You Can’t Pour From an Empty Cup: Self-Care for the Music Therapy Intern

Self-care is important. Self-care is easier said than done. Self-care is prioritizing your own needs even when life’s daily demands deem them inconvenient. Self-care looks different for everyone, as everyone has different needs, strengths, and motivations. However, the following are a few resources and habits I’ve found to be helpful in my own process of prioritizing self-care. Here’s hoping these provide some insight and guidance in developing your own self-care routine and quicken the path towards finding ~inner peace~

Inner Peace

  1.     Hydrate or die-drate! 

I’m not kidding, just ask the people at mayo clinic! “Lack of water can lead to dehydration — a condition that occurs when you don’t have enough water in your body to carry out normal functions. Even mild dehydration can drain your energy and make you tired.” Follow this link to find out how much water consumption is best for your body type.

   2.     Get Enough Sleep

Namast'ay in bed

I’ll be the first to admit, this one is impossibly difficult for me. I’ve never been a good sleeper; I can’t sleep when I need to and I want to sleep when I can’t. That being said, I’ve recently found meditation to be an effective tool in getting my body and mind to agree on a reasonable bedtime. There are amazing apps out there that are completely free! Some of my favorite are Breethe and Insight Timer.

   3.     Take a SMART Break

BIGOur brains are the hardest working parts of our bodies, and sometimes they just need a break! Tasks that require sustained attention and utilize our prefrontal cortex (or The Notorious P.F.C. as I like to call it) can be especially exhausting. However, going straight for our phones when we feel exhausted or overwhelmed might not help the situation as much as we’d hope it would. Check out this study by Dr. Gazzaley and Dr. Rosen explaining other ways to work healthy breaks into our daily routine. Go outside, paint a picture, hit the gym, or find something to laugh about to give yourself a smart break that will set you up for more productivity.

Happy self-caring!


DeScarifying Songwriting

Songwriting alone is HARD, writing a song with another person is even harder, and writing a song that has structure, meaning, intention, and addresses a specific set of goals may be a scary, scary thought. If you have 2 minutes to spare this video will show you how the characters from The Office crack under the all-too-real pressure of group songwriting. In my experience, I’ve found that songwriting is one of the most intimidating techniques to incorporate into music therapy. There are so many different ways to approach songwriting which can make it a highly overwhelming concept to tackle as a music therapy intern. However, breaking this process down into steps makes it more approachable and can help the music therapist consider how they are going to structure a songwriting experiences in order to best suit the client’s needs and goals. It is also important to assess how much original content the client is able to contribute. Some clients may be able to compose their own lyrics independently, and others might require and extra level of structure and support.

In order to keep the client focused, I’ve found that using word maps and fill-in-the-blank lyric worksheets is extremely helpful. The client is still able to decide on the topic and what they want to say about it, but it makes the session more productive and ultimately makes the song more meaningful. Below is an example of a fill-in-the-blank songwriting intervention I’ve used with a client to write about the new year.

Maggie Hake, MTI © 2019-2

I’ve also enjoyed experimenting with piggyback songs because they’re a great way to keep the client engaged by using their preferred music.  Most songs can be simplified or re-written to focus on the client’s goals. For example, if the goal is to increase functional movement in lower body extremities by participating in therapist facilitated exercises such as toe taps, lyrics to client preferred songs could be changed to encourage them to tap their toes. The following is a piggyback song I wrote to be used with the NMT technique Therapeutic Instrumental Music Performance in order to address a client’s sensorimotor goal.

Screen Shot 2019-02-09 at 2.02.49 PM

  The biggest thing I’ve learned from these experiences is that every part of the songwriting process should be purposeful and reflect the function of the song. Whether the song is tackling certain emotions, social scenarios, motor movements, or articulation the song’s purpose can be reflected through each songwriting step. The following link is a useful beginner’s guide to different chord progressions and how to incorporate them with various styles of music ( Overall, these resources and experiences have helped peel back a layer of scary and remind me of the valuable benefits of using songwriting for music therapy.

Happy songwriting!


Sources: Angela Neve Meier, M.M., MT-BC, NMT


Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose!

As a budding professional I have had very limited experience outside of the client-therapist relationship. Throughout my first three months as an intern I have been able to observe the importance of establishing positive relationships with families and caregivers. Those caring for our clients at home play an integral role to their overall success. Families of children with special needs are similar in that they too require a different level of support. As therapists we’re constantly figuring out how we can draw the circle wider and actively involve families in the overall therapeutic experience. The following are a few insights on how to incorporate families and why it is important:

  1. What’s the at-home dynamic?

Especially when working with new or less familiar clients it is important to understand where they come from and what their at-home support system is like. Asking the parents/caretakers who bring the child open ended questions can be a great way to get to know them and start to build a trusting relationship. Questions such as, “What kind of music does your child like?”, “What are some goals you have for your child?”, “Who are the members of your family/does your child have any siblings?”, “What activities do you do as a family?”, or “What are some things that your child enjoys?” can give the therapist some insight on family dynamics as well as build rapport with the client’s family.

   2.   Repeat after me: communication is key!

When in doubt, always over communicate. Parents are going to have concerns, that’s just the nature of their job. Communicating how the interventions we’re choosing are supporting the child’s goals and showing them different resources we’re able to provide can help ease those concerns. Parents are quicker to support and understand what we’re doing if they are shown how we are working towards their child’s goals and given research to show why what we’re doing works. Taking time to demonstrate the tools (e.g. books, visual, and/or videos) that are being used in their child’s music therapy sessions  to the parents in the waiting room or emailing it to them is a great way for them to see how music works with their child. Even if parents are able to hear what is going on from the waiting room, it is helpful for them to see the resources being used and how their child is responding to them. It also gives them ways to help generalize these concepts to their child’s everyday life.

   3.   You’re not an island: collaborating with the interdisciplinary team

Often times children working with a music therapist will also be in other forms of therapy such as speech, occupational therapy, or physical therapy. Communicating with the parents and/or the child’s other therapists on ways they are working to reach the child’s goals provides consistency and is more effective in helping the child reach those goals more quickly.   

A Team Approach-3



Kaczmarek, L. (2007). A team approach: Supporting families of children with disabilities in inclusive programs.

Tara Harwell, M.A., MT-BC, NMT


Piano for the Music Therapist: A crash course on simple accompaniment patterns

I’ve always enjoyed the piano and revere it as one of the most beautiful instruments. Nonetheless, it is one that I am nowhere near mastering. However, this past week I was able to attend a workshop for the music therapy team at MTCCA for the piano taught by Jay Jay Lim, specifically on how to expand our repertoire for simple left hand accompaniment patterns (see photo below). We were taught several different patterns in multiple styles that could easily be modified to teach a client in an adapted lesson, or utilized by a music therapist in a variety of ways (e.g. played during a drum circle or for improvisation). Jay Jay did an incredible job at conveying how straightforward, yet effective, a few different accompaniment patterns in anyone’s toolkit can be. *

I was reminded of how something as small as having a variety of rhythms and melodies to play can enhance a client’s experience through giving them more choices and continuing to hold their interest and attention so that sessions can always progress.

IMG_1882After all, it is all about the client. As music therapists, it is our job to support our clients and help them to grow. We can offer that support and growth in musical form by providing an interesting piano accompaniment backing a song they have been working on singing to improve articulation or respiratory strength, and building confidence through that experience and process. Through this workshop my aspirations were re-ignited to continue to grow and cultivate my skills with piano so that I can be a well-rounded therapist who is able to effectively use the piano to help facilitate growth with my clients.

-Noriah Uribe

*I’d encourage you to check out the wonderfully talented Jay Jay and the work he does at Greene Music Education Center

L.H. Piano accompaniment

Spring Song and Visuals


Spring is just around the corner!

I’ve been working on quite a few speech goals with my clients, and I wrote a song to facilitate a fun “Feed The Bunny” activity I found on Pinterest. Here’s a video of the song as well as a link to the visuals!

Easter egg: Aksel see’s something outside he doesn’t like about halfway through!


Link to Visuals: TeachersPayTeachers