A pizzicato person

I felt like a therapist today.
I saw one of my clients recently whose primary diagnosis is autism. The client has been experiencing elevated anxiety and is spending much of their time on the floor or ground (which is unusual for this person). I spent a lot of my time with the person on the floor myself (which is not unusual for me), next to but not in front of the client. I spent a lot of time concentrating on grounding sound; low, slow, rhythmic pitching; half-time singing songs the person requested; making an effort to bring attention to my inhales and exhales; simple, nearly-monotonous melody (during improvisation); and simple accompaniment. I absolutely noticed a change in the person between the beginning and the ending of the session. Absolutely. I noticed quiet and length toward the end of the session. Mostly, the client sounded (to me) staccato, even pizzicato. Not percussive, in as much as percussive sounds happen as something is hitting against something else. This client definitely sounds, generally speaking, pizzicato to me; like the client is being plucked up and out — the opposite of percussive. So, maybe this person wanted grounding today (the client was, after all, on the very ground). Something solid. Instead of flipping about around the room like the sounds from fingers on strings, the client needed, to my ears, sounds to catch them and help them to the ground.
Well now I wish I’d had my violin with me.

Is it me?

When I was studying music therapy at Marylhurst University, we discussed transference and counter transference quite a bit in one of my courses. I remember thinking, “Wait, which one is which?” I admit I still have trouble with the distinction, but I understand, more and more each day, how transference affects the environment.
I see a group on Tuesday mornings. This group is almost always very high energy, and I typically spend a lot of time at the end of the session trying to bring everyone together in breath work (which is to say I want everyone to relax a little before they go out screaming down the halls to lunch). A lot of the people in the group use speech, and some of them sing along or contribute words or phrases to improvisations. Many of the people in the group stand and move in the music or play instruments. Almost always, I leave these sessions feeling nearly jubilant, refreshed even; this group infuses excitement in me that I can say I don’t regularly feel in other sessions.
I walked in this morning and was very plainly sad. I set up my instruments and gear on the table as I always do and I wanted very much to be home. I felt homesick and down. I immediately wondered: Is this me, or is this them? If it’s not me, is it the whole group? What have I noticed walking in today? Is there anything unusual happening today? Has someone died? Is someone ill? Why am I so sad?
This heaviness stayed with me for the whole session, even though the group did not reflect this sadness. I did not hear anything that evoked sadness. No one played anything particularly somber during the check-in. But, one group member had re-joined after having been away for several weeks. This person, though they presented cheerful enough, has always had an irregular and erratic home life and has been in group so infrequently that I wondered whether they would ever come back. I know that they don’t have a lot of support.
I wonder, now as I’m writing, whether the sadness was mine today, or whether is was the group’s, or even that individual’s. Maybe it was both. Maybe it wasn’t. What is endlessly fascinating as well as frustrating about group work is that I won’t ever know.

Regional conference coming up

Though I am a part of the Great Lakes Region of the American Music Therapy Association, I’m going to be going to the Western Region and Midwestern Region’s joint conference in Broomfield, CO that starts in just a couple of weeks. I have family in Colorado whom we were planning to see at some point this month, anyway, and as they live close enough to Broomfield to make the trip work, we decided to visit family and go to conference in one shot. I went to school in Portland, OR (Marylhurst University) and will likely know a few therapists out there. One of my good friends will be receiving an award at the conference, so all will be well.
I’ll have to write up a little something about the sessions I attend.
In the mean time, I’ll keep working.

I’m done with my break

A few days ago, I posted a link to the article I wrote for the ezine Music Therapy Clinician. I wrote the article months ago, some time in the summer, when I was struggling keeping work and family from falling apart. I wasn’t sleeping because I had a little girl who wasn’t sleeping. Sleep, as it happens, is one of the very most important pieces of my health, I found out, thanks to the baby. My identity as a music therapist was disintegrating and I think I was mistaking the resistance I was experiencing for a desire to change careers. I did need a break. In the background, during my break, I was processing this resistance I felt. I think I wanted to do more meaningful work in my music therapy practice. I wanted to understand the music and my clients better; I wanted to do more in my relationships. I’ve been working full-time again since mid-December, and I’m happy for having had the time away. I’m finding more confidence in what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. I’m articulating more clearly how I believe my client, the music, the environment, and I are interacting. I’m offering more definitive ways for my clients to express themselves: Do they agree with my perception? Do they disagree? Have they ever even considered it?
I’m done with my break and I’m better for it.
Rest is best (as sung by Daniel Tiger in Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood). 🙂

Welcome, welcome, welcome!

Hello again, all.
I’m writing to you almost two years after the last post was published.
I (probably) won’t take two years between posts from here on out. I’m hoping to post every Thursday.
I’m sharing an article with you that I had published in Music Therapy Clinician: Supporting reflective clinical practice. Strangely enough, the article was written about my time taking a break from work, and I’m sharing it with you while I’m re-entering. Regardless, please read it as you’re able. The article is “Getting Out to Get Back In.” Music Therapy Clinician: Supporting reflective clinical practice. Please comment on this post if you’ve ever had a similar experience; I’d love to connect.

New project

I am really excited to announce that my colleague and friend Tim Oesau, MT-BC and I have launched our own podcast! The podcast is “Thoughts on Music Therapy,” and our hope is to speak about music therapy in the news as well as conduct interviews with creative arts therapists who may or may not work with music therapists. You can find the first episode at Thoughts on Music Therapy. We soon will have a more populated website, but for now, please e-mail me at erin.lunde@soundmattersmusictherapy.com with comments and/or questions. Thank you!

My thoughts on organization

I remember when I wrote something to the effect of, “I’ll post my thoughts on organization on January 26,” which would have been this past Monday. What a funny joke! I meant “[the week of] January 26.”

What does it mean to you to organize? Is it a wholly physical experience? How do you do it? Is it always a process, or do you ever feel it’s achieved?

Man, I struggle with this, day and night. I have tried a number of methods and tricks to help me organize and stay on top of all of my calendars and stuff. I have always abandoned these methods and tricks after a few days because I don’t see enough progress; I am a perfectionist– I am absolutely all-or-nothing, black-or-white (which is so baffling, because I work in a process-oriented approach). I’ve gone from writing up daily schedules that outline what I think I should do in half-hour increments. But, then I feel like a failure when I get up with my son at 7:00, instead of get up before him at 6:00– in other words, I almost always feel behind within the first hour of the day. This being said, the 10% of the time when I do follow the schedule, I feel absolutely powerful. And then I wake up the following day.

My experience with organization is not wholly physical. I have to have time set aside in my head to do it, which is the problem. I need to make it rote. I try Janice Lindstrom’s trick about using a website, a tool, to guide me in organizing and clearing things away on a daily basis. But a few days later, when I see that the first area I addressed is riddled with clutter once again, I feel defeated and stop. I’m really excited about the quote Lisa Skarbakka shared, “creative minds are rarely tidy.” I take that to heart.

I met recently with Katie Lee of The Small Change Project. We determined that paper– receipts, MAIL, invoices, etc.– are my biggest trouble. What I should do is set aside a couple of hours every week to scan and shred. Sounds good. But I have yet to do it.

At the national conference in November, during one of the business owners’ mixers, I met a music therapist who is also a mom. I complained, as I am wont to do, about my trouble keeping my life in line, and she said that essentially I just have to embrace it. Is that because I’m a mom? Or a business owner? Or both? Or because I’m “creative?”

I don’t have any answers for myself. I suppose I should trust the process that is the 24 hours in a day– the day will start, the day will end. With or without my life in line.

Guest post: Lisa Skarbakka

This week’s post comes to you from Lisa Skarbakka, MT-BC.

What does it mean to you to organize? Is it a wholly physical experience? How do you do it? Is it always a process, or do you ever feel it’s achieved?

When I was a kid, my dad had a sign on his door that said “creative minds are rarely tidy.” That was a convenient excuse for me! I think of organization in terms of the law of entropy: everything in the universe moves toward chaos unless energy is applied to bring it to a more ordered state. Everything falls apart unless we apply energy toward keeping it together. That applies to our relationships as well as all the other “stuff” of our life. That’s what I tell myself when I spend an hour cleaning out my car on the weekend and it looks like a disaster zone again by Wednesday! For me, the hardest part of organizing is getting started; once I’m actually doing it, it’s kind of pleasant, especially if I’m listening to a really great podcast. I often resist it, though, because it seems to take so much energy, and there are a million other more exciting things I’d like to do, and it’s never “done,” at least not for long. The people I know who are very organized seem to have consistent habits around it, so they do not ever have to decide to organize. I imagine it doesn’t take up as much energy when it’s a habit…I say “imagine” because I am not there right now!  But, little by little, I’ve become gradually more organized over time as I notice that I really do feel better when my “stuff” is in some kind of order (not to mention anyone who has to share space with me). I am setting an intention now to let go of labeling myself as “a disorganized person.” Our habits are not our identity; they are habits, and with a lot of intention and practice we can change them.

Lisa works as a hospice music therapist in and around Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Thank you, Lisa!

Guest post: Janice Lindstrom

This week’s post comes to you from Janice Lindstrom, MA, MT-BC.

What does it mean to you to organize? Is it a wholly physical experience? How do you do it? Is it always a process, or do you ever feel it’s achieved?

When I am “organized”, it means that surface clutter is mostly put away, there is a reasonable plan for my day, and I feel productive. For me, it’s a mental and physical experience. When my home is in order and my schedule is do-able, I can think better and I feel better. My outside environment reflects my inner mind. So when there is chaos in my home, I feel lost and adrift or irritable and frustrated. I think it is always a process to stay organized. When my routines are in place, my home and thoughts flow better. When they aren’t, I get stuck, mentally and physically. The best system I’ve found for staying organized, while being nice to myself, is through FlyLady.net. I am able to use her principles in other areas of my life, like my music therapy business, and finding that mythical work-life balance.

I have plans to share some tips that work for me for organization, that are music therapy-related, on my website, Heartbeatmusictherapy.net. I haven’t yet figured out my routine for this yet, but it’s something I’m passionate about, so it will manifest very soon!

Janice works in private practice in Dallas, Texas. You likely know her from her radio show, The Music Therapy Show with Janice Lindstrom.

Thank you, Janice!