Juliana’s Top 10 Internship Learnings!

Hello everyone!

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

Music Therapy + Art Therapy + Speech Language Therapy

Hello everyone, welcome to another blog post! 

For internship, we are required to create a special project over a topic that interests us. I have chosen to do mine over the benefits of interdisciplinary co treatment between music, art and speech language therapy. For this blog post, I have included a preview into my special project, and created infographics that cover the basics of music, art and speech language therapy. All of this information comes from the national associations for each profession as well.

If you would like more information on each of these therapies, I have included some hyperlinks below to each of the national associations!

American Music Therapy Association

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association

American Art Therapy Association

I would love to hear from you all- Have you ever seen co treatment between music and art therapy? How about music and speech therapy? Feel free to share your experiences in the comments below! 

See you in the next post!

-Juliana

Autism Speaks Walk + Kingsmen

Greetings, everyone- welcome to another blog post! 

I would love to share with you all a cool opportunity that occurred a few weeks ago, as well as some information about a few of our clients that I have the privilege to work with. On October 5th, we had the honor of going to the Autism Speaks Walk San Diego! In addition to that, some of our clients are in bands that The Music Therapy Center facilitates, and these bands got to perform on stage at the walk!

The walk was truly heartwarming and touching. One really special part from the morning was everyone gathering around together by the stage, and the emcee, Little Tommy gave special shout outs to all of the individuals that are either diagnosed with autism, or people who have family members and friends with autism. This was really special to see a sea of people who have come together for the same reason: to empower and celebrate individuals with Autism, and to look at the strengths that they hold instead of the “disabilities” part that people tend to focus on. A lot of Banding Together’s Jam Session members also were able to come up on stage and help us sing and dance right before this, which also made it very special! 

That being said, once a week, I have the opportunity to help facilitate a rock band that consists of four of our young adults with autism. We have a vocalist/keyboard player, an electric guitarist, a saxophonist, and a drummer. These four individuals are incredibly bright and talented individuals, each with their own big personalities. These clients never fail to make me smile and laugh every time I see them! For the past few months, we have been working on writing and performing an original blues song, and they were able to premiere that song at the walk! This was a huge step for them, as every person got a turn to improvise during the blues song. 

 

One of our goals as clinicians is for them is to step outside of their comfort zone and their box, because for individuals with Autism, getting stuck inside a routine and their own cycle can happen frequently. A lot of the times, The Kingsmen desire playing a song from top to bottom the same way every time, especially if the song is a cover, it has to sound exactly the same. Our goal with The Kingsmen Blues was to empower them to improvise and to let their own individual musicality and personality shine with their solos. Our electric guitar player was really excited to tell us that during his solo, he moved closer to the stage and went for it, because he has seen rock stars do that before, which was such a great thing for him! 

This event just made me realize even more how much talent and potential all of these individuals in the band have, and sometimes for them to reach their full potential, you may have to push them outside of their comfort zone. Even if they resist and may not like it at first, it can really help their confidence and self esteem, and they can learn a lot about themselves and improve as musicians as well. 

I’d love to hear from you! If you give adapted lessons, what are some of the ways you empower your clients to step out of their comfort zone? 

See you in the next post!

-Juliana Hsu

Session Planning: Using Themes!

Hi there everyone, and welcome to another blog post! 

This week, we’re going to talk themes! Before internship, I never really thought about centering my session around a theme. However, it’s a great option to help plan your session for several reasons which we will break down more later, including…

  1. It can help clients with reality orientation
  2. Centers the session around a specific topic
  3. Helps the therapist narrow down songs and interventions to use 
  4. Educate clients about topics that may be unfamiliar to them

 

  1. It can help clients with reality orientation

Choosing themes to center your session around based off of the current season or holiday is a great way to orient your clients to the here and now (for example, what time of year it is, important events, time of day, etc.). For example, in July, we did summer themed sessions in our older adult groups and at group homes for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. September 23rd was the official first day of fall, so we started doing fall themed session plans that week. During August, we also did a “back to school” theme. There are endless options for themes to incorporate, and the fall/winter is a great time to use themes with all of the holidays, including Halloween, Thanksgiving, winter, etc. 

  1. Centers the session around a specific topic

When starting out as an intern or student, often times, it can be difficult to smoothly transition between different interventions and songs that you use. However, if your session centers around a specific topic, it can be much easier to tie together everything that you are doing in a session. For example, for our “back to school” theme, we first started with a PSE intervention and used the song “School Days”. Afterwards, while you’re getting the next intervention ready, you can tie together the previous intervention by saying something like, “Not only are elementary aged kids also going back to school, but college kids are moving into their dorms and starting back at school too! Something fun that a lot of college students participate in include going to football games and watching the marching band! Let’s get our muscles moving by playing in our own drum circle and making our very own band!” Then, you can smoothly transition into TIMP by doing a drum circle. 

  1. Helps the therapist narrow down songs and interventions to use

So. Many. Songs. To. Choose. From. This is a great problem to have, but can often be quite overwhelming when choosing what songs to use in your sessions! However, if you choose a theme, it immensely narrows down songs you can use that will fit your theme. Google is your best friend when it comes to this. For example, are you doing a fall themed session plan? No problem! Type in “fall-themed songs” into Google, and it will automatically pop up the most popular songs in that category. This also fits into what we talked about above, where it can center your session around a specific topic if you choose songs that fit into a similar category. Some songs that we have used in a summer-themed session plan include: 

  • Summer of ‘69
  • Under the Boardwalk
  • Surfin’ Safari 
  • Hot, Hot, Hot
  • Jump in the Line 
  • Yellow Polka Dot Bikini
  • My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean
  • In the Good Old Summertime
  • Under the Sea 
  • Let’s Go Fly A Kite
  • Summertime
  • Blue Skies
  • Any Beach Boys song!
  1. Educate clients about topics that may be unfamiliar to them

Choosing different themes is also a great way to educate clients on topics that they may not have a lot of opportunities to learn about. For example, we are currently doing a camping theme for our adult groups with ID/DD, which also ties into fall. A lot of clients most likely have not had the opportunity to go camping, so this is another educational opportunity for them to learn something new. For this session plan, I have different visuals that correlate to different interventions, and I allow clients to pick a visual out of a drum, or I hold up two options for them to choose from. This also gives them the power of choice. For example, there is a visual of a picnic table, and then that correlates with our “question of the day”, which asks clients what their favorite camping snack food is. I also facilitate upper body PSE by using scarves as kites, and a movement intervention with a parachute as the “tent”. Afterwards, our visuals each have velcro, and they stick onto a larger visual that makes an entire camping scene. I have included a photo of my visual below:

To make this visual, I printed out and laminated a generic forest background. Then, I googled stock images, cut out and laminated the visuals, and then finally put velcro squares on different parts of the background picture and my visuals. If you want to save yourself some time from making your own visuals, there are already lots of ready-made visuals that you can find on Pinterest or teacher websites! 

Some more examples of different themes you can use for teaching topics include world music, surfing, show tunes, movies, love songs and sports! 

I want to hear from you! What are some themes that you use?

Thank you for reading and see you in the next post!

-Juliana Hsu