Music Moves

Perspectives & Insights from a Local Music Therapist

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Hello and Happy New Year!

I hope that you and yours had a wonderful holiday.  I myself enjoyed a very busy lead-in to mine, as evidenced by my infrequent posts here of late, but now that I’ve solidly got my feet back on the ground in Grand Forks (my husband and I spent Christmas with family in the Atlanta area), I am proud to be able to say that I now have a Masters Degree in Special Education with an emphasis in Visual Impairment, and as a result my schedule has opened up considerably. Well, maybe not considerably, but comfortably enough!  The horizon is wide open with new possibilities, but strangely enough, midst all the New Year’s resolutions and changes people around me are seeking to make in their lives, I find myself drawn to the things I’ve already been doing, old habits I’ve picked up over the years that I’ve been learning to see with new eyes just since I started my Masters Degree two years ago.  In fact, this recycling of old ideas in fresh ways apparently has shown in my Blog posts as late, with five of the most read Music Moves posts in 2012 having actually been written in 2011.  These were posts I linked to frequently throughout the year, and as a result they actually got more traffic than the posts that referred to them.  I choose to look at this as a further sign that I’ve always known more than I ever thought I did, my thoughts just needed time and educated guidance to be fully realized and developed.  This may sound a little lofty of me, but I can assure you it’s far from it!  I find it humbling, actually, to discover my own potential and experience the reward from hard work and dedicated study that so many of my colleagues have done and continue to do above and beyond the one degree that I earned.  Seeing all the doctoral candidates ahead of my getting their hoods at Graduation this last month I found myself inspired to discover the next level of thinking that they themselves had come to experience.  But, all in good time – I think I’ll enjoy this level of thinking for a while! So then, instead of New Year’s “Resolutions,” here I present to you my New Year’s “Affirmations.”

1.  Data is good. Very good.  Not just for my clients but for me.

Clear and concise documentation has taken on all new importance in my clinical work.  Maybe it’s the addition of the Ipad to my device collection.  It has truly changed how I document and allowed me to do what I’ve always wanted to, but didn’t have the time or means to do previously.  Having automated digital graphs fed by a single tap of my finger whenever a client does something I want them to do has enabled me to produce detailed reports so I can see what’s working and what isn’t working.  Add that to additional tools acquired in some of the classes I’ve taken to learn what steps to take when something isn’t working, and I now have objective means to be able to assess and adjust my services at a moment’s notice.  And that, in a schedule as packed as mine is, is priceless, both for my time being used more efficiently, and my clients receiving more specialized services.

2. Honesty is always the best policy, but a little bonus package of timing and discretion never hurts to add.

Growing up in a family of three girls, I developed a practice early on of answering questions quickly, otherwise you might not be heard or someone else would get what you wanted.  The phrase “last one there is a rotten egg” used to stress me to no end as a child, and this has translated into my adulthood as a desire to answer questions as quickly as effectively possible, so countless hours each day used to be lost in me trying to respond to emails the minute I got them, rather than waiting until the end of the day or selected office hours to answer them all at once if I happened to be in the middle of something at that time.  In fact, people who know me well may still see the occasional email from me opening with an apology if  more than 24 hours has passed before my response (if I had any resolutions, it’d be that: to apologize less for doing what I need to do to take care of myself and my clients). Waiting to respond to emails not only helps my stress level but it helps preserve the integrity of my responses – when the whole of my attentions can be dedicated to something, the more accurately and tactfully it will be executed.  So, once again, this preservation of my own efficiency serves both me and my clients as well.  Better time management from me = Better services for my clients.

3. Human Connections are valuable and worthy of validation.

It’s important for me when I’m working with my clients that I recognize their emotional needs in addition to their physical, cognitive, and sensory ones.  Sometimes I also need to be aware of the needs of those around them – their parents, caregivers, teachers, and peers.  And I need to be aware of my own feelings, and how they connect to everyone I work with.  Because we all have feelings, and we all have needs, and those needs have to be met from time to time, or at least recognized and acknowledged.  And many of those needs have to do with each other, and our connection to those around us. So my husband and I have the occasional date night, my clients and I always have emotional check-ins at the start and finish of every session, all so that we can take the time necessary to seek out any emotions or connections we might have been suppressing all day and resolve them as best we can (if we can).  No matter what, at the very least, laying them out for processing can have value in and of itself.  You might find negative feelings relieve slightly just by acknowledging their existence.  And as little as that relief might be, it’s always worth the shot!

This month I’m proud to once again be participating in Music Therapy Social Media Advocacy Month, sponsored by the Music Therapy Maven.  This year’s theme has to do with Connections, so over the next few weeks, you’ll be seeing posts from me about my own experiences and connections to my job as a music therapist, and hopefully stories from other MT’s and maybe even clients, about their experiences.  This theme really has me excited this year, and I look forward to being part of sharing the wonderful stories that my job helps me to write and retell every day!

And that’s it.  Those are the things I’ve been doing over the last year (and look forward to doing in the years to come) that I’ve come to realize meant more than I could have possibly imagined when I started to do them.  My mother in law told me at one point during my Masters Studies that she felt the greatest benefit Grad School gives is teaching you to think differently. So it isn’t so much what you learn about as it is how you learn to think. And I think I agree!

Here’s to an affirming 2013!



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