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.

Missing voice

I have entirely lost my voice. I woke up this morning with nothing. I tried to make a phone call to cancel one of my sessions, and was embarrassed that it sounded like a prank call; I’m sure the person on the other end was confused by the silence.

I spent the day working on e-mails and organizing my Dropbox folders. I follow¬†Michelle Erfurt‘s Project Professional Update, and had hopes of tackling her newest e-mail inbox challenge, but did not. Alas, I did get a few hours’ worth of administrative tasks accomplished.

I hope I find my voice tomorrow.


Working in private practice offers its set of challenges. One such challenge, for me, is finding consistent motivation to KEEP UP ON MY PAPERWORK. I’m actually pretty scheduled and somewhat determined, and definitely goal-oriented. But, my lists and post-its and planners and web-based calendars amass entries much faster than I can strike them (or recycle them, in the case of my post-its).

Today, I figured it out. Today, I felt productive. Today, I drank twice the amount of coffee as usual — and continued drinking it well into the dark of mid-afternoon (I hate these short days) — and today, I see a space in the lineup of paper product piles assigned to to-dos.

Today, there was coffee.


Reporting to caregivers

There are a few things about working in private practice that I’m “testing.” One is to report to the parents or caregivers of my clients and students directly (meaning within the same day if they’re clients or students I see weekly, or within the same week if they’re clients I see monthly) following each session or lesson I provide. I’ve been doing this for each of my clients and students for the past three weeks, and am already finding this to be a productive practice in that the parents or caregivers respond to me quickly with questions and ideas.

The reason I do this is because, though I’d like to, I don’t have the ability to meet with the parents and caregivers in person on a weekly basis. Most of the time, my time slots are filled back-to-back. (I may revise this in the future, but for now, this is how I’m operating.) I’m finding that regular and timely reporting via e-mail is the most effective way to include family members.

I try to cover three topics:

  1. Strengths in the session or lesson, and progress being made toward goals.
  2. Progress I see that can be made in future sessions or lessons.
  3. Plans I have for future sessions or lessons.

I’m pleased with this method, but I’ll keep looking for a more streamlined approach.

Bluetooth keyboard teams up well

I have come across the best tool combination for note-taking and efficiency therein. Thomas the New Husband bought me an iPad for Valentine’s Day this year, and although I have been using it pretty consistently for its apps, I’m even more enamored with it now. Now I’m using it with its own little tiny (perfect for my child-sized hands) Bluetooth keyboard, and the team of those two cut down the length of time it takes me to write up progress notes by at least half. Probably more.

I’d been using the Evernote app for dictation while commuting between clients or accounts, but now I’m able to use it for synchronized notes as well.

Anything to make paperwork more pleasant.

Termination of treatment

I have experienced my first private client’s leaving. I have seen her on a bi-weekly basis since June, and her last session with me was last week. I have a variety of paperwork to write up surrounding her treatment termination. Is there anyone out there who is willing to share some templates?


I am currently designing exactly how I’d like my documentation to be, in terms of assessment forms, treatment plans, progress notes, and contact information. The studio through which I provide music therapy services does not require any of my paperwork, but I need to know that my treatment plans are current and that a certain experience works well to target goals I have for my clients.

I’ve seen on the AMTA listserv that there is a conversation about such documentation. I have been using my own combination of forms that I saw in coursework and that I’ve used in internship, and have fitted them to be appropriate for my clients at this time. However, I wonder, where do you, who are contracting like I am, find your sources for paperwork templates?