Monday matters: A saw, a theremin, and a peer group

A few Minneapolis-area music therapists met again tonight for our peer support group meeting. I was thrilled by the get-together for numerous reasons, two of which being the musical saw and the theremin. We make it a point to play and/or sing together at each meeting. I brought my violin, and was excited to continue my re-acquaintance with it. We talked about a few subjects– music-centered music therapy goal writing, the national conference, finding motivation to practice instruments, and the new songwriting group that has formed. If you are a board-certified music therapist in Minneapolis, St. Paul, or the surrounding areas, and are wanting to connect with other music therapists here, let me know.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Monday matters: Losing clients

I have been a recipient of clinical supervision for about two years now. Because I do not work with other music therapists, and because I was starting to burn out working the way I was working, I found a clinical supervisor with whom I have been speaking on a weekly basis. In many of my conversations with her, I ask her for advice, support, sometimes validation, a new direction to take, and often how the quality of the music being shared between my client and me is indicative of progress or resistance (which is not to say that resistance is not progress). Over the past year, I spent most of my time with my supervisor talking and sometimes playing through my work with a particular client. Finally, last week, this client really opened up and I felt an enormous shift in the session. I was both electrified (this is how therapy really feels) and terrified (repeat: this is how therapy really feels) by this change. I believed in our process at that point– that all of the work and supervision and consideration regarding this client mattered. We had moved into another level of work.

The next day, the client was pulled from music therapy because apparently this person’s other therapists reported progress, too, and inexplicably for that reason, music therapy was no longer needed.

I could not believe it. I still cannot.

Here are three steps I’m taking to deal with this blow:

  1. Talk with my supervisor.
  2. Write about it, create about it, play about it. Consider my feelings about this abrupt termination. Recognize that this was a therapeutic relationship in which I was a member, and that I can be upset by the fact that my opinion about this sudden termination didn’t change what happened.
  3. Find peace with it somehow. We’ll see how this turns out.

I wonder what steps I’m missing. This is the hardest termination I have experienced yet.

— — —

Looking for a peer support group? If you’re in the Minneapolis or St. Paul area, and you are a board-certified music therapist, feel free to connect with me and I will let you know about our group.

Monday Matters: Seeking partners

Months have passed since I’ve written. Fortunately, though, I’m back at it (I hope). I attended my first American Music Therapy Association National Conference that concluded just yesterday, and I am home and feeling energized and somewhat overwhelmed.

I like to write. I always have. But I don’t want to be the only one who does so on my site. I want writers. (Compensation and perks can be negotiated.)

I’m going to post only once per week. At the beginning of the month, I’ll offer a writing prompt. I’d love to read what music therapy and expressive arts therapy students, interns, and professionals have to say in regard to the prompt. I’ll review the pieces, let you know my thoughts, and put it out to a different audience than you might have yourself. You might have read a guest post by Lindsay Markworth, MMT, MT-BC in the past.

Also, Sound Matters Music Therapy, LLC, is seeking qualified sub-contractors to work in the southerly suburbs of the Minneapolis area. Please contact us for details.

There is a Minneapolis-based peer group of board-certified music therapists meeting again this month. Please let me know if you have any interest.

Monday matters: Regroup

I’m back. We’re back. Everyone is back.

I had to take the past two weeks away from the site because I had to get some administrative work done and then my whole household was sick most of last week. I’m feeling about 95% now, and the rest of the family is up and running again.

I had a fantastic evening with some fellow music therapists here in the Minneapolis and St. Paul area; we had our monthly peer group meeting. I was pleased to meet three new people, and I’m already looking forward to next month’s get-together.

I wrote up a post on Michelle Erfurt’s site that was published a few days ago. I shared my self-care project. Find the post here.

Monday matters: Assessment

Assessment is a practice that continues from session to session and moment to moment. Formally, assessment happens at the beginning stages of treatment. In order to evaluate a client and his or her state on a meaningful level, assessment has to recur; it’s just that sometimes it isn’t termed “assessment.”

One of the facilitators of the clinical improvisation course I took at our Great Lakes Region conference sent along an article on assessment called “Music Therapy Assessment: Psychological Assessment Without Words,” by Tony Wigram. The article, published in Psyke & Logos in 2007, looks at the reasons behind assessment, and how assessment can be defined and categorized. Admittedly, I’ve not read the whole article yet, but I was struck by one list that was shown (page 339). Wigram shows music therapy pioneer Juliette Alvin’s lists for assessing responses to music therapy. Specifically, the list “instrumental responses” was what I enjoyed the most; I’ve been working with instrumental responses with some of my clients a lot lately, and this list helps me clarify even better what I have been doing. Some items on the list include, “the clients’ understanding of cause-effect relationships on the instruments,” “whether obsessions or compulsions are expressed through the instruments,” and “whether instrument playing is purposeful or random” (Psyke & Logos, 2007, 28, 339).

Of course there are several other items on the lists that I consider to be really important, but these are some that I might look at with some more care.

What kind of assessment tools do you use? I’m curious.

Monday matters: Own the music

I’ve just returned from my regional music therapy conference, held in Rosemont, Illinois. We got home earlier today, and I went to see clients this afternoon. Surprisingly, I’m tired.

I attended a number of fascinating presentations, but the most immediately applicable in terms of functional knowledge that I employed even today was the CMTE (continuing education) course on clinical improvisation. Of course we spent time developing our technical knowledge of modes and how to easily access them on piano (among myriad other techniques), but what I found the most useful, confusing, and encouraging was the time we spent translating our goals into music-centered goals. In other words, how, in the music, would we clinicians know a goal has been met? How would the music achieve the goal? How would the accomplishment sound? Music therapy cannot be compared to any other therapy, because the music in music therapy is an entity and a language all in itself.

One of the conversations had in this course was surrounding music therapists’ definitions of our work, especially when we’re describing our work to someone who assumes we are music teachers. “Music therapy uses music to achieve non-musical goals” is a succinct and often-used way to speak about our therapy, but is it really accurate? Why do the goals we address have to be “non-musical?” How can we own the music in music therapy?

What are your thoughts? I would love to continue this conversation.

Monday matters: Podcast list

I haven’t gotten to any of my podcasts this week, as I’ve been absorbing audiobooks (I really can’t call it “reading”). However, there are quite a few podcasts that I take in regularly, both directly having to do with music therapy, and indirectly, too. Here are some of the non-membership podcasts that are in my rotation.


Music Therapy Round Table

The Music Therapy Show

On-the-Go Studio

Urban Therapists


Arts and Healing Podcast


Wall Street Journal on Small Business

Internet Business Mastery


Voices in the Family (thank you to Roia for mentioning this podcast one day)

What am I missing?

Monday matters: A pairing

I’ve written about the role of patience in music therapy sessions before, and I’ve come up against it again. I find it exceedingly difficult to manage the juxtaposition of task management and creation of therapeutic space. Therapeutic space is vast and filled by the client and all of the people, things, and ideas he needs to bring with him; task management is all of the noise and pieces that clamor around outside, hopefully serving to keep out extraneous bits from getting where they shouldn’t go. The session inside the space needs to be as quiet as it can be before the client enters.

How in the world does one keep these two parts of the self-employed therapist life living harmoniously?

Meditate, if you can.

Dump the thoughts onto paper before going into a session.


Talk to other therapists.

Accept imperfection, but expect improvement.

What is your definition of therapeutic space?

*In last week’s post, I mentioned my three priorities for the week. Gladly, I accomplished them all.

Monday matters: Anticipation

We had our monthly peer group meeting tonight, and the intention we assigned our improv was “anticipation.” The feelings I have surrounding anticipation are positive (challenge, achievement) and negative (anxiety, possible disappointment, stress). I’m anticipating fluctuation in my practice. I’m anticipating growth in my clinical knowledge. I’m anticipating a lot of transition and movement, which is exciting and distressing.

I’ve been feeling shaken a lot lately. I’ve felt shaken loose, ungrounded, and definitely unstable. I’ve been lonely out here in private practice. I’m anticipating the need to further connect with therapists, and though I’ve secured at least one accountability partner, I might benefit from clearly stating my goals for the week here.

My Monday Map for this week:

  1. Register for the GLR Conference
  2. Catch up on my billing
  3. Learn one new piece of repertoire/write one song

Where does your map go this week?

I anticipate success…