Thanksgiving Themed Session Plan Inspiration!

One of my new favorite ways to plan music therapy sessions is by centering it around a theme. This is especially fun when it relates to a holiday! I have had a ton of fun looking up and adapting music therapy Thanksgiving ideas, and I wanted to share a couple of them with all of you!

One visual that I found for Thanksgiving is this turkey with feathers visual! I love this one because it can be adapted to fit a huge range of interventions! Here is a photo of the visual. I found it on “Speech Therapy Fun”, which is a website where you can sign up to receive free freebies! Here is the link to the website: https://www.speechtherapyfun.com/

 I adapted this to fit the many needs of my music therapy clients. Here are some ideas for how you could use this visual, or how you could create your own to fit your needs!

  • Session Order: Use the visual to order your session plans, while giving clients choice and control over what happens next. To do this, have each feather color corresponds to a specific music therapy intervention that you want to do during the session. By the end of the session, optimally, each client in a group setting would get the opportunity to pick a feather, which is then added to the turkey. For example, the red feather could correspond to a drumming intervention, brown to a sing-a-long, etc. 
  • Working on Colors: There are SO many ideas and examples for how you could work on colors using the turkey and feathers. For example, you could have the client work on naming the colors by singing a song prompting the client to find a specific color and add it to the turkey: 

“Can you find the Red feather, red feather, red feather

Can you find the red feather and put it on the turkey!”

I made up my own tune for this-anything you come up with will work! This is a simple activity, that also requires the client to work on their attention while waiting to hear the next color! This could be adapted to fit a wide range of clients’ needs and goals. 

  • Color Bells: One way to work on cognitive skills such as focus and fjdlsfattention, as well as making choices, learning colors, or an array of other skills could be to use the feathers to write a song with desk bells. The client or therapist would arrange the feathers (Velcro feathers on) to the turkey, and then the client would play through the song as the colors are arranged from left to right. The client could then rearrange the feathers to be any combination, making this a great intervention with endless possibilities! 

Link to desk bells 

  • Working on Social Skills & Asking Questions: For this activity, you could have a corresponding Thanksgiving (or whatever you wanted!) themed question. The client could choose one feather, and then would get the chance to ask or be asked the question. This gives the client a great opportunity to work on asking questions, using follow up questions, and practicing how to engage with those around them, especially during Thanksgiving time! 

Example Thanksgiving Questions: 

What are your favorite Thanksgiving Foods? 

Does your family eat pie on Thanksgiving? What kind?

What are you thankful for this year? 

Lastly, There are some great songs to use for Thanksgiving time. They may be about Thanksgiving itself, the fall season, or songs that center around themes of thankfulness! Here is a list of a couple songs I plan to use in my sessions:

    • What a Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong (Idea: Songwriting activity about things to be thankful for)
    • Thanksgiving Song by Mary Chapin Carpenter
    • Ida, Sweet As Apple Cider by Bing Crosby
    • Autumn Leaves 
    • Albuquerque Turkey (to the tune of “Darling Clementine”)
    • Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep Irving Berlin Winter Wonderland
    • Over the River and Through the Woods

I hope this post gives you some inspiration for your own Thanksgiving session plans!

-Audrey

 

Avoiding Ruts when Session Planning

          It is very easy to get stuck in a musical rut when planning therapeutic sessions. We all know to use client preferred music, but it can become too easy to use the same go to list of 5-10 songs we keep for each population and decade. On top of that, it may feel like all your creativity may be running dry. But how do you solve this problem? I’m glad you asked! Theme your sessions. Pick a topic that is relevant to the time of year, location, weather, or holiday and build your repertoire around songs that can connect to that. 

          Picking a theme for your session will bring continuity to it. With that continuity comes a level of predictability, which can be especially helpful if you are working with a population that thrives when given a routine and a plan. 

          Planning themed sessions can be an effective way to work on and reinforce reality orientation, especially if that theme is related to a time of year or holiday. Additionally, reinforcing reality orientation can be an engaging way to bring a socialization element to your session as well by providing an opportunity to reminisce and/or make music about activities or traditions associated with your theme.While reality orientation may not be a goal for every population or group, many populations, such as memory care patients, or clients with intellectual disabilities, will greatly benefit from this added component. 

          Your client’s goals should already be set, now you are working on interventions that move you towards reaching them. From the therapist’s perspective, themes can make session planning easier as it provides a starting point and structure for the session and the interventions within. An important component of planning thematic sessions is to assess what music will best fit the client demographic and assist in reaching the goals of the session. With a theme in mind, your musical quest is narrowed and only a google search away.

          Last but not least, thematic sessions are fun. Therapy is about the client, of course. But if you are not enjoying your work, the client is most likely not having fun either. Who knows, you may discover new music that your client’s love, or be reminded of some you had forgotten. I hope that this post will help you expand your therapeutic repertoire so that you can find yourself climbing out of that rut. 
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Speaking of themes, check out these helpful tool for creative programming: “The Joy of music in Maturity”, “Musically Engaged Seniors: 40 Session Plans and Resources for a Vibrant Music Therapy Program

-Noriah Uribe

Neurologic Music Therapy (NMT) …Demystified: MACT

Musical Attention Control Training: MACT

What is MACT?

Musical Attention Control Training, or MACT, is the use of music experiences and/or musical elements to practice a specific type of attention.

To really understand MACT, we’re going to take a closer look at the “A” in that acronym, for attention.

 Attention is the selective awareness of or selective responsiveness to the sensory environment around you. The ability to choose where you focus your attention is the first step in the learning process, and we all differ in our abilities to control our attention. The good news: we can develop attention control skills like building blocks through structured practice! We can conceptualize the types of attention as a pyramid, starting with focused attention as the base:

 

 

What does MACT look like in a music therapy session?

Music therapists tailor MACT exercises to suit their clients’ interests and clinical needs. As a result, MACT can look very different from session to session or client to client. MACT exercises may entail the use of many different music-based therapeutic music experiences.

For example, music therapists may facilitate sustained instrument-playing incorporating preferred and (the ever tricky) non-preferred instruments. Alternatively, a sustained attention exercise may call for the client and therapist to play instruments while the client adjusts their playing style (e.g. fast vs. slow, loud vs. soft, high vs. low, etc.) in response to musical cues (ideally without verbal prompts) from the therapist. A music therapist may target selective attention by introducing extraneous sound “distractors” to a music experience and challenge the client not to respond to (e.g. turn head to look at) the distractors.

Alternating attention exercises may require a client to shift their attention between two tasks, like tracking visual notation (e.g. sheet music) and playing an instrument simultaneously. At the end of the day, MACT could refer to a wide range of active or receptive music experiences, as long as they are designed to practice one or more types of attention, and utilize music as a delivery medium.

How music makes it work:

Active and receptive music experiences share powerful patterns of brain activation in the bilateral frontal lobes, brainstem, and attention systems in the cerebral cortex. This overlap ensures that the attention skills practiced with music will translate to other contexts, like school or vocational skills. Furthermore, music experiences like instrument-playing, singing, or improvising are often intrinsically motivating, allowing music therapists to get our “foot in the door” to engage with clients and bolster attention skills. Finally, music, as an organized auditory stimulus, brings timing, grouping, and temporal organization so that attention can be sustained and strengthened over time.

 

Thanks for reading!

~Esther