Self-Care

We live in a very busy, fast paced society.  It is very easy to become preoccupied with our daily responsibilities, and the stresses that accompany those responsibilities.  This is why it is important to take a step back, and take a look at what you are doing for your self-care in order to maintain balance.   Developing a self-care plan is a great way to increase your focus on wellness.  The Self-Care Community for Music Therapists Facebook page is a great resource for developing your self-care plan.

Among many valuable tools this wonderful page offers, the self-care plan is a great way to start by making a list of what you can do to maintain balance.  You begin making your self-care plan by reviewing the different categories such as: workplace or professional self-care, physical self-care, psychological self-care, emotional self-care, spiritual self-care, and relationship self-care.  There are various bullet points within each category that suggest what you can do.  For example, a couple suggestions under the workplace or professional self-care category are: “Engage in regular supervision or consulting with a more experienced colleague”, and “Set up a peer-support group.”  Other suggestions under the psychological self-care category are, “Engage with a non-work hobby”, and “Make time to engage with positive friends and family.”

It is suggested that you pick one or two suggestions from each of these categories to assemble your self-care plan.  There is a power with creating lists, as you are more likely to take action when putting your ideas into writing.  Once you have created your list, it is recommended that you put your self-care plan in a place where you can see it on a regular basis.  Being able to see your plan daily will also be helpful with being able to commit to your strategy.

When a month has passed, you can then assess how you are doing with developing these new habits.  Creating a self-care plan provides a great start on being able to take action towards promoting your personal wellness.  By having a self-care plan, one is likely to be more effective in the workplace, and less likely to experience burn-out.  I highly recommend checking out The Self-Care Community for Music Therapists Facebook page to start developing your self-care plan at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/629527543823408/  Be well everyone!

-Brandon

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No Therapy Is An Island

You’ll hear music therapists tell you time and time again, “Music therapy is an EVIDENCE BASED field!” What we do it backed by empirical research, and we’re very proud of this fact. However, the fact that the field is supported by research showing the efficacy of using music as a therapeutic tool for accomplishing non-musical goals does not make music therapy a lone-ranger in the world of therapies. There’s a key phrase I used in the previous sentence: “non-musical goals”. This means that the goals we are addressing in music therapy are similar to the goals our client’s are working on in their other therapies (speech, occupational, physical, behavioral, and cognitive rehabilitation therapies, etc.). So, in the Neurologic Music Therapy branch of our field, in particular, when setting up our interventions for addressing a non-musical goal, we like to use a model called the Transformational Design Model (TDM).

Transformational Design Model! It sounds like a superpower. And in a way, it is. It’s the superpower model that transforms non-musical interventions into musical interventions. Because music therapy has the same functional structure as other therapies, music therapists use this model to see where the overlap is with other fields, and then how the addition of music to a treatment intervention can benefit the client. But wait, there’s more! This superpower model transforms the functional music intervention into functional, non-musical real-world application. In short, we’re not going to let you walk around singing the steps to making conversation. We’re going to help you generalize the information you learned through music, so that when you apply it to everyday life, you’re doing it in a socially acceptable and sustainable (functional) way.

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I know you’re dying to find out how one mere mortal can acquire such a superpower. Well, lucky for you, we can let you in on the bare bones of the model. I take myself through these steps every time I develop an intervention for a client, and it helps ensure the quality and efficacy of my interventions. Ok, are you ready to be transformed?

  1. Asses the client’s strengths and needs
  2. Develop the goals and objectives
  3. Research how a non-music therapist addresses this same goal and design a functional non-musical intervention
  4. Translate step 3 into a functional musical intervention
  5. Transfer step 4 to functional, non-musical real-life application

This model is a superpower not just in the fact that it transforms a non-musical skills into a musical experience and then back into a non-musical skill, but also in the fact that it allows multiple therapeutic fields to see their overlap. The more therapists from varying fields can work together, the more well-rounded the treatment plan becomes, and the more the client will benefit. Go transform something!

-Chiara

Something’s Touching Me!

Your body is always touching SOMETHING. What an interesting thought that most people don’t spend too much time dwelling on. That’s because the brain with a well-regulated tactile sense only briefly makes note of the thing that the body is touching, and then ignores it in favor of more important thoughts and sensations it needs to process. But for a person whose tactile sense is out-of-sync, the textures of certain fabrics or presence of a tag on their clothing may be a source of extreme discomfort and the cause for much distress. Or they may lunge at you for a bear hug because they crave the feeling of deep pressure squeezes. Or they may not seem to notice that their hand is on a hot pan until they have a third degree burn. These are only a few examples, of course. The main point is, our tactile sense helps us determine what we are touching and if the things touching us at every moment of every day are harmful or helpful. An out-of-sync tactile sense may make a person overresponsive to stimuli, underresponsive to stimuli, sensory seeking, or a combination of these, or may make it difficult to determine what the tactile stimulus is or where it is touching.

How does this affect my work as a music therapist? I can start by considering the environment of my treatment space. What is the client’s reaction to the texture of the chair he/she is sitting in? For some of my clients with tactile sensory needs, sitting on a fuzzy pillow that buzzes provides the tactile sensations they need to be aware and in control of their bodies. For other clients, sitting on a rubbery and bumpy cushion serves this same purpose. What is the client’s reaction to the carpet? I have clients who prefer to have their shoes off during sessions. One such client likes having the afore mentioned rubbery cushion under his feet. From which direction is the air conditioning blowing and is it blowing directly on my client? I’ve barely scratched the surface of tactile elements to consider in the environment of the treatment room, but you get the picture.

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What about my choice of instruments I use with my clients? Does the client seem to want to touch textured things? I have many clients who are more engaged in our interventions when they play an instrument like the cabasa (picture below), which allows them to rub their fingers along the bumpy beads. Other ideas of instruments with great sensory feedback are guitar strings, chimes, hand drums, ocean drums, and resonator bells. The cabasa is one of my favorite instruments because it acts as a great massager, providing sensory input to arms, legs, backs, and soles of feet. For clients who are seeking tactile sensory stimulation, instruments like the cabasa can provide this in an appropriate way. Encourage the client to play the cabasa (or other instrument) and use it to provide sensory input independently. This way, the client is learning to self-regulate his/her out-of-sync sensory systems.

 

3317_cabasa_a.jpgOr for clients with an overresponsive tactile sense, choose instruments that don’t have a rough or uneven texture. Then encourage them to explore tactile sensations using the texture and vibrations of various instruments. This could help reduce defensiveness to certain tactile sensations.
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As with all other sensory systems, there are so many things to consider when your child or client has an out-of-sync tactile system. Hopefully the ideas and considerations discussed here have sparked some ideas and increased your awareness of needs related to the tactile sense. Now, I challenge you to stop every now and then and become aware of the sensations on your skin and the things touching your body. Then imagine what it would be like if you could not seem to get enough of or control one of these sensations. How would you fix that?

-Chiara