Top Internship Learnings

       It’s crazy to think my internship is coming to an end after (only?) 6 months. As expected, this internship has challenged me in countless ways while providing opportunities for therapeutic learning, personal growth, and building meaningful relationships. There were moments when I thought this internship would never end and there were weeks that flew by way too quickly. Yet here I stand, six months older, six months wiser, and (as Kanye West would put it) six months harder, better, faster, stronger. One thing I’ve worked on throughout this internship is being able to recall experiences and adequately synthesize information in order to improve from it. Trying to process after sessions my first few months sparked nothing but a blank deer in the headlights stare and absolutely no memory of what had transpired only 30 minutes prior. I can confidently say I’ve greatly improved in that area, but here goes one last word-vomit-filled, bittersweet attempt at summarizing information from what feels like a blur of a six months. The following are my top internship learnings:

  1.  Know your strengths and use them to your advantagePositivity Meme

I learned very quickly in this experience that things rarely go as planned. I’m grateful for the ability to look on the bright side when things seem frustrating and to highlight small victories when sessions don’t go as I expect. Even though there were stressful and overwhelming moments, this strength has kept my spirits high and I was able to fall back on this throughout the length of my internship.

   2.  You have to take care of yourself before you’re able to take care of others

It’s easy to tell someone to prioritize self-care, but in actuality this task is much more complicated. I’ve tackled this topic in one of my previous blogs, but truly understanding the ins and outs of this incredibly broad subject has turned me into a better therapist, student, and overall functioning human.  


 3.  Teamwork makes the dreamwork; you’re never really alone

Getting the chance to observe physical and speech
therapy helped solidify my perception of a team approach. I’ve developed a deeper appreciation for the multi-disciplinary therapeutic field.

  4.  Sometimes being the dumbest person in the room is the best thing you can do for yourself

Somewhere around month 3 I read this article that truly changed the game for me. It quotes Michael Dell saying “Try never to be the smartest person in the room. And if you are, I suggest you invite smarter people…or find a different room.” I’ve really had to work on shifting my competitive mindset to one that is accepting of personal flaw and open to seeking out information from those who know more than I do. This has completely changed the way I look at my professional priorities and career development. I’ve learned that it’s okay to compare myself to other people as long as I am using this to build myself up rather than tear myself down.



Incorporating Your Primary Instrument Into Music Therapy: A Violinist’s Perspective

        Robert Schumann once said “To send light into the darkness of men’s hearts—such is the duty of the artist.” While this concept can be applied to any musician playing any instrument, I have felt it particularly relevant throughout my journey with the violin. It is by nature one of the most expressive instruments with the capacity to portray almost any emotion. It has a unique timbre that is both vulnerable and brilliant at the same time. It’s sound is approachable yet its mechanisms are complex in that they require perfect synchrony and execution. The various ways in which it can be played give virtually limitless options as to how this instrument can be used in music therapy interventions. Not only are the sounds unique, but they give the client something new to experience. Often times clients are only exposed to the main therapeutic instruments (i.e. voice, piano, and guitar) which could become repetitious. Bringing in a different instrument gives the client an opportunity to form a new relationship with the music. Whether it is alerting, drawing attention, or accentuating different motor movements the client will most likely not respond to the intervention the same when executed from a different instrument. There is also a large repertoire of music for violin that can relate to a variety of cultures. From classical to modern or from Irish jig to Italian opera, there is music out there for any population. Another benefit to the violin is the level of mobility the instrument provides. The therapist is able to make eye contact and move around the room if their music is memorized or if they are improvising. This allows for more intimate interactions with individuals in a group as well as individual settings. While singing and playing is a possible and challenging skill to acquire, it is not necessary in order for the instrument to sound complete. The melody can be played by itself or with a background beat and be equally as effective as any other therapeutic instrument. The following infographic illustrates some tips, tricks, and precautions when using the violin (or another primary instrument) in a therapeutic setting.

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Old Song, New Tricks: A Summer Classic and Free Ocean Scene!

Summer is here! But don’t let summer-vacation-itis get the best of your creativity!

Here’s a familiar song approached in a different way.

Think back to your playground days…. Remember…

A sailor went to sea, sea, sea!
To see what he could see, see, see,
And all that he could see, see, see,
Was the bottom of the deep blue sea, sea, sea!

Of course! What a fun hand game, and a repetitive, catchy tune. Talk about a music therapist’s paradise.

I’ve chosen to use the song with a couple of my groups. I pass out the drums (well, cajon tabs), and I start to play the song. I’m lucky enough to have a partner right now, so I use her to demonstrate what exactly I’m looking for with the drumming. Peer model’s are also a-mayy-zing.

I have them drum every time we sing the word ‘sea/see’.

OceanWe sing through a couple times, and once they get the hang of it, I send around a sheet and have the clients choose what they want to sing in the song next (lyrics & pdf to come!!) Then I use a dry erase marker to cross out the ones that have already been picked. This way, the song stays interesting and somewhat novel, plus my clients love making choices. Give them choices- give them voices

And as the song slowly goes on, we sing faster and faster!

Here’s some ways you can use this song in your summer sessions…

Think about this for groups: Pass out the drums, and challenge your group to listen and play every time you say ‘sea/see’. Depending on the group, you could also do this with body percussion!

One step further could be to have the group only play on certain lines, so 1 & 3 or 2 & 4.

You could also encourage them to play on a certain ‘see/sea’ in each line, so just the first or last.

Using a sheer blue cloth could be a great way to incorporate sensory play in the music. Moving it up and down, side to side, make your own ocean!

A sailor went to sea, sea, sea,
To see what he could see, see, see,
And all that he could see, see, see,
Was the bottom of the deep blue sea sea sea!

A sailor went to sea, sea, sea,
To see what he could see, see, see,
And all that he could see, see, see,
Was   starfish   in the deep blue sea sea sea!

The starfish in the sea, sea, sea,
Was happy in the sea, sea, sea,
And all that he could see, see, see,
Was a   shark   in the deep blue sea, sea, sea!

The shark in the sea, sea, sea….and so on!

Here’s a PDF of the visual I use as well, enjoy!    Ocean

Presenting…Strategies for Dodging Distractions!

     Have you ever been in the middle of a presentation and lost your train of thought, gotten sidetracked by things happening around you, or gone on a lengthy tangent about something completely unrelated to the topic being presented on? First of all, welcome to the struggle bus–there’s a seat open in the back. Second, feast your eyes on the graphic below and absorb some helpful strategies and tips from the lovely people at toastmasters to help these distractions become a little less distracting. All the information below is adapted from this quick four minute video.

The distractable's Guide to giving a distractionless presetation-2.png

NFAR Race for Autism

NFAR RaceCalling all super runners, super walkers, and super supportive sideline cheerleaders alike! If you know any superheroes who love to have a great time, learn about autism research, gather resources for parents and professionals, and support a wonderful cause be sure to talk to them about the NFAR Race For Autism. The National Foundation for Autism Research (NFAR) raises money through fundraising and donations. The foundation uses 100% of donations to support “local autism initiatives” and has detailed information on how and where to send donation on their website (linked above). I was incredibly lucky to have been able to attend the NFAR Race for Autism on April 6th as part of a resource fair educating parents and professionals about the various services provided by The Music Therapy Center of California and Banding Together. You don’t have to be an avid runner or devoted athlete to participate in this race because there’s something there for everyone. This event brings together families and individuals in the San Diego community that share the same passion for supporting Autism research. After greeting several familiar faces and meeting plenty of new ones, there were surely none that left this event without a smile. I loved being able to piece together the bigger picture of how music therapy supports those with special needs and how we can connect with organizations such as NFAR to build a stronger foundation for families to lean on. This SUPER organization realizes that “by creating a concerned and active community, we will help to ensure a brighter future for our children.” So dust off those superhero capes and break in those running shoes because you won’t want to miss this event next year!







March to the Beat of Your Own Drum

This weekend I’ve had the pleasure of co-leading a drum circle for the Autism Tree Project Foundation’s NCL Girls Mentor Program. My co-intern, Noriah, and I facilitated various interventions involving non-verbal communication, socialization, direction following, and other attention related skills. These future female rock stars impressed me with their energy, spunk, and willingness to listen and learn from one another. The following infographic outlines the philosophy, approach, and techniques I have adopted over the past few months for leading drum circles. 

ATPF Drum Circle-4

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If you’re interested in volunteering or know anyone who would benefit from this program, visit the ATPF website at