my music therapy clinic space. It has saved my therapy plans more often than not, and I have had many needs for it over my years as a therapist. I recommend that every music therapist have a toolkit of his or her own. The good news? I found most of the tools inside my box at the Dollar store, so it's not expensive to find the materials. The drum key and bridge pin puller were the most difficult to find, but they weren't very expensive either.

With my toolbox, I have been able to extend the life of many of my instruments. I can seal a shaker egg when it starts to crack. I can change a guitar string in about 3 minutes when I have my toolbox. I have rewired popular electronic toys using a bit of electrical tape. I can change batteries of different toys using my precision screwdrivers, and I can tune drums as it is needed in between or even during sessions.

The next time someone asks you what you want for a present, consider making a toolbox of your own. Dad was pretty happy to help me choose tools for my clinic, and Mom helped me figure out how to store the tools. Tools are some of those things that we don't automatically think of when we equip a music therapy clinic, but they are something that every therapist will need at one time or another, so you might as well be prepared!

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