A blog for all things music therapy.
Music Therapy Tools of the Trade / DIY Instruments!
Hey, everyone! In this post, I will be throwing it back to April 2014, when I attended the Mid-Atlantic Regional Annual Music Therapy Conference of the American Music Therapy Association in Buffalo, NY, in which my college music therapy professors were the conference co-hosts! In this post, I will share insight and ideas (with her permission) from Board Certified Music Therapist Ashley Jewell. Ashley received a bachelor’s degree in Music Therapy from Shenandoah University in 2012, while then receiving her board certification in November of 2012. She currently works at A Place To Be in Middleburg, Virginia. A Place To Be’s mission statement is, "to help people face, navigate, and overcome life’s challenges through the therapeutic arts". Check out A Place To Be’s website, along with Ashley’s full bio at http://www.aplacetobeva.org/.
Ashley’s presentation at the MAR-AMTA Conference was titled, Music Therapy Tools of the Trade. In this student-focused presentation, she takes us back to the basics, then moving along to ideas for DIY instruments.
Back to the Basics
- Portability is key! Make sure you always have your guitar tuner, extra strings, and picks. (My input: There are tons of free apps for tuners on Apple’s app store! My favorite is insTuner.)
- Have a spare iPod dock and charger, and a wireless speaker. (Personal input again: I recently bought this speaker on Amazon, and it is absolutely incredible for the price point!)
- Have a back up plan. Music therapists don’t only improvise musically; they must improvise within the session if anything does not go as planned, or if a client has a surprise meltdown!
- Stock up on Clorox wipes, hand sanitizer, and a good quality dirty instrument bag. Hand sanitizer is for therapist use only (you don’t want to make your client feel uncomfortable about “being dirty”), and clorox wipes should be used on every used instrument after every session. The dirty instrument bag is a fantastic idea to separate used and unused instruments, so you don’t end up wasting Clorox wipes that you didn’t need to use.
- And finally, have your session plan and data collection. Those two final things may just be the most important for each session!
And Now for Ideas…Yay!
Nonverbal Communication Tools
If you have a nonverbal client, Ashley offered these ideas to help meet them where they are:
- Happy and Sad face laminated print-outs. Clients can point, touch, or gaze at one of the faces to make a choice.
- Add other emotions! Excited, angry, day dreaming, surprised, etc.
- Add velcro to use with a felt board if you wish.
- Use the back of the faces for Yes or No questions.
You completed your session, but there are still five minutes on the clock…what do you do?!
- Bubbles. Bubbles work on many areas on improvement including breath support, turn taking and waiting, oral function, and passing to your neighbor. For lower functioning clients, bubbles work great to work on eye tracking and reaching/gross motor movement. For pre-schoolers, bubbles are a fun and entertaining way to work on counting.
- Slinky. Slinkies work great for bilateral movements, reaching to touch/gross motor movement, functional hand use, and tactile/auditory stimulation.
And now my favorite part…the DIY instruments that we all got to play!
Materials Needed: zip ties, washers, hot glue, electrical tape (for color)
- Add washers to zip tie
- Close zip tie to first click and cut off the tail
- Add a dab of hot glue
- Cover the clasp (or the entire zip tie) with electrical tape of your color choice
- To use: Hold in hand or slip on wrist, then shake and enjoy!
Fuzzy Sodas Bottle Shakers
Materials Needed: mini soda bottles (washed and label removed), “shaky stuff” (rice, beads, beans, etc.), hot glue, exciting fabric, elastic, twine
- Fill bottles with “shaky stuff” and hot glue the lid back on
- Sew a little pouch with a draw string and elastic handle (the pattern is in the back)
- Fasten around the bottle
- To use: Shake and enjoy!
Wacky Soda Bottle Shakers
Materials Needed: mini soda bottles (washed and label removed), rice, hot glue, Mardi Gras beads, food coloring
- Fill bottles with rice, add a few drops of food coloring, shake until evenly colored
- Hot glue Mardi Gras beads in a wacky design (this also gives children with lesser fine motor movement something easier to grip on to!)
- To use: Shake and enjoy!
Flowers (Springtime activity)
- Preschool: Each child gets two different colored paper laminated flowers. Music therapist sings a song, asking for a different color each time. (Goals: color identification, discriminating between two objects, following directions)
- Middle or High School: Each child gets one paper laminated flower and a dry erase marker. Have them each write down or draw a picture of what they like to do in the Spring. Sing the song and have each child plug in their answers. (Goals: original thought)
- This is an activity for higher functioning individuals.
- Everyone picks an instrument and “plays” it using laughter (“ha ha ha!”)
- Goals: Fine and gross motor movement, creativity, self-esteem, proprioception
I hope you all gained some great ideas, enjoyed this post, and maybe even became inspired to create some of your own DIY instruments…this post may be fun and creative enough as is, but the effect was multiplied tenfold while actually attending the session! Special thanks to Ashley Jewell for being so fabulous and giving me permission to share her ideas!
Parkinson’s Patients Groove to Music
“In general, the elements of music travel in the brain differently than just verbal commands,” she said. “But when you pair things with rhythm, rhythm cues your motor cortex in your brain to fire more efficiently, so that your muscles fire more efficiently and appropriately, and it has the ability to bypass disease and injury.”
-Carolyn Dobson, MT-BC
5 Ways to Handle Misrepresentation of Music Therapy
In my experience, these instances are not one of malicious intent, but rather one of ignorance combined, perhaps, with a bit of laziness (I don’t know about you, but when I google “music therapy” the first page is filled with legit sites and descriptions).
So what can a music therapist do? Here are 5 actions you can take that may help resolve the situation.
(via Music Therapy Maven)
Three Reasons Salary Negotiation is Critical to Music Therapists
As the season of commencements comes to a close, job searching for new graduates is revving up. As a new music therapy professional, just securing a position can seem daunting. While on the job hunt, don’t be intimidated by negotiating! Here are three important reasons all music therapists should be negotiating their salaries and/or rates.
1. Your future depends on it.
Our income carries major influence over our lifestyle. Whether you can afford to travel for a friend’s wedding across the country, deal with an unexpected medical bill, or pay off your student loans faster will be determined by your pay. Many music therapists (including yours truly) depend on second and even third jobs to cushion their bank accounts each month and pay off student debts. This means extra hours each week are being spent earning money instead of pursuing activities that are meaningful to you including relationships with friends/family, creative pursuits, or self-care.
Past the immediate month-to-month direct deposits into your bank account, your salary may determine your pay at future positions. If you’re recruited for an awesome job a few years from now, they may want to know your salary at your previous position. If the new company had promised you a 20% raise over your previous salary, there’s a $1,250 difference if your salary is $30k vs. $35k. Your salary today has a rippling effect for your tomorrow.
2. Music therapists are routinely under-valued.
The average salary for all music therapists is $52,000. It’s not awful, but it could be a lot better for the skill set we carry. As a comparison, the median salary for an occupational therapy aide (requiring only an associate’s degree) is $53,000 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. To me, this is unacceptable. There is debate about whether requiring Master’s-level entry would raise music therapists’ pay to be closer to that of OTs and PTs which both require Master’s degrees to practice. While that discussion will continue, music therapists ultimately need to advocate for better compensation today.
3. The majority of music therapists are women.
It’s a fact: women are less likely to negotiate their salaries (26% of women vs. 37% of men). According to the 2013 AMTA Workforce Analysis, 88% of music therapists are women. This means that the average music therapist is not giving herself the opportunity to earn more and positively influence her future. The wage gap between between men and women is apparent, and female music therapists should not let themselves become a statistic.
Click HERE for tips on negotiating your compensation from LearnVest.com, a great website for financial literacy. For the most up-to-date information about music therapy pay by state, population, and years of experience, check out the 2013 American Music Therapy Association Workforce Analysis HERE. It’s free to current AMTA Members!
Although my own negotiations didn’t result in higher pay, the confidence I gained in voicing my value to my employer will serve me well in future negotiations and advocacy. Bottom line: if you don’t ask, there’s a 100% chance you won’t get a better compensation package. Music therapists, we need to be communicating our value to employers.
My Worst Fear About Music Therapy’s Future | Music Therapy Ed
Have you spoken to your music therapy colleagues lately about their latest salary negotiation? I encourage you to talk to peers about negotiation. I’ve spoken to fellow music therapists and found out that instead of negotiating their salaries up, they’ve negotiated down. This makes no sense to me.
More on the importance of salary negotiation from Kat Fulton, MT-BC.
“If we use the word music therapy generically the way we use Kleenex to refer to any tissue, we’re not being precise. So, a number of us in the field have opted for the word reserved music therapy for things that fit that definition that involves a licensed music therapist and to use musical intervention just to mean anything else.”
Daniel Levitin, PhD
Read/hear the full interview ” Music and Your Health” by the American Psychological Association here.
I believe we’ve reached a point of clinical practice and theoretical development to move beyond music preference. Speaking frankly, any trained musician with average empathic abilities can assess for music preference and provide a live music experience using those preferences. Only a music therapist, however, is trained to assess a music relationship developed from lived experiences informed by cultural, religious, and personal contexts, and to integrate that relationship into a therapeutic process that safely challenges patients to optimize their wellness.
It’s time we planted our flag in that unique therapeutic experience and claimed it as our own.
Noah Potvin, MMT, MT-BC, LPC
Hi, Just wanted to ask some questions about Music Therapy. I'm highly interested in doing it to change lives I'm a musician and singer and have done many other things involving music and it's amazing how it's possible to change someones life through song. I just wanted to ask how's the job market? Googled it but it wasn't any help wanted a realistic answer so if you could please let me know it would be highly appreciated.
As music therapy is an emerging field, there is great potential for growth. It is very possible to find a job in music therapy. Many degree programs like to boast 100% job placement rates, so be sure to ask this information of universities into which you’re looking.
That said, it took me six months to find work as a full-time music therapist. (I was able to support myself by nannying.) It’s not uncommon to for entry-level positions to offer part-time contracts that may build up to a full-time case load, but I was looking for a position that offered benefits and steady work. Flexibility in where, when, and with what population you’d like to work are all pluses when looking for a job. If you’d like more on the statistics of music therapy jobs, you can check out the 2013 Workforce Analysis compiled by the American Music Therapy Association.
I think that before entering a music therapy program, you also need to ask yourself how committed you are to advocacy. Especially when finding their own contracts, music therapists are constantly advocating for themselves and their work. There is a lack of information and understanding about our field and the world’s perpetual need for education be wearing. Being a music therapist is not a job where everyone just gets what you do. Friends of mine have spoken about how the higher ups at their facilities underrate their work. Funding, promotions, and respect for the job can be affected by these misunderstandings. I’ve known a handful music therapy students to never finish their studies because this aspect of the job didn’t fit their expectations.
Thank you for asking this question. It must be said that music therapy is not the easiest job to hold, but it is one of the most rewarding. It sounds like you’re excited about making an impact in people’s lives with music and music therapy offers the chance to assess, facilitate, and create change in a deep and lasting way.
Best of luck and let me know if I can answer any more questions!
Brea of Thrive Music Therapy
Don’t Underestimate Music Therapists
"So, what is it that you do?”
As a music therapist I get this question from time to time. And it’s a fair question to ask if you’ve never been exposed to music therapy before. Answering this question, however, can be challenging. I often mention drumming and singing, songwriting and discussion, but these are the obvious parts of my work. Explaining the subtleties of what a music therapy session holds requires a deeper conversation than these causal questioners usually expect.
I found myself making a similar mistake of underestimating the work of musicians last week. I was at an Ingrid Michaelson concert and the backup keyboard player caught my eye. From what I could see, he spent the first opening songs playing a few one-handed chords and appeared very laid-back about being up on stage. “I could take his place”, I thought to myself. As the concert went on, I realized the wrongness of my assumption. The keyboardist went on to play accordion, trumpet, and percussion. Seeing this musician in his element, it was easy to forget the discipline, years of practice, and versatility required of a session musician.
At times, I think music therapists are faced with the same shallow assumptions. At times, what we do seems like it can be done by a volunteer with a guitar and a songbook. Observers of a session don’t always hold a nuanced appreciation because music therapists are professionals. It’s our job to assess clinical needs, plan appropriate interventions, and keep things running smoothly for our clients’ benefit.
Music therapists sing, play multiple instruments, transpose on demand, play be ear, compose original music, read/notate music, and have a vast repertoire of music at their fingertips. I monitor individual responses while engaging groups of up to 40 people and tailor session discussions to the personal histories of 70+ older adults with whom I work weekly. And what about when things go wrong? Interruptions, group dynamics, limited equipment, individuals’ needs, and customized music are things I juggle on a daily basis. Because my focus is on my clients, I can respond and change the direction of the music and topic mid-session when needed.
Though a music therapist may specialize in one population, we are certified to work with many types of clients because these skills translate across clinical settings. We hold degrees and have at least 1200 hours of clinical training before sitting for the required board certification examination. Music is a music therapist’s tool. Because music is so multi-faceted and complex, music therapists are trained to harness these elements for the best interests of our clients. Versatile only begins to cover what I do.
1/31 older »