Tuesday, January 31, 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 it was finished.

If my administrator had walked in at that time, I think that person would think, "Oh look. That student is having so much fun singing."

There is more to what was happening than just having fun singing. The client was engaging me in making music. The client was making decisions - now it's time to play the guitar - now it's time to make these sounds. The client was expanding musical experience from what was usual to something new.

I am fortunate in that I get to see these moments. I get to share them with my clients. I have the opportunity to facilitate some of these moments as well.

I am so lucky in my choice for a profession.

Monday, January 30, 2017

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-being). That person has to acknowledge that something needs to change.

I have family members who have significant issues that could use intervention, but they do not acknowledge that anything is wrong. Because of that, they continue in their own patterns. What we do to try to "help" isn't effective because they haven't made the decision to act, to change, to make something different.

Once the decision to act is made, the next step is to find others that will support you in your quest to make something different. (I think this is the step that I am almost to right now.) This is the search for the therapist who best fits you and your goals. This process is not always easy - sometimes you find someone quickly, other times you interview and try out many different people before you find the right fit.

Change takes a continued commitment. It is not always as simple as just making up your mind - you have to make up your mind before every single appointment, interaction, and intervention. You need to decide to act every single time.

Every single time.

It's time for me to decide what to do to change my world.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

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...


Friday, January 27, 2017


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 registration and continuing education, so my to-do list grows and grows as I remember things that I need to do.

Self-Care - I went to the doctor yesterday and walked out with 8 new medications. Ugh. That's all about that.

Creativity - It comes and goes in spurts. I have come up with some new TMEs for my centers, but I haven't really been able to run any of them because of the difficulty getting the centers going. That's okay, because the TMEs are still sound. Kids seem to like them, especially Walk Like an Animal with piano improvisation and the animal dice that I made.

I am trying to figure out several things, and I think I know what I want to do. This is a good thing.

Bella - she's being Bella, cuddly one moment, attempting to nip my hand the next. Gotta love her...

That's it for this Friday. I am going to try to clean some things around here as I am getting accustomed to the new medications coursing through my body. I can't drive until I know how dizzy I will actually get while taking four medications that cause dizziness, so I am at home today. The laundry has to be put away, so that's task #1. While I'm at it, I think I will thin out the closet for donating things to others. We'll see when task #1 gets finished...

Happy Friday, music therapists.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

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 figure out how to run centers, and trying to organize the unorganized office space that I currently occupy. I have stacks of things to color, laminate, and cut out. Those things can't be done because they are less important than client documentation, sitting in meetings, and trying really hard to coordinate treatment for a rapidly growing client population (we are increasing our census at the moment).

Wow. When I start to write things down, I realize why I am feeling tired. My mind is cluttered with all sorts of things.

Part of my self-care practice is to make to-do lists. I am currently trying things like bullet journaling (mine doesn't look ANYTHING like the examples on Pinterest), and scheduling my time in 30 minute chunks (9:30-10:00 - catch up on client notes; 10-10:30 - bathroom, snack, cut out zoo visual aids; 10:45-11:45 - group #3 of the day; etc.). Writing things down helps me decrease the mental clutter.

Tonight, as I talk to interns about establishing self-care practices and making them habitual, I will also be reminding myself that I need to practice what I preach. It is time for some healthy self-care and focusing my energies on what is important and necessary to do in the next several days.

To that end, I am going to go make a lunch, eat some breakfast, and do some breathing to start this day off right.

Happy Thursday.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

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, but the label is incorrect. What she did was NOT music therapy.

The problem with NOT music therapy is that music therapy itself is difficult to define. Music therapists often know what is not music therapy, but others don't really know those distinctions. It is difficult to define when music has a therapeutic benefit and when music therapy is actually occurring. What is the difference between listening to a song for lyric analysis in group treatment versus listening to that same song for the same purpose in a music therapy group treatment session? 

For every bad page, there are several good pages that talk about music therapy in the way that we music therapists like to experience - the defined, measured, and scientific basis that makes up our profession. Most of those pages go without comment - there isn't anything to argue about, so we just don't do it.

When I go on an internet stroll like this one, I try to comment on the websites that I think get our profession right. I like to thank folks for speaking about what I do. I am trying to be positive rather than critical.

Critical is easy, but it leaves a sometimes bitter experience behind. As someone who has been attacked by someone with an agenda that had nothing to do with what I wrote or thought, I know that I was left scarred by the experience and changed my behavior to decrease the likelihood of ever being the target of such vitriol ever again. I don't want the mommy blogger who got it wrong to have a horrible opinion of music therapists based on a comment that I make on her social media outlet.

Some people, when confronted, back down. Others become more vehement that they are right and critics are wrong. There are times to stand and fight and there are times to walk away.

Random Mommy out there - what you did was not music therapy. It was an interesting blog post, and I liked your personal music choices, but it was in no way music therapy. I hope that you find out what music therapy really is someday and realize that your use of the term was completely incorrect. You probably won't, but I hope that you do.

Thanks for thinking that music is an important part of life. I completely agree.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

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 going to end today.

Today, I woke up early, fussing about what I needed to do, and made the decision to do something even though it was early, and I might disturb my upstairs neighbor. Then I remembered the countless nights that I am awakened by barking dogs, loud music, people stomping over my head, and decided that I don't really care if the sound of the laundry is too much for them (it really isn't that loud, but you never know). This decision has led me into the next step - finding a theme for my presentation two Saturdays from now - it's time to get started on that thing.

I want to get to the point where I can run through my home without stepping on anything. To that end, I am going to pick up three things every morning and every afternoon when I get home from work. Today's three things? The reusable shopping bags that I have collected. They have a place, but I don't always put them back into their place. This morning, I will put them in their place (it's in the back of the car so I will actually use them while shopping). Come to think of it, I need to put a super sticky post-it note on my dashboard to remind me that they are in the back of the car...

It is time to focus, so I am going to use the tools that I have to help me with that process. I will make my lists, check things off, and chip away at the tasks in front of me.

Shopping bags. Here we go.

Monday, January 23, 2017

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) with plastic animals to find and sort. I have a "Design your own zoo" map for kids to complete. I am finding animal sounds for a listening bingo type game/experience at "Listen." I have a habitat sort file folder set-up for another "Learn" station. At the center with me, I have a book, Going to the Zoo, and several original TMEs - Walk Like an Animal among them - and a dice game to decide which animal we will move like. Some groups will make an animal symphony with percussion instruments and voices. Some groups will dance to In the Jungle and Jungle Boogie. Yet others will make up their own movements in the Monkey Boogie. I am hoping that it will all go smoothly, but my rational brain tells me that things will happen the way they always happen - some as expected, some new things that I've never thought of before...

This is going to be an adventure. It will happen.

Happy Monday, all.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

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, has not been filled with happiness for all.

I have a song that goes through my head when civil thoughts start to intrude in my life. It is an anthem from the civil rights movement of the last century. I love the song, We Shall Overcome. It embodies my hope for us all - unity, not that we shall all conform to one thought, but that there will be a place where we can agree to disagree without being mean to each other.

For me, this song embodies my greatest wish for humanity. That we make the decision and actively strive to embody that decision to respect everyone on the planet - especially those who act in a way that is contrary to our own beliefs.

Isn't it amazing that a song can come to represent an idea, a movement, a period of history, change? 

This is the power of music. This song isn't just a song. It's a hope, a prayer, and a quest. 

Thursday, January 19, 2017

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 your world?

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

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 games brought to us all by PBS. If you work with children (or even if you don't), take some time to play with the site. It's pretty interesting (at least to me!).

Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

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 to the Dollar Tree yesterday and spent $78 on stuff for the music therapy room. Some of it (well, most of it) will be used for the "Explore" center. I bought more pom-poms, a bunch of colored Popsicle sticks, and lots of other things for me to work on. I'm going to spend some of my time this week putting together some more things for both "Explore" and "Learn" centers. (That reminds me, I need to take some purple folders to work for file folder activities...Okay, those are now in the box of stuff to take to work today. That significantly increases the likelihood that they will actually arrive at work!) I have another week before I put all centers into play (I scheduled it that way on purpose), so I have a bit of time before I have to put everything together.

I already have lots of resources for the "Learn" center - I've been making music therapy-themed file folder activities for many years now, so I have lots of things to use in that center. That center will be the one that I use more than any other, so I have to keep making new resources. Fortunately, I love making file folder activities - it's more fun for me than work - so that shouldn't be too much of a chore.

Today will be the day that we start the "Listen" center. I have a couple of Martin Luther King Jr songs and stories on video fro my group to watch over the next couple of "Listen" center times. I have a computer that can be cut off from the internet, so I can hope that students will not be able to access the internet when they aren't supposed to (LOTS of monitoring is the key, I've found). I also have a jumpdrive that will help me keep my resources under control. I have four pairs of headphones and several headphone splitters (those will work until I get another tool that I want for kids to use to hear what's happening).

Trying out the first center last week gave me some interesting insights into how I need to write things and how I need to structure things during my sessions. I have been so interested in how centers are working, that I really didn't put much effort into session planning for the times that clients will be with me. That has to stop! I have to remember that centers will be only a small part of what I do during music therapy. There has to be music therapy in there as well.

The plan for today is to introduce the newly laminated data sheets to paras while offering some listening experiences based on MLK Day. Ooh - brainstorm - lyric substitution to All I Have to Do is Dream by the Everly Brothers. Quick - write that down!!

I know that there will be good days and not so good days with this system. I had a not so good day last Thursday - bad group selection. That will change. The point of all of this is to keep going until it becomes the way we do things. Try things out - refine - try again. That's my motto these days.

Monday, January 16, 2017

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 out what to try next. I really don't blame you if you close the window right now and leave this blog. It may not make much sense until I can really figure out what comes next...

Here goes...

I have many different interests when it comes to music therapy. I like talking to other therapists. I love writing songs and making things to supplement the songs that I write. I love being around music therapy students and interns and watching them grow into music therapists. I enjoy learning but also need structure in order to participate in that learning. I have lots of experience with music therapy and persons with developmental disabilities and psychiatric diagnoses. I feel like I am someone who identifies strongly with the humanists when it comes to philosophy, but I see the value in behaviorism and sensory integration as well. I enjoy debating music therapy ideas with others who disagree with me. I want to make some more money with my ideas, so I need to develop my business a bit more. I think it's time to finally finish the CBMT application and get started with the whole CMTE thing that I've been playing around with for the last 21 years. I will keep on going, doing music therapy with my clients day in and day out, as long as it keeps on being something that has value in my life and in the lives of my clients...


I'm not out of my rut yet, but I do have some direction of where to go.

If you've managed to make it through this entire post, and you have some ideas, please let me know what you like to read about on music therapy blogs. I'd love to know what you think.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

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 choir at my school - there wasn't room for both in my school schedule. I became "Trumpeter #2" at school and then shocked everyone when they learned that I knew how to sing! The band directors at school were the most shocked at my musicianship. I guess I made sure that band musician was my only identity at school - there just wasn't room for my vocal life to enter school. At church, I was known as both an instrumentalist and a vocalist.

This legacy of musicianship has led me to having a very eclectic list of musical associations and preferred music. I know that, when I am in my assisted care facility, my music therapist will find my musical associations to be varied. That music therapist will need to be able to play 60's and 70's folk songs (my musical legacy from my parents), 80's alternative and pop songs (not much from Duran Duran, please), and music from throughout my career as a music therapist. I hope I am able to tell that music therapist what I want to hear and engage in during sessions.

One of the things that I know is that there are times when the song itself makes a session.

There are some music therapists who do not use music recordings in sessions. I am not one of those therapists. I think that there are times when you need to hear the original artist singing/performing the song in its original presentation (especially when preferred music of clients is rap and you are not able to replicate the music the way the client wants/needs you to). I would rather listen to A-Ha sing Take On Me, than hear myself try to make it sound the same.

I guess the point I'm trying to make here is that there are specific songs that are more important to me than others. Those songs provide me with rich memories, challenging thoughts, and different emotions. I would hope that my future therapists will spend time to get to know my history and my relationship with music in order to be able to provide me with services that are meaningful to me. I hope, as a current therapist, that I always remember that music can and does have an almost subliminal effect on my clients and that I use that knowledge to enrich my clients' lives the way I hope to be enriched later.

What are the songs of your life? How do you use them to enrich your own existence?

Here are some of mine - in no particular order...
  • Top of the World by the Carpenters
  • Take On Me by A-Ha
  • You're the Inspiration by Chicago
  • The Unicorn by the Irish Rovers
  • Mozart's Requiem
  • The Sound of Silence by Simon and Garfunkel
  • Anything by Andrew Lloyd Webber
  • The World Ain't Slowin' Down by Ellis Paul
  • To Make You Feel My Love by Bob Dylan
  • We Are Young by Fun
  • If I Had a Million Dollars by the Barenaked Ladies
  • Boom Chicka Boom - camp song
  • The Princess Pat- another camp song
  • All Praise to Thee by Thomas Tallis
  • Countless others that I'm not going to write down at this moment but that also have significance in my life...
I could probably get along quite nicely with this playlist later on in my life. Take note, future music therapists. This are (some of) the songs of my life.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

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.

I need a way to help kids be more independent in finding their own center at the right time. I also need a bigger variety of sensory centers. Looks like I'll be taking some of my recent paycheck to shop on Amazon for pom-poms, cotton balls, and other manipulatives that I can use.

I am also working on developing center ideas. I downloaded a bunch of song-based file folder and instrument activities from Teachers Pay Teachers (by the way, I do NOT get any money or benefit from mentioning any site on this blog - my ideas and opinions are completely my own) and will be making those into folders for the Learn center. Some of them are theme related. Others are just time fillers. I will laminate them all into purple file folders (purple is the color I chose for music TMEs) with yellow stickers (yellow is for academic/cognitive TMEs). I am also going to buy specific songs for the listening center. I also want a headphone listening center - there's one at Lakeshore that I can get for $25.00.

Gotta - stopped there because I had to get ready to completely screw up a training for the Online Conference for Music Therapy - did it! COMPLETELY SCREWED IT UP! (I started today with a rant about technology, and technology rose to the occasion and got me where it hurts!) Back to bed during the current ice storm.

My room is starting to feel like home. That's what I want it to feel like - home. 

Thursday, January 12, 2017

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 can write down ideas as they come to me (I never do that unless I am able to do so safely). I let my speaking take a stream of consciousness format just to start practicing talking to others. Once I get an idea of what types of things I want to say, I start writing things down and putting them into the presentation.

Right now, I am preparing a presentation about group treatment and group dynamics, one on recovering from a career-slump, and repeating another one that I've done before on becoming a research-informed clinician. I have lots of nebulous ideas floating around in my head, but nothing is firm yet. It will be soon, however.

Time to head off into the work world and think about various things. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

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 than most, so my clients engage (even when they are shaking their head when I get silly).

Yesterday, I was asked why I was a music therapist. I stated that I continued to do the job because it was never boring and kept me continually challenged. I also spoke about the ability to be creative and to keep things going with new music all the time. Tools like this songbook help me out with the creativity as well as the interactions with my clients. 


Flying Pigs Campfire Songbook: http://www.orpheusweb.co.uk/flying.pigs/frames.html

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

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 fails, I'll go back to the days of CDs. I can still burn CDs for use with my clients. It should work out fine.

I now have a new computer at work, so I no longer have the excuse of things not working to help me avoid work duties. I am going to figure out how to find programs on my new computer (which is just changed enough to make things a bit more difficult than it really has to be). I've been upgraded as well. I now get to live in the world of Windows 10 Professional and Office 2016! What a deal!!

It amazed me how many times I thought, "I could make/print visual aids" and then remembered that the computer was down. Almost everything I do outside of music therapy sessions is related to the broken technology. We store our documentation on the server. Our behavior reward system is hosted on a website. There are many different things that happen on the technology platforms and websites that cannot be accessed when that technology goes down.

I hope, when I make it back to my newly organized office (that's almost done, thanks to yesterday's technology hiatus) that the iPod will turn on and communicate with me again. If not, I will dig out the CDs and plan my music use a bit more carefully. There you go.

Happy Tuesday!

Monday, January 09, 2017

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.

The key to this is finding the person in the group who understands what I am doing with these new changes.

I have three groups today, so we'll see if I can figure it all out.

Happy Monday!

Sunday, January 08, 2017

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 to sit with two thirds of the students on the carpet and do some music stuff. We're probably going to spend some time playing instruments and singing familiar songs while the other third of the students are at the explore center putting different things into bottles to make simple shakers. The point of all this is to familiarize the staff members with what I expect them to do during center time. I will have to have staff support to make this work.

My vision of all of this includes using song to link all of the things happening at centers with what is going on in our therapeutic focus. My ideal session would include music selected to support a theme but shaped around behaviors of the group members present. So, let's say the theme is mittens (that's one of the themes for next month). The explore center would include using mittens in the sensory box to sift or use instruments. The listen center includes the two stories (read and sung) that we are going to focus on - The Three Little Kittens and The Mitten (the Ukrainian version). The learn center will include a sequencing board for animals and a mitten puzzle. Time with me will include repetition of the songs that we are using, along with additional mitten songs, or familiar songs that support the idea of what is happening with group members.

It will be my job, as the therapist, to adapt the elements of music to the group members present. So, one session may have an upbeat tempo that lasts from beginning to end. Another session may be more relaxed with a slower tempo. It will all depend on the clients present.

I'll try to remember to write an update next week about this first week with a new format. It's time to move theory into practice. 

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

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 visibility in the world of music therapy? Let me know in the comments!

I'm going back to my Humor feed - I am looking for giggles on this winter day!

Friday, January 06, 2017

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.


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 around like nothing else). I yearned for more room - a place for the clients who need to walk to be able to walk without stepping on or over the ones who need to sit.

I didn't initiate the move that I JUST NOW FINISHED, but I am enjoying the opportunity to spread out all over a large space (have I mentioned that it is 4 times larger than the last room???). I have the luxury of areas - a listening area, a sensory area, and a group therapy area. We have also named one of the carpet areas, "the dancing carpet." The nine groups of students that came into the room in the past two days have seemed to enjoy the opportunity to move around and explore. I've enjoyed watching them do just that.

It is amazing how a change in some aspect of your life can energize the rest of the areas. I am feeling happier than I have in a long time, and I am finding ways to be creative. Creativity has eluded me lately, so I am glad to make its acquaintance again.

All of this energy will probably wane when I finally sit down and start to relax, but in the meantime, I am luxuriating in the emotion. Tonight, when I go to sleep, I will be able to focus on the idea that I have accomplished something that I not only wanted, but needed in this stage of my life.

I hope that you have a spark in your life right now. If you don't, let me know how I can help. I'm here.

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 client responsibilities before I can play around with organization - that's the ethical thing to do!

My brain is churning right now, so I think it is a good time to sign off. I'll write more this evening when I am tired and (hopefully) not as scattered.

It is Friday.

Thursday, January 05, 2017

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 that were out and available. Some of them took advantage of the freedom from the very first moment, trying everything once before settling on something. Others waited to see what the group leaders were doing and then mimicked them. It was interesting to watch what was happening with my clients (some who are VERY familiar to me and others that are brand new!) and to watch how they interacted with their environment.
The stereo and my cabinet

We spent time moving around, trying things out, and finding our familiar favorites. Eventually, everything will have its own place and things will be running somewhat smoothly.

The office - the least organized of all!
This move has shown me several different things about myself as a therapist. First of all, I do best when I know where things are and how they work. My clients seem to do better that way as well. (That's not a big surprise, but it's good to be reminded every so often.) Also, a new environment makes for interesting sessions - getting to know each other through a new place to interact. It interests me that a new place makes me more creative in my ideas of what therapy can be. I hope some of that enthusiasm and creativity rubs off on my clients.

Next week? I start introducing centers. Center one is called "Explore." "Listen" and "Learn" will be introduced later this month until they are fully implemented in February. More on those ideas later.

I can't think about this anymore - time to scrape snow off my car and proceed slowly to work on our first snowy school day in a long time. I am hoping that the superintendent calls it a snow day, but who knows. If it is a snow day, then I will get a chance to see all of the residents in my facility in my new room. There will be more exploration, but snow day sessions have their own plans, so there will be less roaming and more music therapy process going on.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

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 - more coming soon - as soon as I figure out how to synchronize the video and audio recordings.

Happy YouTubing, all!

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

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 do this.

My emotional brain, however, is freaking out! I've been having anxiety dreams since this training has been announced. All of my dreams have been centered on work situations, and I've awakened each time in a sweat. I don't know what is causing what - the night sweats or the dreams. I fluctuate between wanting to participate in this situation and wanting to opt out before it even starts. I'm afraid that I'll be considered wimpy or cowardly if I don't participate, but I'm also afraid that simply being in the building will cause me to have significant issues later. What a mess! My emotional brain is going full force and isn't letting me go.

My worst nightmare is a situation such as the ones that we are going to train in today.

It is one thing if I have a group of kids to center on getting to safety, but being alone in the situation really does freak me out!

Well, I'm off into the world to try to escape a situation which is part of my nightmares. Welcome to 2017 and the new school reality. 

I tried. I really tried to go through with the scenarios, but I started an anxiety attack during the description part of the discussion and then chickened out of the scenarios. I went back to my new office and cried when I heard the gun shots...every single time.

Part of my brain is totally supporting my decision to be a wimp. The other part is ashamed of how cowardly I am. Me? I'm glad that everything is over for another year (at least). 

I hope I can sleep all the way through the night tonight. It's been a long time since I was able to do that. Vicks on the feet and a loudly purring cat should help with sleep. 

Sunday, January 01, 2017

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 very much in the development stage at this point), a third of the group goes to the sensory center (I'm calling this one Explore) to use mittens to pick up and sort various objects. They are working on increasing sensory integration of soft textures and fine motor control through layers of cloth. As they are working at Explore, another third of the group is at Learn, sorting mittens into pairs working on matching skills, fine motor development, and completion of multi-step directives. The remaining third is with me, singing songs about mittens that have additional goals. Depending on the group, we may be singing The Three Little Kittens and working on emotional recognition and expression using different instruments, or we may be singing the exact same song but working on lyric completion to encourage short-term memory and long-term retrieval skill development. During all of the session, however, I am adjusting the music and interacting with all clients at all of the centers through the music to keep them engaged and interacting with each other as well as with me. (That's the hope, anyway.)

In this case, it is important to have a unifying series of songs. I want to do theme-based learning centers, so I need to have a theme. Therefore, asking for songs to support the theme is appropriate and relevant to what type of session structure I want to present. The purposeful use of those songs, however, is up to me as the therapist, and I have to be able to adapt the presentation of the music to accommodate and support clients in their interactions. It is my intention to use the songs I select to do such a thing. Not every client who enters my area will do the same thing, and that is the way I think therapy should be - personalized to the clients who are present, not scripted and rigid. Some groups may sing one song but not another while other groups may sing every single song and force me to make up another one! That's the way I feel songs should be used in music therapy themed sessions.

I go back to work on Tuesday, and I have to figure out how I am going to do this. We are going to spend some time exploring the new room, and I am going to introduce the idea of centers slowly (I think) in order to assist the paraeducators that I work with with the idea of doing things a bit differently. I think we'll start with Explore this next week. The six classes that will participate in centers most often can start off with the idea of trying out something new in the Explore center as the rest of us do other things. It's time to start planning my strategy for this new year, new room, and different way of approaching therapy for my clients.

Happy New Year, all!