Thursday, August 11, 2022

First Day of the School Year - Well, For This Therapist, Anyway...

It is that time of year again. It is the start of the parade of first day of school pictures on Facebook, and I am heading back to work after a week and a couple of days off. It is full moon day (it is shining brightly outside my window right now), and you will not be getting a first day picture from me. I don't often take selfies, and I have already taken my limit for the year getting my passport application ready.

I was able to wake up before the alarm this morning. Good sign. I am up and writing at 5am. Good sign. The moon is gorgeous. Good sign. I am going to go around the house picking up things that I will need in the next couple of days. I will be going to my room to clean up a bit and then welcome the next intern to the music therapy program. I am not quite ready to return to the daily grind of work and supervising and all that, but work is inevitable, so it is futile to resist.

I wrote a bit ago about a blog post that I found on the difference between being disinterested in something or excluded from something. This post has been on my mind as part of my vision about all sorts of things - my own music therapy practice, the state of our professional organization, and lots of other things. There is a significant difference between being excluded from something and being disinterested.

I believe that we should strive to limit exclusion from all sorts of situations. In an ideal society, all needs of all humans would be accommodated so all could participate. I am becoming more and more interested in the concepts of Universal Design and how it applies to music therapy. One thing that keeps sticking with me, though, is that even if things are arranged to decrease exclusion, there are still some who will not engage. That is the disinterested part of this equation. 

So, what does this mean for us as a profession? There are some people who will never be members of the professional organization no matter how many accommodations are made to include them. That is a choice that is in front of all of us at all times. We have the option to walk away from any situation that doesn't work for us. But, we have to be able to make that choice and not have it made for us by people who will not welcome us no matter what. So, are the two situations mutually exclusive?

I wonder what needs to happen to our professional organization to become less exclusive. It makes me wonder what the barriers are to begin with. Cost is something that is repeated over and over again. Personally, I find that there is a lack of clinical resources available for those of us who are not part of academia. There are plenty of things for students and professors but not as much for those of us who have clinical jobs. I know that some feel excluded because of their identities. 

There isn't an easy answer to how to become more inclusive and less exclusive. The point is that, even if the association starts from scratch, there will still be some folks who will be excluded until we find a utopian society. All we can do is strive for that inclusion with every single situation that comes up. Even if that happens, though, there are people who will opt not to engage.

Being disinterested is not a problem unless the disinterested use their disinterest to manipulate others into doing things with no interest in ever being a part of the organization. Isn't it interesting that there are some out there who will make demands without planning to be part of the better organization that they are demanding.

Just some "back to school pondering." I will develop this thought a bit more in the upcoming weeks. Happy Thursday.  

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Breaking My Back... Again

Well, break is almost finished, and my back is hurting. It hasn't slipped into crisis mode yet, but I am pretty much dreading the inevitable at this point. I have to get into my exercises to help strengthen my musculature. Of course, that does nothing for the pain right now. At least I can get out of having to throw people down on the mats tomorrow afternoon. It may also get me out of some of our ALICE training tomorrow morning - at least any of the running parts.

I am thinking that this is just going to be the way I do things from now on, and I am not really all that happy about it, but I have to get used to this way of life, I guess. Fortunately, I can do most of my essential job skills without having to move much, but I can't do all of them. I have worked out a compromise with my school and the facility that I work in about what will happen with music therapy when I am incapacitated. Apparently I was the center of several contentious discussions - that I was not allowed to be part of - that ended up being decided in my favor. 

According to things I have read about herniated discs and all that is happening in my back at the moment, stress contributes. Of course, the other things that contribute include being overweight (check), lifting things (check), and arthritis (check). My pain doctor tells me that losing weight now isn't going to change things much, except it might make lugging myself around a bit easier. He doesn't think that there is much that will change even if I lose 100 pounds. I will still work on it.

Today, I have an appointment to get my passport renewed downtown at the big post office. I do not usually head downtown too much - it is pretty touristy and hard to get into parking and all that. Unfortunately, the post office that I prefer does not offer passport services, so off to downtown I will go. This appointment is necessary because I am planning on going to the World Congress of Music Therapy in Vancouver, Canada next summer. I am not in a big rush to get this done, but it is one of the things on my quest list for this year - under the topic of "explore places" - so, I will get this done and checked off my list. It is about the only thing I can get done right now. My house is a bigger mess now than it was two weeks ago. I still can't find my hammer, so my bookshelf isn't completed. It is waiting for me to hammer the back onto the shelf itself before I can pick it up and start to load it with books. The other three boxes are still upstairs in the kitchen. I will scoot them with my foot to the staircase, slide them down the steps into the piled up pillows at the foot of the stairs and then scoot the boxes into the library guest room. I have a plan, I just need to find the hammer so I have space in the library room to start another shelf.

Tomorrow is the start of our "regular" school year. We have two days without students before our newish schedule starts up. When we left a week ago, we did not have any information about the changes. I am hoping that we will have everything finalized by Monday, but that's not the way most people operate at my facility. Seems to be just me who wants to have everything figured out before we start things. It wasn't like that when I first worked at the facility, but things have completely changed over the past 15 years. Now, we tend to work on the "if you build it, they will come" philosophy rather than "let's figure out what we are actually able to do and then do that." I am more comfortable in a world where the latter philosophy is prevalent, but that's not where I work. I need to figure out how many more years I have until retirement from school service. I think it is five more years before I can tap into my full pension. I should probably check on that and then try to figure out if my back will hold up that long...

Growing older is not easy, folks, but I am happy to do it. 

Tomorrow morning, intern #34 and I will greet intern #35 to our facility. I am really hoping for the schedule sooner rather than later, along with the class list, so I can do the work of figuring out who will be working with whom and assigning groups to interns. I can't cross that off my list until I get information from someone else. Once that is finished, we can start our planning process for the fall semester. Everything hinges on that class list - intern caseloads, my caseload, individual schedules, and all that. Have I ever mentioned how much I do not like having to wait for someone else to share information so I can do my job?

My binders are not finished. I have printed out the pages, trimmed them to the appropriate size, and now I just need to laminate them and punch holes. After I get back from my appointment, I think I will work on gathering together the things that I want to get finished. I need some things for my new intern to work on while the senior intern and I are in physical behavior management recertification training. Laminating might be a good first step. Over the past week, I have bought some dry erase markers, found lots of visuals that I have made over the years, and rediscovered some old instruments. I have things to take to school with me tomorrow. I will need to gather it up and put it in the car so I can transfer it to the music therapy room. I want to get my desk and some of my cabinets moved over to my new/old office space in the next two days. I will have two interns to help, but I will have to do much of the work myself because I never ask my interns to do something that I cannot do myself. Let's hope the back holds up...

See you tomorrow - before I head out into the work world. 

Tuesday, August 09, 2022

Amost Forgot - TME Tuesday - Well, Sort Of...

This is a later than usual post because I have been involved in a hunt for my birth certificate all over downstairs. It has been unsuccessful, but I did find an alternative, so I can still get my passport renewed tomorrow as scheduled. This is day two before I head back to break, and I am feeling like I am getting some things done. For example, I made an appointment to get my new passport BEFORE I absolutely have to! This is one of my 2022 quests, so I am feeling accomplished on this day. Of course, I still have to take a photo and get myself to the downtown post office to get this finished, but I am ready!

Of course, none of this has ANYTHING to do with today's topic about Therapeutic Music Experiences (TMEs)! So, let's get to the topic at hand...

I got distracted by my mini printer - my sister gave me a thermal printer a couple of years ago, and I FINALLY figured out the app needed to make it work the right way. I have already figured out my Sprocket, but I can't find my paper cartridges for that particular printer. I did get this one done - another quest step! I have one bookshelf almost finished in my library. Things are perking along.

In my mad hunt for my birth certificate (which is still not located - I have THREE copies of this document somewhere, I swear!), I went through two of my file cabinets and found all sorts of unfinished projects that will keep me occupied for a long time. I have always maintained that no idea is a bad idea - it just needs to wait until its time arrives. I guess the time is now for some of these projects.

So, my attention is flitting around from one place to another today. It is a bit of a manic feeling right now. I am not sure exactly why - it may have something to do with having two days left of break, it may have something to do with the cake that I ate for breakfast, it may have something to do with the upcoming full moon. I just hope that it lasts for as long as possible. It is a wonderful feeling to be fully aware of things happening and also finding the energy to accomplish some stuff. As soon as I find my hammer, I will finish the bookshelf and then slide the next one down the stairs. I have to figure out how to take a passport photo between now and tomorrow's appointment.

So, back to the topic at hand. Golly! I just cannot concentrate on music therapy things today.

As you know, I love making visual aids for my TMEs, but I also feel very strongly that a TME has to work without the visual. The visual should enhance the TME, not be the center of the experience. There are exceptions to this rule, of course, but I find that a TME has to be sound without the visual in order for it to be a true music therapy experience. If the visual is needed, but the music is not, then anyone can run the TME - it does not need a music therapist to be there.

I am going to go through those file folders that have been sitting in my file cabinets for years now and identify what I have to do to make them into file folders. I assume that there will be some trimming, some labeling, and lots of laminating to do before I am ready to release these folders out into the world, but there may be more to do than that. After I see what I have, I will come up with the TMEs that go along with each folder. Perhaps these will become part of what I have available at my exhibit in March. Perhaps.

 My life is out of order at the moment, but I am okay with that. I still have today and tomorrow to get some things arranged and some order established again before I go back to work...all the time.

I organized my cord box (does everyone have this? A box full of spare cords and plugs and extension cords?) and got things condensed. I also went through most of my memory boxes (looking for that birth certificate - I may need to order some more from Texas) several times. None of this is about TMEs though, is it?

So, what to do for the rest of today? Keep looking for the birth certificates...keep working on putting things away...find the hammer...finish the leftovers...take a a webinar for music therapy students about some sort of concept...fall asleep...wake up at 4:30 am to get back into the morning routine that has to start on Thursday. We have two days without kids - two days to get my new intern oriented and two days to rearrange my office space - again - and finalize most of my schedule. 

Here I go - into this year of change and transformation... 

Monday, August 08, 2022

Internship Director Stuff - Because It Is Monday

It is Monday, which means Gandalf gets to do her favorite thing - lick a graham cracker. 

It is Monday, which means that MJ gets to do one of her favorite things - talk about supervising music therapy interns as part of her role in this profession.

One of the most difficult parts of this role is being a gatekeeper to my clients and to my music therapy self. I do not automatically accept someone to my internship if I have an opening. I do not have to take an intern, ever, so I can afford to be choosy about who comes to work with me and with my clients. There are times when I do not actively seek an intern to be with my clients. There are times when I just want to be therapist and not have to be mentor/coach. The problem for me comes when I have applicants for a specific time that I do not feel will be a good match for me or for my program.

Over the years that I have worked with interns, I have found that one of the most important indicators of whether they will be able to work with me is if they follow instructions during the application process. Applicants who do not read my application and send me additional stuff do not make the cut. I am not interested in resumes or transcripts. I have had applicants tell me that I have forgotten to ask for these things - no, I don't want them. They are not what indicates competence to me. Following directions is what indicates competence to me.

So, I use my application to find applicants that can follow directives. I also find applicants that do not.

One of the things that I really have found over the years is that people do not read things carefully. I put information in my fact sheet and my application that I feel is important for applicants to know. I can weed out so many applicants this way. Applicants that can't follow instructions are not people that I want in my space for seven months. FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS! I do not want to have to constantly tell people to read the instructions or what to do at every single opportunity! 

The applicants that have the audacity to send me things that I do not want or ask for go to the "no, thank you" pile. The ones that tell me that I "forgot" get immediately rejected.

The rejection letter is one of the hardest things to create and send. I am a therapist, so I want to help everyone, but I am also a human who needs things to be less difficult for me. I cannot spend my entire life trying to explain every little thing to someone who is unable to complete an application...

Three days left of time for my home and myself. I return to my part-time church job on Sunday, so I have finished my three-day weekends. I think I will make Sundays be my movie days during the school year. I'll go to church in the morning and then find a movie to see in the early afternoons. I have an unlimited movie pass, so I can go without having to spend more money than the cost of the pass. I have plans to make changes to my routines (of course, that happens every year at this time). For the next three days, though, I am going to build bookshelves, laminate things, review my internship documents, and continue to organize my home.

Sunday, August 07, 2022

Synthesis Sunday: Transforming My Way of Thinking and Doing My Job

It is time to start my back-to-school blathering again. I have already found my word of the school year - Transform - mainly because my school is in the process of changing every single thing that happens as part of the program in one way or another. Time to figure out what types of things I will strive towards this year in my main professional endeavor.

I keep my full-time job separate from my part-time pursuits as much as I can. I have two journals - one for my full-time job and another one for everything else. My everything else journal is my Star Wars themed journal, and I get to do some drawing and some exploring of a galaxy far far away in that book. I recently added a sticker to the cover (from a packet of stickers that I have been looking for since I moved in November!), and I get all sorts of joy from the process of decorating that journal. My full-time work journal functions very differently, but I am trying to think of ways to strengthen how I use it to help me expand my creativity. I recently started a new book, so I have lots of ways to adapt and make it my own.

 Back to the idea of transformation - I have been thinking about what this word means to me. As I often do, I go first to the dictionary...

My transformation is being forced upon me - to some extent. To be totally fair, I am not someone who runs from change, but I do prefer to be part of the planning process rather than just being informed that things are no longer going to work the way they have been working.

We are starting a new program for our older clients - something more focused on vocational exploration and life-long leisure programming than academics. This is something that our clients have needed for a very long time, and it is finally coming to fruition. This program will take about a third of our current client census out of our regular programming. All of us who provide adjunct services are no longer going to be doing things the way we have done them in the recent past. In fact, during the planning process, no one seemed to even think about what would happen for leisure programming for these clients. In the past several months, many of my ideas on how we will proceed with these clients have been the ones adopted.

Since we are sending a third of our clients to the new program where music therapy will no longer be music therapy the way we have done it in the past but will be leisure-based, every class will change a bit. We are looking at smaller classroom sizes, the need for less Behavior Health Technicians, and changes to our schedule to accommodate the new program and the ways we do our jobs. Most of the changes have not been worked out yet - I am hoping that they will be finished and set when we return to work in four days, but I am not counting on it. Most of the time, we run around like chickens with our heads cut off, not knowing what is going to happen and circling blindly until we fall over.

For the record, I do not feel comfortable in these types of situations. I am not easily convinced that things will all work out and that we should learn as we go. I would rather plan for all sorts of eventualities, and I can see many of them. Other people, I guess, do not see many possibilities, but I do. I also like to know that someone has a plan - it doesn't always have to be me, but SOMEONE should, right?

A bit of time ago, I finally came to the conclusion that, while I am perfectly capable of writing goals, I am LOUSY at keeping them. I make a goal and then just stop working towards it after the goal is written down. So, I changed my perspective a bit. I now go on quests - things that I am moving towards. I am not sure how that will translate into transforming things this year, but I am going to explore that possibility.

Time for some brainstorming now...

Transform - change in composition or structure, change in outward form or appearance, change in character or condition.

Since change is such a big part of this particular word, it is time to think about what is going to change for me. My schedule is going to change. My group structure is going to change. My interns' schedules will change. My focus in therapy may change once I have less clients in each group. My relationships with my clients will change when I have less people to corral during a session. All of this is about me. How will things change for my students? For my interns?

There are four days left of this break before we go back into the full school schedule. Some of this time will be taken up with planning and gearing up for a (hopefully) couple of months of "figuring things out as we go." Time to start planning my journey through the school year. Only twelve months left...

First Day of the School Year - Well, For This Therapist, Anyway...

It is that time of year again. It is the start of the parade of first day of school pictures on Facebook, and I am heading back to work afte...