Camp Jam!

Greetings everyone! 

Last week we had one of the most fun and busiest weeks- Camp Jam!! (Inserted this blog post are interactive links, where you can find out some more information about Camp Jam and our team if you’re interested!) 

Camp Jam is a music therapy camp run by The Music Therapy Center of California, and is designed to provide group music therapy experiences for children with special needs. We had children of all different ages, ranging from 3-14 years old. This camp was especially unique because all of our campers were paired with a camp counselor, so that everyone had 1:1 attention. All of our counselors were passionate about music and working with children, and were able to get to know their campers really well by the end of the week. Seeing friendships blossom and the bright smiles on all the kids’ faces by the end of the day made all of the hard work well worth it! 

Each morning started with an opening “welcome” circle, where the campers participated in songs to learn about camp rules, self control, body check, and how to be a good friend. It was always a wonderful way to pump everyone up in the morning! Afterwards, we divided the kids up into an older and younger aged music therapy group. I had the opportunity to work with both groups, which were a lot of fun! Below, I have included some photos of one of our music therapists, Ms. Angie, working with the younger group of children. Some different domains addressed in her music therapy interventions were body awareness, taking turns and sharing, and following one-step directions. 

After the different music therapy groups in the morning, we had craft and snack time, followed by a movement activity. A lot of great impromptu experiences happened during craft and snack time, which was a time allowed for the campers to express their creative freedom and have a bit of down time. One of the most memorable moments was when one of our counselors sang “5 Green & Speckled Frogs” in Spanish, and a lot of our campers were fully engaged and awe-stricken by this experience! Below is a photo of one of our craft time experiences, where our campers created photo frames for our group Camp Jam picture. 

The last day of camp, we provided different water activities for the campers, instead of our usual playground experience. This is where we saw a lot of our shy campers really shine! It was incredible to see them react positively to playing with water balloons with their peers, and the smiles on their faces. It was a great way to provide a different sensory experience for the campers who have a variety of sensory needs.

I would recommend Camp Jam to any parent who is considering this as an option for their child, as it is a wonderful time for your child to have unique social experiences through music. A variety of different domains are targeted during Camp Jam, including social, motor and attention skills. I loved being a part of this experience and getting to know all of the kids, and I know all of our staff members and camp counselors did as well! 

-Juliana Hsu

 

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Avoiding ruts when session plannin

          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

Strengths and their Shadows

I took the Clifton Strengthsfinder 2.0 test going into my freshman year of college. My school required every student to take it as a means to gain insight into ourselves, and to provide a building block to grow from. According to the test my top strength out of 34 is empathy. A short description of this strength, as defined by Strengthsfinder, is “People who are especially talented in the Empathy theme can sense the feelings of other people by imagining themselves in others’ lives or others’ situations.”

My Empathy strength is something I greatly value  and appreciate in myself and try to cultivate in a healthy way. It is what has driven me into a helping profession, music therapy. I attribute a lot of the ease in building rapport with clients and my ability to reach out to the underdog to it.  However, every strength has an evil twin sister and I would like to talk about the shadow side of empathy. I truly do view this natural propensity as one of my greatest assets, but I also know at times it can be my fatal flaw.

I am not always aware of when I am taking on the feelings of others. There are often times when I will be perfectly fine, but then enter into a conversation between two people that is tense and immediately feel stressed myself. Once I “take on that feeling,”  it can be very difficult for me to shake it off. Sometimes I will carry that stress through the day, constantly feeling on edge.

These “shadows” don’t take away from what empathy is. Discovering it in myself also means learning how to separate myself from it when necessary as well. My first step has been becoming aware of it and how it affects me. I’ve learned that with

this awareness, my next move forward is to set healthy boundaries for myself; something that I am in the process of learning currently. I have also discovered that when something feels off, it’s not necessarily because of me and that’s ok. In the words of the great Kelly Clarkson, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”!

-Noriah Uribe

Adapted Music Lessons vs Music Therapy Sessions

Here at the Music Therapy Center of California (MTCCA) we do not only offer music therapy sessions but also adaptive lessons. But, you may be wondering, how are adaptive lessons different than a music therapy session, and what makes lessons adapted?

While both an adaptive lesson and a music therapy session will need to consider the student’s ability level, the focus  of each are entirely different. While the goal of a lesson is to learn an instrument, the goals of music therapy sessions will vary (e.g. speech goals, attention goals, etc.). Adaptive lessons are also different from traditional music lessons. The way in which musical concepts are tailored to fit the student’s strengths, needs and ability levels, Where the outcome of an adapted lesson is focused on learning and playing an instrument, outcomes of music therapy sessions are non-musical and focused on the process, not the product.

When a student has special learning needs and abilities, it’s important to find someone who knows how to present concepts in a way that will ensure successful experiences. Teaching adapted lessons is not unique to just music therapists. However part of the training that a music therapist receives ensures that they are well equipped to consider the diagnosis, learning needs and best practices to help students be most effective.  A music therapist will also likely have more experience incorporating multiple senses and techniques to present music concepts in a more creative way to further the ultimate goal of learning the instruments.

At MTCCA, our approach includes a multimodal and nontraditional approach to teaching. For example, lessons may include a variety of different instruments and a faster pacing of songs. If the student has challenges with fine motor skills such as finger strength and dexterity, skills necessary to play the piano, desk bells, can be a fun way to approach this skill with each finger in isolation (bells are played by pressing the button on top of the bell). Or having a student play finger cymbals or castanets, along with a preferred song, can build finger strength and develop a pincer grip (a skill necessary for writing). Once these “warm ups” are practiced, the skills learned can be transferred over to the piano.

-Noriah Uribe

I lost it! It’s gone!: Voice-less music therapy

I lost my voice entirely for three full days, however, like in the theater, the show must go on and the job must still be done. Despite not being able to vocalize anything above a soft whisper, I still had clients who needed services. Although not an ideal situation, sometimes things are out of your control. However, thanks to the support of a few wonderful supervisors and co-workers I was able to adapt and create voice-less sessions. I wouldn’t recommend losing your voice as a music therapist, but do as I say and not as I do. So, in case you have the unfortunate fortune of this 

happening to you too, I thought I would share a few tips I 

learned.

  1.    Recorded music is your friend

As music therapists we know that live is almost always better, because we can manipulate it for our needs on the spot. However, recorded music is better than no music. It will provide a steady beat and will likely give you different timbers than you can provide on your own. So play a game of name that tune or pass out instruments and rock out to an exciting song, with a bit of hidden exercise built in. Instruct clients to follow the music as you stop and start or get loud and soft. A little pre-recorded music can go a long way.

  1.    Drum roll, please!

Drum circles are great for all populations. They encourage prosocial, motor, and cognitive functions. So, take time to drum to a few pre-recorded songs. Maybe it’s a song that relates to the season or a holiday coming. Try rhythmic imitation or build group cohesions as everyone follows a leader who changes speed or stops and starts.

  1.    Yay for TIMP and PSE

If you are familiar with Neurologic Music Therapy (NMT) techniques, I would recommend using TIMP and PSE. No verbal explanation or continual prompting is needed to implement this technique. As long as a beet is present and clients can visually track your movement, the intervention can be carried out.

  1.    Embrace your inner mime

Because you will not have no way to communicate verbally, body language will be everything. Big body movements and exaggerated facial expressions will aid in your success. Having signs or something to write instructions on isn’t a bad idea too.

-Noriah Uribe

Top Internship Learnings

       It’s crazy to think my internship is coming to an end after (only?) 6 months. As expected, this internship has challenged me in countless ways while providing opportunities for therapeutic learning, personal growth, and building meaningful relationships. There were moments when I thought this internship would never end and there were weeks that flew by way too quickly. Yet here I stand, six months older, six months wiser, and (as Kanye West would put it) six months harder, better, faster, stronger. One thing I’ve worked on throughout this internship is being able to recall experiences and adequately synthesize information in order to improve from it. Trying to process after sessions my first few months sparked nothing but a blank deer in the headlights stare and absolutely no memory of what had transpired only 30 minutes prior. I can confidently say I’ve greatly improved in that area, but here goes one last word-vomit-filled, bittersweet attempt at summarizing information from what feels like a blur of a six months. The following are my top internship learnings:

  1.  Know your strengths and use them to your advantagePositivity Meme

I learned very quickly in this experience that things rarely go as planned. I’m grateful for the ability to look on the bright side when things seem frustrating and to highlight small victories when sessions don’t go as I expect. Even though there were stressful and overwhelming moments, this strength has kept my spirits high and I was able to fall back on this throughout the length of my internship.

   2.  You have to take care of yourself before you’re able to take care of others

It’s easy to tell someone to prioritize self-care, but in actuality this task is much more complicated. I’ve tackled this topic in one of my previous blogs, but truly understanding the ins and outs of this incredibly broad subject has turned me into a better therapist, student, and overall functioning human.  

Teamwork

 3.  Teamwork makes the dreamwork; you’re never really alone

Getting the chance to observe physical and speech
therapy helped solidify my perception of a team approach. I’ve developed a deeper appreciation for the multi-disciplinary therapeutic field.

  4.  Sometimes being the dumbest person in the room is the best thing you can do for yourself

Somewhere around month 3 I read this article that truly changed the game for me. It quotes Michael Dell saying “Try never to be the smartest person in the room. And if you are, I suggest you invite smarter people…or find a different room.” I’ve really had to work on shifting my competitive mindset to one that is accepting of personal flaw and open to seeking out information from those who know more than I do. This has completely changed the way I look at my professional priorities and career development. I’ve learned that it’s okay to compare myself to other people as long as I am using this to build myself up rather than tear myself down.

-Maggie

Incorporating Your Primary Instrument Into Music Therapy: A Violinist’s Perspective

        Robert Schumann once said “To send light into the darkness of men’s hearts—such is the duty of the artist.” While this concept can be applied to any musician playing any instrument, I have felt it particularly relevant throughout my journey with the violin. It is by nature one of the most expressive instruments with the capacity to portray almost any emotion. It has a unique timbre that is both vulnerable and brilliant at the same time. It’s sound is approachable yet its mechanisms are complex in that they require perfect synchrony and execution. The various ways in which it can be played give virtually limitless options as to how this instrument can be used in music therapy interventions. Not only are the sounds unique, but they give the client something new to experience. Often times clients are only exposed to the main therapeutic instruments (i.e. voice, piano, and guitar) which could become repetitious. Bringing in a different instrument gives the client an opportunity to form a new relationship with the music. Whether it is alerting, drawing attention, or accentuating different motor movements the client will most likely not respond to the intervention the same when executed from a different instrument. There is also a large repertoire of music for violin that can relate to a variety of cultures. From classical to modern or from Irish jig to Italian opera, there is music out there for any population. Another benefit to the violin is the level of mobility the instrument provides. The therapist is able to make eye contact and move around the room if their music is memorized or if they are improvising. This allows for more intimate interactions with individuals in a group as well as individual settings. While singing and playing is a possible and challenging skill to acquire, it is not necessary in order for the instrument to sound complete. The melody can be played by itself or with a background beat and be equally as effective as any other therapeutic instrument. The following infographic illustrates some tips, tricks, and precautions when using the violin (or another primary instrument) in a therapeutic setting.

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-Maggie