New Gadgets and Gizmos

I got a new version of an old gadget yesterday, and I am getting it set up and ready to go. I enjoy a bit of technology, but I am not extremely experimental when it comes to tech in my life. I do not go out and purchase every single thing that I can get my hands on - I am extremely picky about technological things, so I find something I like and then stick with it. The only reason I have a new example of this old gadget is that my old one is several years old and is starting to act like it. In addition, I got a REALLY good trade-in offer and my new device cost about the same as the old device, but with significantly expanded storage!! I am now getting the old device ready to go back to the company so I can cash in my trade-in offer and get started with the new thing sitting on my desk.

This is something that I get from my father - the interest in things technological - but he is one of the people who has to get the brand-new smart phone two weeks after it is released (I am definitely NOT that person). For me, technology has to have a direct effect on and function for and in my life to be something that I even consider.

I am the same way in my therapy sessions. My room is a screen-free room. The only screen that is even available to my students is an old television from 1984 that is attached to the karaoke cart. I can also play the occasional DVD on the karaoke machine, so that cart and the television gets used about twice per month - mainly for karaoke purposes. The color flickers in and out and things aren't the most up-to-date, but it works, and that's what I want. I was offered the chance to have a SmartBoard in one of my music therapy rooms, many years ago, and I turned it down because I wanted the focus in my treatment room to be treatment rather than the computer. I chose to get a full set of Orff instruments instead of a SmartBoard, and I have NEVER regretted that decision!

I work with children and adolescents with intellectual/developmental and psychiatric diagnoses. They know how to use computers and how to play games and how to access music videos on screens. They do not know how to use their brains and bodies to move through the world. Music therapy is a place where they learn how to do those very important things without staring at a screen. 

It interests me that my students don't seem to miss the screens. They always look around in confusion when they ask me to stream a music video, and I tell them that I can't. They shrug and move on. It's my fellow staff members that seem to think that my screen-free treatment philosophy is strange. They cannot disconnect from their devices and seem to spend less time thinking about things and go straight to looking up answers on those devices. They no longer think about things - they let their phones do the thinking for them.

I refuse to do that to myself.

I like to challenge folks to think for themselves. I like to challenge myself to think for myself. I like to find answers to questions, but I try really hard not to go to the web immediately to find what someone else thinks. I want to know my own answers.

This is probably the reason that I spend so much time trying to encourage other music therapists to think for themselves rather than just take what I've thought, written, or done in my small area and apply it to their small area of the world. Our strength in music therapy is taking an idea and stretching it to fit the client who sits in front of us. We cannot do that if we do not engage in active problem solving - not simply searching for the "one-size-fits-all" solutions offered on the internet. (By the way, one-size-fits-all NEVER fits all!)

In my opinion, the most crucial skill that every therapist HAS to have is that of critical thinking for the purposes of problem solving (I think that those two things are part and parcel of a whole). Without that skill, music therapy is reduced to something prescriptive and no longer individualized. If the therapist cannot utilize critical thinking, then clients do not get as much benefit from the therapy as when the therapist is able to make adaptations, conclusions, predictions, and clinical decisions.

How do you make these types of thoughts happen? First of all, get out of the idea that there is only one right answer to therapy questions. Therapy is NEVER either-or. It is always a flow chart - something that changes based on all the considerations that can happen with clients. There is NEVER one "right" song to get a client to address his or her particular treatment areas - there are always MANY "right" songs to get there. This is one of the best and worst things about being a therapist. If we had a way to prescribe the perfect music to "cure" our clients, we'd be out of jobs very quickly. It would be great to be able to say something like, "Listen to Bing Crosby and the Andrew Sisters, and you will know your alphabet by the morning," but it just doesn't work that way! We have to take the individual in front of us and then use those critical thinking skills to figure out what is most important to that person and how to get there.

Wow. Started with a thought about technology and ended in a rant about critical thinking skills...maybe I should just go back to bed. Can't do that - off to be supervisor and supervised! Happy Friday, everyone!!

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