It is hard to believe that my time at internship is quickly coming to an end! I know everyone says that internship is the time where you learn and grow as a music therapist more than you ever thought you could, and it is absolutely true! I feel more confident than ever that I have learned the skills and gained the experience needed for me to be sent out into the real world. This blog post is to share some of my top learnings during internship!
1. You ARE capable
Confidence was one of the biggest things missing from my toolbox of strengths when I first entered internship. I felt that I had the academic knowledge enough to set myself up for success, but still felt inadequate and scared to facilitate in front of large groups of clients, singing unfamiliar songs, etc. However, internship really forced me to push myself out of my comfort zone and try new things. I am not sure when it happened, but I realized at some point into my internship, I could confidently and comfortably get up in front of a group of 40 clients and not think twice about it. I was entirely focused on my facilitation skills and client responses, which is exactly where I needed to be. Which brings me to my point: You can do it!!!
2. The power of the EZ-220
The EZ-220. Absolutely life changing. For those of you who do not know, the EZ-220 is an electronic keyboard from Yamaha that has many useful features for sessions. We use it for almost every group session that we have, as it is fairly accessible and portable. The feature that I use most are the backbeats, which can help with engagement, attention, and helping to make the music that you facilitate sound more full. There are different styles of backbeats, including 8 and 16 beat, swing, ballad, rock, and much more! There are also different voices on the keyboard, such as wind and string instruments, and the standard drum kit which we often use in sessions, and a great “follow the lights” feature as well. AND, the EZ-220 is also equipped with many pre-recorded songs! The keyboard can also be plugged into an amp to project more sound. I would absolutely recommend investing in one if you facilitate a lot of group sessions, here is a link to where you can find one!
3. Using themed sessions!
I have previously written a blog post about this which can be found here! But just to reiterate again, using themes can help center your session, provide reality orientation, and can help you gain inspiration and avoid ruts when session planning.
4. Visuals, visuals, visuals!
During practicum in college, I would frequently use visuals for my younger clients and groups, but I never thought to use them for other groups. Now, I don’t go a session without them! Visuals are a really important tool to engage clients, especially to provide an outlet for communication for non-verbal clients. For example, for my older adult sessions, I will put on background music with a specific theme (using Auld Lang Syne during New Years themed sessions), and go around and show photos on my iPad with different new years related objects (the ball in NYC, fireworks), and engage in conversation with the residents. These visuals are especially helpful if there is a language barrier as well. I also use visuals a lot with my groups of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, as it helps explain concepts and engage their attention.
5. Incorporating your primary instrument
If you’re like me, if your primary instrument isn’t voice, it was almost unheard of of using your primary instrument during sessions in college. It was one of my biggest goals to be able to learn how to incorporate it during internship- and it happened! I I use my clarinet all the time in older adult groups and with my adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities! For example, I will use my clarinet during name that tune, to help enunciate melodic patterns for PSE interventions, and if I am co leading with another therapist, I’ll provide harmonies or play the melody. We also frequently have drum circles, so I will facilitate call and response on clarinet and use non verbal musical cueing using it as well.
6. EZ Play music is your best friend!!!
If you haven’t heard of EZ play music, it is basically blown up music of just the melody with the notes written in the note heads, and it has the chords written above it. This has been extremely helpful when facilitating songs with older adults, because you are able to play an accompaniment pattern in your left hand while playing the melody in your right hand and singing. This really adds more musical depth, and also helps our residents hear the song more clearly. EZ play books are also really helpful to find more repertoire, as the books are classified by different themes (music from different decades, love ballads, college fight songs, musicals, and much more!) These books are published by Hal Leonard and a link to an example of one on Amazon can be found here!
7. Take advantage of this time to learn and implement unique instruments
If you had told me 6 months ago that I would be therapeutically using the kazoo during my sessions, I would have never believed you! Along with the kazoo, autoharp is your best friend during PSE interventions as well. I was also recently inspired to purchase a mandolin which I will be implementing in future sessions 🙂
8. Take the time to address sensory needs for your clients
Before internship, I thought that if you did not facilitate music therapy the entire session or the majority of the session, then it was a failed session. However, now I know that sometimes the most important thing you can do for your clients is to provide them proper sensory stimulation and input so that they can be successful for their next task or the rest of their day. Sensory input techniques can include deep pressure squeezes, using a body roller, spinning in a chair, bubbles and more.
9. Don’t be afraid of hand over hand assistance!!!
I never really had to touch any of my clients during practicum in undergraduate, and I also thought it was frowned upon. During internship, I learned how to provide effective hand over hand assistance, especially when it comes to older adults and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Hand over hand is especially useful because it provides extra prompting and can help wake up clients if they are sleepy.
10. Use your internship team as a resource!
Your internship directors, supervisors and music therapists are all there to support you! They are rooting for you and want the best for you. If you ever need help coming up with an intervention or are looking for a specific visual, chances are, someone on your team can help you! Don’t be afraid to ask questions- these people are your best resource and your colleagues for life 🙂
There you have it- my top 10 learnings from internship! I would love to hear yours if you have completed yours or are getting close to, feel free to comment below! Thank you for reading my posts in the past 6 months!
- Juliana Hsu, MTI