Christmas and Music Therapy

One of the best (and worst) parts about working in our field around the holidays is the fact that we get to spend every day singing the holiday music that we love during our sessions. It’s impossible to be a music therapist and not be in at least a bit of a holiday mood. There’s a reason it’s called the hap-happiest season of all. These songs reach our clients in ways that pop songs can’t, because they’re associated with such a powerfully emotional time of year.

However, it is easy to forget that for some, this emotion is not necessarily entirely positive. The older adults we work with, specifically, often struggle with the nostalgia of the holiday season.

I was running a (Christmas Themed) Music Therapy session, to which only two elderly residents showed up, an old man and an old woman. Half way through our second song, I noticed the old man laughing a little bit.
“I’ve got a surprise for you…I’m Jewish!”
He spent the rest of the session telling me about his wife, who was Christian, and with whom he celebrated Christmas. The one song he really loved was White Christmas- which we played 3 times, over the course of the session.
“Me and my wife…we were like this. Best buddies. It really was something special. She was my best friend.”
His wife passed away March 2014, and he shared with me that he’s just now becoming able to speak about her.

It’s so very important for us to remember as music therapists that our primary tool, music, may elicit these more difficult emotions- and that is perfectly okay.

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The 6 Months of Internship

Wow. I cannot believe it is my last month of internship. I blinked and it was over! There have been many challenges and many learning opportunities during internship. Let me walk you through the learning highlights I had each month.

Month One

Month one was crazy! You are learning so much at one time. I observed so many music therapists. Thankfully, I took A TON of notes. Throughout internship when I was confused or it felt like I needed a refresher, these notes were great to look back on. In month one you get to observe therapists and then start to try interventions as they implement them. It’s great to put yourself out there and try new things. I have built up so much confidence since month one.

Month Two

Month two I began leading full sessions by myself. I learned so much about how to plan interventions according to different NMT techniques. It was also a test of my time management. I had to plan a lot, make visuals, create new songs, see a full caseload of clients, and of course practice! I learned that if I work hard now, it will become more natural in the future.

Month Three

In month three I felt as though I started to develop my own style. I felt comfortable with the clients that I was seeing and was able to try different interventions. I have learned to be comfortable with myself, take my time, and most importantly be silly when seeing kids. Music therapy is fun! We are working on so many important goals, but how can you create interventions that pull in the client so they can have fun? I found this to be important while working in a one on one setting.

Month Four

This month I worked hard on my case study and project. I challenged myself to read a lot of research articles. I began to take data and study how Developmental Speech and Language through Music impacts speech prosody. For my project, I tried out a lot of different interventions to see which ones I wanted to include in my song book. I picked interventions that were engaging and successful. I also challenged myself by changing my schedule. I had the opportunity to see 13 clients back to back. This challenged by endurance and know know that I absolutely love it! I also got to welcome my junior intern, Emma. It was great to have someone to work with! She gave me fresh ideas. It’s wonderful to talk to music therapy students from different schools and compare experiences. As music therapy students from different areas, we can learn so much from each other.

Month Five

As I continued to work on my case study and project, I learned that I had to plan less for sessions. My supervisors know that I like to have every detail planned. This month I challenged myself to plan less. It was hard at first, but I’ve learned that I enjoy writing songs on the spot. Especially on the day I see 13 clients, I can’t plan every second of my day. I can overlap interventions and do improvisation. This is an important skill to have as a music therapist. It tests your ability to think on your feet as well as your intuition. I am lucky that I had practice with this because you can plan and plan, but sessions never go exactly how you want them to!

Month Six

As internship comes to an end its great to reflect on the experiences I’ve had. I’ve learned so much, it’s hard to put it all into words. I am so glad I’ve been able to develop my own style as a music therapist. I am also grateful that I can leave internship feeling confident and ready to work!

Rachel

Self Care

Sometimes we get wrapped up in work so much that we forget how to take care of ourselves. How are we supposed to take care of others if we haven’t taken care of ourselves?

Self care can be anything. You could see a therapist, you could be on a daily exercise routine, or meditate. There are so many choices. I’ve consumed myself so much in internship that I often forget to take care of myself. I’ve learned that self care is something that cannot be ignored. I love yoga and I love being outside. Every opportunity I get, I do one of these things.

As I continue into my professional life, I want to explore more about myself. I want to find different activities that I enjoy can serve as self care. Sometimes we need a little mix in life.

What do you do for self care?

Rachel

Countdown

Three weeks of internship left. How crazy. The time has gone by so quickly. It’s amazing how much you can learn in a six month period of time. I’m checking things off my list that seemed so far away just awhile ago. Slowly thinking about closure with my clients (luckily I get to leave my clients with Christmas fun!). Here is a countdown for my last three weeks.

1. Comfort. Lately, I’ve been thinking about how I’ve become so comfortable with my clinical skills. I’ve pushed myself to do so many things out of my comfort zone. When you step out of your comfort zone, you actually become more comfortable. I feel like I can be more silly with my clients now.

2. Style. In internship you start by observing, and then trying what you see. So, I first started by watching my supervisors, and then doing as they do. Once I got that down, I was able to develop my own style when treating clients. I’ve been so lucky to be able to try new things in order to develop this style. As one of my clients says, “It’s good to try new things!” Always a good reminder.

3.  Balance. I push myself. And I will admit sometimes during internship I pushed myself too hard and now I’ve learned to take a break. To say yes when friends want to do something. Music therapy interns work hard, but self care is so important. Find a balance that works for you.

Rachel