I was happy to be able to spend time with music therapists Kat Fulton and Tim Ringgold tonight as they hosted a live Google hangout for music therapists as a way to launch their new project site, Empower U Academy. Kat and Tim shared ways for music therapists to know their value, which is another important factor in advocacy, I’d argue.

*I will be posting our first contribution on professional words of intention in just a few days. Feel free to contribute your thoughts on your word of intention for this calendar year.

Monday matters: My word

I’ve liked to use these “Monday matters” posts as a theme for my week, or as a result of what I’d thought of in my week before. In this case, I am going to think of my theme for this upcoming calendar year. I’ve posted in the past about a theme word. I’m deciding between three words right now: “Hone,” “clarify,” and “lessen.” In our peer group meeting, we talked about how hard it is to say No sometimes. I like the word “lessen” for that reason– I can use the word to help me identify where I can reign in some places in my work. I like the words “hone” and “clarify” for similar uses, too.

Given that the last two weeks of December are bound to be busy and not work-heavy, I’m probably going to be done posting for this calendar year on Thursday. Please contact me with any writing you want to publish on your professional theme action word for this next year.

Monday matters: Professional hobbies

In the past week, I’ve been thinking a lot about what I call professional hobbies. I define this kind of hobby as one that relates to your profession, but is something that fulfills a subcategory of your work. For instance, a lot of people are podcasters, but are producing their podcast in order to relay a message about their primary work; I don’t think anyone calls themselves a “professional podcaster.” I consider my blogging a professional hobby. I am not a professional blogger, however.

I enjoy writing quite a bit. I imagine a lot of people do. If you happen to be one of those people, but don’t find yourself writing regularly for whatever reason, consider composing a few paragraphs on the topic of words of intention over the remaining days of December. Send me your thoughts, and I will publish them here. If you have a website and other contact information, I’ll link to it. At the top of each month I will publish on that theme. I will share an upcoming theme on the 15th of each month; feel free to continue writing on what these topics mean to you in your work.

My theme word for 2014 is still changing. I’ve thought of explore, expand, and recently, clarify.

Do you have an intention for 2014? Have you thought any more about a theme word? Let me know.

Get out of the way

My internship supervisor told me once that I need to get out of my own way. I’ve been done with internship for a while now, but I continue to hear that piece of advice. I still have my struggles with music, yes, and there are years of learning left to be had in regard to counseling skills and therapeutic intervention. However I am happily coming to terms with my abilities and efforts to engage my clients every day.

Earlier this week, I met a new group of clients whose warm, renewing energy was infectious. Only one of the clients used words to speak, but everyone in the group knew how to communicate. One of my pet peeves is that people who don’t know much about music therapy like to say, “Oh, that sounds like so much fun” when they find out what I do. Usually I don’t think of what this kind of therapy is as fun, but during that session I knew how fun felt. (I was especially impressed that one of the clients reliably clapped on 2 and 4.) Those clients came together in the music in a way I imagine they don’t otherwise. Most of the clients acknowledged and related to other group members in singing and in dancing, and even in sharing instruments. This was the very first music therapy session that they’d had. I was so happy to be there with them. I even found myself improvising in a key I hate, using a strumming style I never do in front of other people. I completely got out of my own way. I was thrilled.

I wonder, have you ever held yourself back? What kind of work do you do to keep yourself from becoming your own barrier? Please leave your thoughts in the comments!

Monday matters: Looking ahead

Here we are at the beginning of the last month of 2013.

I don’t make resolutions, per se, but at the tip top of last year I decided to pin a verb to the next 12 months. My word was “create,” and that I did. Now that it’s December, I’m going to begin brainstorming for how I’d like my 2014 to go, both professionally and personally. Two words that have been coming to mind are “explore” and “expand.” I have the rest of the month to consider what my theme word for next year will be.

Join me. What theme word will you cast on your 2014? Write about it and send it to me at I’d love to hear your thoughts for the new year!

Meditate on it

Yesterday I wrote about some struggles I’m having coordinating a demanding home and work life. I got some really useful feedback from a fellow music therapist* here in the Minneapolis area. She suggested pre-session meditation, which immediately got me thinking about this fantastic app I have been using over the past several months. The app is buddhify and is coined as the “mobile mindfulness app for modern life.” What I love about it is that the guided meditations are only ten minutes long. I did try to meditate shortly before my last client this evening, and as hard as it was to do, I think I benefitted from the attempt.

Do you meditate? Are there other meditation apps that you like? What other feedback do you have to help dig out? Please leave a comment below.

*Oh, and that fellow music therapist can be heard on her podcast, Urban Therapists.

How clarity feels

I have always had a tumultuous relationship with music. I started playing violin before I was able to form memories, and grew up with music as an integral part of my life. I burnt out on it in college, even though I was studying vocal performance. I graduated in three years, mostly because I wanted to be done and get on with it, whatever “it” turned out to be. I stopped playing violin for a few years. Only recently, since I’ve been in Minneapolis, have I played it with any frequency again. Now I use music as a tool for others. I haven’t though I use music for myself. I’ve resigned myself in the last few years to thinking of music as a job, albeit a creative and fulfilling one. I have had trouble really identifying myself as a musician. I’ve always thought that I would have to know more in order to identify as one. I’d have to be better able to work with music theory. I’d have to know about more bands. I’d have to write a certain kind of song. Essentially, I’d never be able to truly be a musician, because I don’t have the time, energy, or interest to be or know all these factions of music.

Only this week have I had something of a revelation in regard to my relationship with music. What if I re-position myself? What if I acknowledge that the way I compose my music, the way I play, and certainly the way I sing and use my voice to connect with others really is music? I don’t write songs in the traditional way. I don’t analyze fugues (anymore). I don’t remember a whole lot of the music history I once learned, even though I did find it fascinating. But I do engage with my own music on a daily basis. I use music as a means to communicate and find meaning where I can’t otherwise. I use music to soothe, calm, excite, and energize. I use it to regulate my own energy. I use it in myriad ways, really, and I find it emerges in very natural, unique expressions, given the needs of the circumstance. I do use music. I use it for others and for myself. I take this opportunity to re-create what music is in my eyes.

Do you have trouble identifying yourself in a way that you think you should?

Triumphs and struggles

Lately, I’ve been hearing a lot about people’s qualms with social media, in that what is shared is often only the good stuff of the day. I had a decent, busy day today, with two new clients and a group and two more individuals. Even though it was a fulfilling day, I didn’t feel as good about how I am as a therapist as I did yesterday. I didn’t exactly expect to feel so great on a recurring basis, but it is hard to come off of a day when I felt like I really was making progress. Anyway, I think acknowledging our daily struggles can be embarrassing, just as celebrating our daily triumphs can be as well. The more I share (that is non-specific and not client related), the more connected and even supported I can feel.

I’ve started tweeting my triumphs when I think of them. I’ll tweet some small struggles, too. If the thought occurs, do the same with #musictherapytriumph or #musictherapystruggle. I’d love to see what the day-to-day ups and downs can be.

Not an expert

Two and a half weeks ago, when I started back to work full time, I was trying to be cognizant of all of the changes that being a new mom would bring. I have to say that I am frustrated with myself for not being expert at this new life yet.

I love working for myself. However, I have a long list of tasks to accomplish in any given day that weighs on me. I thought I was being clever in my scheduling, setting aside the morning hours to be with the baby, and then going off to work in the afternoon. I forgot, though, that I need a certain amount of time– so much time, really– to be uninterrupted while working at the computer or organizing or sending out invoices or doing any other administrative task. I forgot about the amount of work there is to do that isn’t done with the client.

I am surprised at how scattered and messy my days seem. And yet, my days come and go, just as they always have. As much as I’d like to fit every piece of the day into a special little compartment, I can’t. I have a new appreciation for flexibility, since the baby doesn’t care what my timeline is.

I have a new awareness of relationship, as I’m finding that therapy lies within the relationship. This is a concept I’ve been considering since I’ve been back to work, and one I hope to elaborate on in future posts here. I hope to do so soon!