Everyone Deserves Music

Hello everyone! My name is Emma Byrd. I’m the new Junior intern here at MTCCA, hailing all the way from Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA.

Starting internship is, without a doubt, one of the most exciting (and terrifying) steps that every music therapy student gets to take. It’s a moment in which we all have to step out of the pond we’ve gotten to know so well and into the great big ocean of internship. My professors liked to say that we would learn 10% of what we needed to know in school/practicums- and (hopefully) everything else during the 6 months that we’re in internship. In the past two and half weeks, I think I’ve learned more names, interventions and client goals than I have in my entire MT journey thus far.

The clients we serve at MTCCA are incredible people, with incredible stories and music to share. One of my favorite parts of every week are our “jam sessions.” Jam Sessions are 1-hour group sessions for adolescents with cognitive and physical impairments, during which we drum, learn social skills, and- of course- we jam. I have to say, there is nothing quite as satisfying as watching kids who spend their lives working extra hard to succeed despite their disabilities just let loose and drum. What’s really amazing about these jam sessions, though, is how seriously musical these guys and gals are. Of course there are moments when chaos descends, but there are just as many moments during which everyone comes together, singing the same words, feeling the same groove, and, almost magically, finding the “pocket.” I am left, after every jam session, totally inspired. Because of these groups, I don’t think I could ever again underestimate the clients we work with. Everyone has music- and everyone deserves music.

Finding Meaning In Your Music Therapy Interventions

In my latest post I talked about all of the “ah-ha” moments that happen during internship. It’s these moments that make you excited and eager to learn more.

Something that I am excited to learn about as I prepare for my clients is creating purposeful interventions. According to Dr. Thaut, sometimes we plan sessions based off of music activities or we address goals very broadly. Sometimes, I would plan sessions and say, “This intervention works on articulation, breathing, and attention.” Yet, how will I accomplish a lot if I am trying to work on everything at once? If I am using ONE goal to drive the intervention, more gains will be made.

I’m learning to break down each goal to create specific and meaningful interventions. Dr. Thaut’s Transformational Design Model (TDM) has been extremely helpful when doing this. Throughout my internship I have been assigned to fill out the TDM for different clients. I also like to go through the steps when planning a session on my own. The more I go through these steps, the faster I get at thinking through it. Thinking about your approach as you would if you were a PT, OT, SLP, or vocal coach is very helpful. It helps give that intervention a specific meaning. What would they do? How can you put music to that?

An important step of this process is generalization. I always have to think about the generalization piece. For kids, this step always makes you think about how you can involve the parents and even other therapists.

Soon, I will be able to think through the TDM very quickly. We are musicians! Think of practicing these steps like practicing your instrument! It’s hard work, but soon it will become second nature!