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 with comments and/or questions. Thank you!

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.

This work I get to do

I love this work I get to do.

I love that one of my clients came up and hugged me today, when he’s never done that before.

I love that I always feel full of life when I go to a particular day center.

I love that sometimes my face hurts at the end of the day from smiling so much, sometimes out of joy or happiness, but mostly out of fulfillment.

I love this work I get to do.

What about you?

Back to coursework: Go to the book

I’ve been looking at Kenneth Bruscia’s Defining Music Therapy (second edition) over the past few days in order to research a little for a project a colleague of mine and I are doing. I am, again, struck by how lovely vision (and clarity of said vision) can be. For more than a year, I’ve been transitioning into and therefore learning about another way of practicing music therapy. Should you happen to own this particular Bruscia book, I’m specifically interested in pages 116 and 117. Page 116 lists some of the clinical goals of improvisation:

  • Establish a nonverbal channel of communication, and a bridge to verbal communication
  • Provide a fulfilling means of self-expression and identity formation
  • Explore various aspects of self in relation to others
  • Develop the capacity for interpersonal intimacy
  • Develop group skills
  • Develop creativity, expressive freedom, spontaneity, and playfulness with various degrees of structure
  • Stimulate and develop the senses
  • Develop perceptual and cognitive skills

I am especially drawn to his first, second, third, and sixth bullet points. Nearly all of my clients do not use speech, and, in music, I am hoping to facilitate a “channel of communication” (page 116).

To you readers who are not music therapists: Do any of these goals surprise you? How so? 

To you readers who are music therapists: How do you remember this text? I’m back in love with it.

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?

Song, “Idiot Wind”

I’ve been a-reading (that is, “audio reading,” as in audiobooks; not a-reading like “I’m a-fixin’ to read me some books”) Bob Dylan in America written and read by Sean Wilentz. I haven’t a-read too many books, but I usually like when the author reads. This book is no exception. Wilentz is a fantastic writer, and his passion for his subject is clear in this reading.

One of the songs Wilentz discusses at length is Dylan’s “Idiot Wind.” I’d never heard the song, and admittedly I wasn’t paying too much attention to the book when Wilentz talked about it (which I now regret). I need to know more about Dylan; just look at these lyrics:

Idiot wind, blowing every time you move your mouth
Blowing down the backroads headin’ south
Idiot wind, blowing every time you move your teeth
You’re an idiot, babe
It’s a wonder that you still know how to breathe

Read more:

It was gravity which pulled us down and destiny which broke us apart
You tamed the lion in my cage but it just wasn’t enough to change my heart
Now everything’s a little upside down, as a matter of fact the wheels have stopped
What’s good is bad, what’s bad is good, you’ll find out when you reach the top
You’re on the bottom

Read more:

Idiot wind, blowing through the buttons of our coats
Blowing through the letters that we wrote
Idiot wind, blowing through the dust upon our shelves
We’re idiots, babe
It’s a wonder we can even feed ourselves

Read more:

Find the lyrics to the whole song here.

Man oh man.

Though this song is from 1974, the best recording of it I could find is from a performance in 1992. Here it is.

Songwriting is such a talent. I might play around with the question-and-answer form of folk. Perhaps one day I might finish a song I start.

How do you approach songwriting? What is your experience with this Dylan song?

Writing prompt: Define vision

I venture to guess that almost everyone in any profession or occupation has some semblance of a vision for himself. Over these past few days, when it’s still well below freezing and even degrees below zero here in Minneapolis, I’ve had some trouble getting ahead of my day. One vague goal I have (I call it “vague” because I don’t really know how to measure it) is to design my day and not let it and all its circumstances drag me unwillingly all the way to bedtime. Sometimes this happens. I suppose having a young baby has something to do with this, but nonetheless, I want to be the designer.

What is my vision? I’d been out of the habit of writing down my schedule and my goals and my lists and my innumerable want-t0/need-to-dos. I’d been typing them into my phone or my Google calendar. While this is functional, I don’t experience the act of planning and seeing as I do when I write it down. This week, I’m trying to get back into the habit of writing. Journaling is still a far-off activity at this point, but even writing out what I want to do with my day is serving me well. I haven’t clarified my vision for my business yet, even though Empower U Academy has challenged its members to do so. I have vision for my clients, but for my career as a whole? I have not written it out.

This being said, my writing prompt for March is to define your vision. I invite you to write one sentence, one paragraph, one page, or more, if you’d like. This doesn’t have to be pertaining specifically to your professional life. This can be even a very short-term vision. There is so much writing out there about finding your vision, so let this be some practice for that act. Contact me with your submission. Have it in to me by March 15.

Find January’s guest submission here.

Guest submission: Word of intention

Today’s post is provided by Lindsay Markworth, MMT, MT-BC, of Minneapolis, Minnesota. I have gotten to know Lindsay over these past few months, and am looking forward to learning more about her approach as a Nordoff-Robbins music therapist. She owns Twin Cities Music Therapy Services.


Hello, my name is Lindsay Markworth and I am a music therapist and owner of Twin Cities Music Therapy Services here in Minnesota.  Erin has asked me to share my word of intention for the New Year, and I must admit it was a struggle for me to identify just one word.  Each year with my own New Years resolutions I find myself writing lists of goals, organized by heading and topic:  work, health, finances, adventures, music, etc.  There are so many words that I want to focus on, that this process quickly becomes overwhelming.  Goals are important across all settings of my life; however, my word is not a goal that can be quantified or even ever really checked off a list. Instead, it is a focused shift in my approach to life, business and work. My word is trust, more specifically, trust in the process.


Throughout different aspects of my life and work, situations have often occurred differently than I had originally planned.  I am by nature a Type A personality, a goal-setter, list-maker, and planner.  So, when I’m presented with a sudden change, my instinct is to resist.  I am beginning to realize that in my attempt to be in control, I am actually missing the purpose and beauty that exists within life’s spontaneity.


Just as this is a philosophy I intend to apply to my own life, in my experiences as a developing person and business owner, this is a concept that applies directly to my clinical work as a music therapist.


I was reminded of this recently in a session where a client seemed to be stuck on one specific song, repeating it over and over.  My clinical intention was to challenge this client to become more interactive and flexible within musical interactions.  My plan was to encourage the client to move away from this song, as it seemed to be a repetitive, internal musical experience rather than interactive.  I introduced new music from the same genre, and then I introduced new, completely unrelated songs with hopes of inspiring the client to join me in the music.  However, none of these attempts seemed to promote the development of an interactive music relationship.


As I reflected on my work with this client, I made the intentional decision to trust that this song was an important part of the client’s process.  When considering the possibilities for my role in this musical interaction one word came to mind: extend, adding to what my client was already doing.  In our next session, I joined the client in playing the song, and then extended the music creating additional lyrics within the existing musical structure.  My client looked at me, smiled, and responded by completing musical phrases through singing and playing the piano.  The client later initiated the “extended” version of the song, seemingly communicating acceptance of this musical collaboration.


This experience was a lesson for me in trusting each client’s unique process, and being open to the possibilities that exist when I set my expectations aside, allowing myself to meet my client in the moment.  Clinical goals are an essential aspect of music therapy, and these goals can certainly co-exist with a flexible, creative approach.  The music I prepare for a session may not be relevant to the client in the moment.  It is my responsibility to then, let go of my plan, listen, observe, and create music with my client.  This requires several dimensions of trust: trust in my client, trust in the music, trust in myself and of course, trust in the process.


This year I challenge myself to trust the process, embrace the unexpected and release my tightly gripped plans in favor of being more open to the beauty of the present moment in all aspects of my life and work.


“We’re coming into an art of who we are, as we become who we are.  We must become it to know it, and be it to recognize it.”-Clive Robbins.

Lindsay Markworth, MMT, MT-BC

Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapist