Tag Archives | music therapy

Grief, Keynotes + 6 Experiences To Cherish While Getting Over A Cold

I had a WONDERFUL time with the Great Lakes Music Therapists in Minneapolis! What an awesome region, full of good energy, full of bright shiny happy DEDICATED people. I loved every second. Here’s a sneak peek at the grand finale of my keynote:

Sad news~
The day before I arrived in Minneapolis, I found out my grandfather died. I admired my grandfather very much. I even filmed a 90-minute video on his war and Great Depression stories. Plus, when I visited him in Ohio, he played “mouth organ” and I played 6-string. We got along well, and became well-known and loved among his peers =)

When I found out he had died, I couldn’t imagine giving a keynote to dozens (or hundreds) of music therapists. But when I walked into the concert hall Thursday night before my talk, I saw a guitarist and harmonica-player performing. I took that as a sign from my grampa that I was in the right place. As Shawshank Redemption’s Andy Dufresne put it, “Get busy living, or get busy dying.” Death and loss are a great reminder to keep living. And so, I spoke the next morning, and privately dedicated my talk to my grandfather. God winks 😉

NOW, I’ll be the first to call myself out on this one… My keynote was on self-care. I bragged about not getting sick this year and skipping over flu season. I shared this statement: (notice the LAKE in honor of Minnesota!)

Healthy Music Therapists // Self-Care

THEN the next day, I got knocked out COLD with a gnarly flu-ish like thing with body aches.

No doubt, it was from the girl on the shuttle from the Minneapolis airport to the hotel. She was going to a writers conference, and she had piles and piles of kleenex stacked up on her lap… the “used” kind. Red nose, nasally voice, constant blowing… (It feels better to blame someone anonymous, who I’ll never see again.) That was Thursday.

I didn’t get to a zicam until Saturday, when my husband Matt and I were biking through San Francisco. It was one of those rides where he said “Oh it’s just up the hill.” We would arrive at the top of the hill, only to find that there was yet another GIANT San-Fran-style hill to mount. Oh, those husbands…. =)

I could FEEL myself getting worse with every pump of the bike pedal. We stopped at a CVS along the way and bought zicam. It only delayed the inevitable.

I had to cancel my participation in facilitating a caregiver’s retreat this weekend. This retreat is literally the HIGHLIGHT of my career as a service provider. This is where I do my best work. Cancelled with substitute filling in. (And I’m very thankful for the substitute and the other amazing facilitators for understanding!)

I’m taking my own advice:

Here I am at a space in between. I’m deciding not to run on empty.

If I think about the work at Music Therapy Ed, or writing emails, or marketing our private practice, then my sore throat literally gets worse.

If I start cleaning up our place, putting plants into pots, rearranging stuff and throwing things away, then my body aches LOUDLY.

Those are my indicator lights: throat flaring up, body aching, eyes drooping, falling asleep. My body is saying “Slow down, Turbo.” So, in between long, deep naps and trips to the kitchen to heat up water for tea, I’m writing. Writing helps me clear my head. And it doesn’t make any indicator lights go on.

Perusing the web for self-care articles also triggers no indicator lights. I found this article by Katey Kratz (great pix!). I found this one from Elephant Journal (specific to women and exhaustion). And of course, there’s always this amazing group on Facebook.

Here are 6 experiences I’m cherishing while letting my cold run its course:

  1. Taking long, hot baths with salts and candles
  2. Sleeping while cuddling with my furry friends
  3. Putting lotion on my skin. ever. so. slowly. after the bath
  4. Brushing my teeth at SNAIL’s pace
  5. Lying in my bed feeling exactly like the times when I was a kid and had NO obligations, nothing to worry about, nobody to meet, nowhere to be, and just curl up
  6. Making the most delicious homemade soups with better-than-bouillon, kale, spinach, cilantro, grated ginger and garlic, onion, chicken or sausage, orzo…. mmmmmmmm!!!

I hope you are staying well, strong, and healthy for this week.

Be well, feel good, and make MUSIC! Kat


7 music strategies for people living with late-stage dementia

Last year for the holidays, I wrote about 4 Rhythma-tastic Holiday Goodies for Facilitating. Check the bottom of that post for additional holiday tips from other music therapists!

Those tips are awesome to use with all sorts and types of clients. But when I wrote it, I had residents in independent living in mind. You can certainly adapt and modify the tips according to the needs of your own clients.

Activities for seniors

Today however, I would like to address spending the holidays with people who are in mid-late stages Alzheimers/dementia. The topic of engaging with those in late stage dementia came up a lot at the American Music Therapy Association conference. (By the way, did you know that you can win a free membership in AMTA by Dec 20?)

I’m listing 7 awesome strategies to make music with those in late stage dementia. Of course completing a proper assessment and treatment plan are a must! Also, make sure to consult with a board-certified music therapist in your area. You can find them all listed here.

And these are great tools, but most importantly, speak, interact, touch, dance, and sing with your clients in late stage dementia regularly. That’s what matters…. the relationship and environment that YOU help to create.

Don’t forget to include the family in the assessment. They will have some great insight for you as you design the treatment plan.

I also adopt the philosophy of “Less talking, More experiencing” when working with people who have Alzheimer’s. Words may get in the way. However, I use words to speak clearly in preparing my client for what’s to come. For instance “Betty, these are bells. May I have your hand?”

These strategies have a very quick learning curve, so dig in!

1. Hand-over-hand drum sliding. Animal skin feels so nice if you have an authentic drum. But also rubbing someone’s hand over a synthetic drum head creates a calming ocean-rain sound. Perfect song: Silent Night

2. Hand-over-hand drum-tum-tumming. You must be gentle to avoid bruising. Even just guiding the fingers tips in tapping the drum. Perfect song: Winter Wonderland

3. Hand-over-hand drumming with a mallet. Sometimes drumming becomes easier when mallets are used. Watch my review of the adaptive mallet cuff. If your client needs assistance with grasp, then the mallet cuff is right up your alley. Perfect song: 12 Days Of Christmas (with 12 drummers drumming) or Little Drummer Boy

4. Velcro-strap jingle bells. Another type of assistive instrument. I especially like these because they have a nice round sound, and they are the perfect weight. You can velcro these to wrists and ankles, then do some hand-over-hand Rockin Around the Christmas Tree!

5. Ocean drum. This drum provides a great tactile experience. You can place it in a lap, or share it so there are four hands holding it. Sway it back and forth. Swirl it round and round. Perfect song: Do You Hear What I Hear (Change the lyrics according to the in-the-moment experience.)

6. Cabasa. Tactile, tactile, tactile. Roll it to the beat. Roll it for ambient sound. Make sure to prepare your client by saying “I’m going to roll this cabasa up and down your arm.” Start with a gentle touch. Perfect song: Festival of Lights for Hanukkah

7. Hand-over-hand tambourines. Roll the hand over the jingles, rub the hand on the drum head. Perfect song: We Three Kings

I use chimes, triangles, and toning bowls cautiously for this population, unless I’m absolutely sure that it’s a good fit for the individual. With the proper preparation and demonstration, these tools would be perfect. But avoid any instrument that might startle your client.

And remember: The brain is active. The brain is receptive. Introduce yourself. Allow the opportunities for the individual to vocalize back and forth in conversation.

My friend Natalie Mullis wrote recently about Alzheimer’s and Divorce. Also, my friend Rachelle Norman wrote about using an ocean drum with her clients living with late stage. Both are great reads!

Off to the Jingle Jungle for me! 3 holiday sessions back-to-back this morning. Did I ever mention this is the best job EVER?

What do you do for your clients living with mid-late stage dementia?


VIDEO: Mashup for Drumming with Older Adults: Ayub + Opera

Ayub Rhythm + Habanera from Bizet’s Carmen = Successful Older Adult Drumming and Singing

Here’s a fun way to drum with older adults in your music therapy or group drumming sessions. I particularly enjoy introducing something new by way of something old and familiar. (Granted, the Ayub rhythm is much “older” than Carmen, it will probably be “new” to most groups in the US and west.) So, get your doumbeks warmed up and play!

The YouTube link follows:

Got any more group drumming mashups? Got any thoughts to share? I’d love to hear your ideas!


VIDEO: Drum with Older Adults

I wrote a description of this song intervention in No Worries, No Hurries, and No Wrong Notes. Now you can see it in action! I am using Blue Suede Shoes as a guided music-making experience with improvisation. Because Blue Suede Shoes is a standard 12-bar blues, you can use any song with the same form. Other songs I use include Rock Around the Clock, Hound Dog, Elvis selections, Eric Clapton selections, and more.

When drumming with older adults, remember that people take comfort in synchronicity and familiarity. With that in mind, I always start the group session with a greeting song that includes everyone’s names, check-in exercise, orientation to others in the group, movement, and breathing. Then I can assess whether or not the group is ready for drumming.

Once I hand out drums, I start out with some simple familiar exercises that you can watch in the post Make Music with Older Adults. Then, I invite all the participants turn to their neighbor and say “Wow! You’re a good drummer!” As soon as the participants are comfortable making some music on the drums, then I suggest using this guided experience with improvisation.

I also use Arthur Hulls bunny hop technique found in the Drum Circle Facilitation book: I start with big visual and vocal cues, then gradually taper down and disappear, providing the basic chordal and rhythmic supportive structure in the background of the players. The focus is on the players, not the therapist or facilitator.

After the session, I always document the group’s behavioral and psychosocial responses. Have fun!

PS There are a million and one variations to the directions that I lay out in this example, so be sure to to adapt, change, and transform for your own groups.

What do you think? Is this similar to your drumming experiences with older adults?


9 Great Self-Care & Music Therapy Posts in the Past Week

There has been an explosion of great blog posts in the past week, and I want to share them with you. They have enhanced my every day practice of self-care, wellness, and music therapy.

Self-care & Wellness

1. Rest and Recovery from the Art of Non-Conformity. Chris describes how to manage energy instead of time. Our energy is something that we can be aware of, something that we can convert, something that we can refuel. Whereas, we have can’t change the pattern of time.

2. The Zen of Doing from Zen Habits. Explore ways to engage in everyday tasks with a deep feeling of inner peace and appreciation.

3. Making Art Instead of Setting Goals from Agile Living. Goals = Future. Art = Now. Give living in the here and now a try between your goal-achieving sessions.

4. Live Your Life as if Everything is a Miracle from Make It Happen. Life, love, the body, nature, creativity. Modern science has not been able to figure out these phenomena. Miracles are everywhere!

5. How to Make your Drumming More Meaningful by former Rusted Root drummer Jim Donovan. Jim describes how to connect drumming patterns to your body and mind by way of movements, breathing, and intentions.

Music Therapy

6. Functional Neuroscience for the Clinical Music Therapist handout by Kimberly Sena Moore, MT-BC

7. Middle Eastern Idiom for Guitar Improvisation by Dr. John Carpente, MT-BC

8. The Mindful Music Therapist’s handouts for Taboo Topics by Roia Rafieyan, MT-BC

9. Book review for Bella’s Blessings by Rachel Rambach, MT-BC

One more for music therapists that you’ve got to check out if you work with kids who have special needs is More with Music. Free songs for music therapists!