For the First Time, I'm Being Evaluated by Someone Who Has an Idea

Yesterday, our BCBA guy came to observe me during a music therapy group. He's been at the facility since October and presented on a "school-wide program" that he had started that was not truly "school-wide" back in January. I got a bit frustrated by the attitude that something encompassed the entire school but did not include the entire school. He came into my room on Monday, during lunch while I was eating ravioli and watching my documentation television show (long story), to talk for "a couple of minutes." He stayed for 20. Yesterday, he arrived for one of my therapy sessions to count interactions and see what was going on in music therapy. After the session, we talked for an additional 20 minutes about his current data collection strategy and how music therapy does not fit.

Now, since I left my internship many years ago, I have not been evaluated by a music therapist. I have had no information about whether my skills are appropriate as a therapist or as a musician. No one has spent any time really observing me or what I do. I do that for others, but no one does that for me. My three year evaluations are a joke because the people who are observing me only observe me when they have to - for the least amount of time. They don't really know what I'm supposed to be doing, and they don't really seem to care. "Happy children making happy sounds" is what they want and what they see. It is frustrating to me that I have to go through these evaluations when they are simply busy work. Nothing of substance comes out of the meetings for me. They have no suggestions for how I can improve my skills. All of that comes from me.

So, having someone come to my room to focus on my interactions with students was pretty novel and simultaneously both thrilling and threatening.

So, this guy is focusing on "proactive vs. reactive" interactions with our students. I'm a bit unclear of what he thinks is a proactive interaction rather than a reactive interaction, but he has operationalized it for use within the classroom. He came in to count how many times I did the behaviors that he has decided are desirable and how many times I did the behaviors that are not as desirable. He stated that he had to change many of the ideas that he came in with once he saw a session. For example, I interact with my group members throughout the session, so his requirement that there be 3 seconds between interactions for them to count as a separate interaction was not appropriate. He had to shift to a change in my eye gaze.


Someone who finally understands that what music therapy is and what music therapy does is not the same as a classroom. It cannot be that. There have to be changes when evaluating music therapy, but evaluating music therapy in the greater treatment milieu is important for the clients that we are working with in our school.

The good news, it seems that my proactive to reactive intervention ratio is higher than the school average, but, bad news, it is not where our end goal is. The BCBA guy said that he thought I was between a 3 and 4 to 1 ratio. He wants us to be at an 8:1 ratio. I have some education to do - of myself and what he is looking for, and of him if those expectations are appropriate for a therapeutic format. 

When we talked on Monday, I discussed things that are proactive responses within a music therapy session - changing elements of music to shape behaviors, using music to vector moods, prompting specific responses through musical phrases, increasing attention with novel musical interventions, increasing comfort through using familiar musical interventions. He stated that he would not have any awareness of those types of things. I acknowledged that, but indicated that I still wanted to know what he was looking for and how it happens in music therapy. I think my proactive responses are higher than the number counted, but most of them are not verbal. They are musical.

He seems to understand the differences now he is looking directly at what I do with his operations on his clipboard before him.

I just need to figure out how to translate what I do into what he wants to see without changing what I do too much. There needs to be an acknowledgement that music therapy has to be different than other forms of interaction, but there is also a place for the things we are working on as an entire school.

Once I have my initial data, I will figure out how to proceed. Fortunately, the BCBA guy seems open to discussion and conversation about how to make this work - he did state that he didn't think he was going to include "Specials" in his upcoming publication about treatment fidelity in the classroom - we would probably significantly skew his data since we cannot be tracked the same way. We will probably make an interesting footnote in the article and a chapter in his dissertation. 

I am looking forward to seeing the data. I want to know what he is looking for, and how he views me as a therapist. Then we will discuss how this works with the entire team of "Specials."

Interesting note - he did state that my interaction levels with my students were higher than anyone else that he had observed and that I never stopped interacting. I had to laugh - of course they are! Music therapy is all about that interaction! If I am not interacting with a client through, with, and in music, then is it really music therapy?

Next time, I will have a better idea of what and how we are looking for. We'll see what the numbers say now and then.

Happy Wednesday! 


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