Why I Will NEVER Write a Session Plan Again...

I have a little secret - something that I have kept close to myself for many years.

I NEVER liked writing session plans.

Wow. It's pretty nice to be able to admit that to someone other than my family members. Let me say it again. I have NEVER liked writing session plans!! Oooh, the more I say it, the easier it gets.

My frustration with writing session plans started way back in my sophomore year of college when I started leading practicum sessions. My practicum supervisors would send back my plans and say things like "there needs to be more detail." I struggled with what they wanted, so it became a task that I dreaded. I finally figured out that the level of detail that my supervisors were looking for was a prose flow chart, and I was able to produce plans that satisfied their need for detail and my need for flexibility. (No one would let me draw a flow chart, though. I still had to write it out in a way that they understood. Interesting, isn't it?) 

My frustration continued with various supervisors during my undergraduate life. One supervisor would sit in the observation booth and check off the procedures that I accomplished during sessions. When the session was over, she would ask me why I didn't say what was on my session plan. She really wanted me to be that scripted. I wasn't. I think it frustrated her greatly, but I also think it was one of the best supervisory experiences I have ever participated in because it really made me think about why I said and did everything in my sessions.

But, back to my initial idea. I will NEVER write another session plan. Why? Because session plans haven't helped me over the years. I know how to write a fancy plan, and I can tell you all sorts of things that may happen in a session, but I have found that session planning doesn't really help me out in my sessions.

So, I'm not going to do it.

I was speaking to interns last night about time management and organization, and I showed them my strategy sheet. (If you are interested in learning more about my strategy sheet, subscribe to my newsletter here. The next edition will include the strategy sheet as well as an example of how I use it.)

Anyway, I showed them my strategy sheet.

Short description - my strategy sheet lists all the goal areas that I am addressing with a particular group of clients. It lists the instruments or materials that I will access. In addition, the sheet includes a list of all the therapeutic music experiences (TMEs) that I know will address each of the goals and use the materials that I have with me.

This sheet is the culmination of many, many years of clinical practice and the freedom to find my own way into this world of music therapy. My strategy sheets help me address several clinical goals simultaneously while using the materials available.

Why does this make a difference for me?

I have never used my session plans as scripts. I have always used them as a foundation for what I was going to do with clients, but I find that the addition of clients into a session makes things change. So, my session plans are suggestions, not scripts. My strategy sheets give me the foundation that I feel I need, but they also offer me many options for client interaction, and I don't feel like I am wasting time generating session plans that I don't follow.

This doesn't mean that I don't think through my TMEs, but it does mean that I have many options for myself as the therapist and for the clients who walk into my therapy sessions. I write more robust TMEs now so that I have thought through all the goal levels - primary, secondary, and tertiary goals. I have worked through the procedural possibilities, and I can link that work into my session strategy sheet really easily.

The beauty of my strategy system is that I can start with materials or I can start with primary treatment goals to assist me in coordinating my treatment. I end up with many options available for session structure. I walk into sessions knowing that I can support client choice while still working towards specific treatment goals.

I will NEVER write another session plan. From now on, my interns will NEVER write another session plan (at least, while they are working with me - I can't control what they will do once they leave me).

Session strategy sheets from this day forward.

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