Archive | Music & Wellness

Music Therapy Mini Case Study

I just published an article with the Huffington Post, featuring one of my great colleagues and her work with an awesome kid named Jonah.

Read my article in the Huffington Post!

I love my work – Can you tell? But this article is especially cool because I get to rave about Mary Altom. In fact, my team recently hired Mary as a consultant to get us up to speed on the SEMTAP (special education music therapy assessment profile).

Mary runs an awesome practice in Texas, and is well-loved by our community. Check out the video of Jonah by heading over to the Huffington Post!

Click here to read my HuffPo article!

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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

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Do I need a website to build a business?

A lot of my coaching clients get stuck on the tech-aspect of creating a business.

After all, this is the day of DIGITAL. Chances are, the first place people go to find you is Google. Smart phones have changed the world – Apps, social, techie, searchable, review-based…. The list goes on for digital!

But let’s say that tech is not your strength. AND let’s say you’re a one-woman (or man) show, starting from ground up. How do you set your priorities? Here are my two cents for Kate in Texas:

Tweet this: For #MusicTherapy business owners: Don’t get stuck with tech! Have faith in PEOPLE, not technology.

What’s YOUR advice or experience to share with Kate?

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8 Ways To Give Burnout The Big KO

[KO means Knock Out] =) We just finished the Music Therapy Burnout Prevention bonus calls over at, and I’m on fire with this topic! Plus, I’ve received NUMEROUS emails from music therapists asking about burnout. I just have to write on this topic.

You see, when people enter their name and email over at, they automatically receive an email that asks about their biggest challenges as a music therapist. This is important information for me to know as the instructors and I do our best to deeply serve the community with our continuing education courses. It also helps me scout out the best possible future course releases to help music therapists thrive and prosper.

And that’s why a lot of people are writing me about burnout. Because I asked for it.

I think I have experienced burnout myself (if not on-the-verge-burnout), and I think I know how it feels. I’ve definitely experienced depression, so if it’s similar, then I’m at least vaguely familiar. Here’s my take: You’ve got to make a BIG change in something, somehow. You’ve got to just bite the bullet and take action, even if it’s a baby step.

Here’s what I’ve done in the past:

1. Taken an entire month off — even though I didn’t think I could financially do it, I did it, and came back to more clients and more work that totally paid off in the end! I wrote about that experience in my laryngitis post.

2. Taken a week off to travel – roadtrip, mountain camping with friends, beach getaway, SOMEthing to get out of the routine, get my mind off the clients to return refreshed.

3. Used ALL new music. I spent an entire day learning ALL brand new songs. I went back to sessions the next week, and stayed far, far away from any old songs that I used to use. Might be better if 2 days are taken actually…

4. Invited someone to come observe me. Just the presence of having a student, intern, volunteer, or colleague will completely change your mindset and make you think… “Hm, what does this look like from the outside? What am I achieving? How are my clients responding (if applicable)? What’s going on here?”

5. Changed the schedule. Even simply doing afternoon groups in the MORNING instead feels wayyyyy different than the usual.

6. Used something totally outside of the box and creative. Use miming, or some sort of drama therapy intervention just to change it up. Go observe an art therapist, or other creative arts therapist, and integrate their ideas with your own.

7. Take a workshop for yourself. Find something that will feed your soul. Go in to the workshop with the intention of shaking it up within yourSELF first. Find some way, any way, to see the world from a new lens. This will automatically help you re-boot with your clients.

8. There are other ideas that are more drastic like…. move to a new city, surround yourself with non-English speaking folks for a weekend, attend a SILENCE retreat… but those are a little crazier.

If you are experiencing burnout, hang in there friend! I have definitely felt it. I think the important thing is to TAKE ACTION on making a change. Just take some sort of baby-step towards changing your scenery.

Oooooo. One more thing. The holidays totally recharge me for the new year! I’m so busy doing holiday music that when January comes around, the regular interventions feel NEW…. How do YOU shake it up to give burnout the big KO?

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From Moan to Tone to Drone: Music Therapy and Pain Management

The voice.

This story took place many, many years ago. I’m not mentioning the location, setting, names, therapist, Protected Health Information, etc. I don’t even remember those details. And after you take it all in, you won’t care anyway. =)

The individual experienced severe abdominal pain. (Let’s call the individual “Susan.”) The music therapist received a referral to alleviate pain and promote relaxation.

Intense Pain, Intense Sounds

When the music therapist entered the room, she noticed that Susan was moaning loudly with quick breaths, over and over. As Susan winced and clenched her stomach with her hands, the music therapist slowly came closer.

As soon as the therapist met Susan eye-to-eye, she softly introduced herself as the music therapist and quickly mentioned that she was going to try something with Susan.

Susan didn’t seem to care much as her moans escalated and her pain seemed to worsen.

Vocal Mirroring

The music therapist came comfortably closer and breathed with Susan – with slight moans in between fast inhales. Both tempo and slight movements were in sync between the two.

The music therapist became louder to match the volume of Susan’s moans. Once the volume of moans matched, Susan glanced at the therapist, then looked away again in pain.

As the therapist mirrored the volume, tempo, movements, and pitch changes of Susan, the therapist made the breaths slightly longer.

Susan replicated the therapist’s slight change in tempo, and slightly slowed her breathing as well.

As the breath slowed, so did the moans. A few moments later, the moans became steady tones. Literally, the pitch of the moans turned from wavering, cracking ups and downs to a monotone sound.

Susan Takes Over

Then Susan took control of the sound. What had first been a reactionary pain response slowly turned into Susan’s one source of power.

Susan took the lead, making the tones louder, slower, steadier, and longer. The therapist simply followed Susan, mimicking her every move and sound.

Minutes seemed like ages passing by. The strength of Susan’s voice was in charge of the experience. As her vocal tones became even slower and lower still, the therapist continued to follow.

Susan’s body movements changed from tight squirming and restlessness. Now she was purposefully using the core of the body as an air cavity. The stomach and shoulders rose up and out, then completely deflated with each breath.

The breath and sound went on and on.

Exhaustion Kicks In

The repetition was tiresome for Susan, and the Oooo’s and Ohhh’s soon morphed into Ahhhh’s and Haaaa’s. The therapist continued the vocal mirroring.

The intensity inside the room seeped away as Susan continued to slow her breath and elongate the vowels.

Relaxation and Sleep

It wasn’t much longer that the open vowels became hummmmmms, Susan gave a yawn and closed her eyes as soft tears rolled down her cheeks. Susan’s breathing was still deep, but the sound disappeared. Only long sighs came from Susan’s voice.

When it looked like Susan was asleep, the music therapist left the room to go document.

The end.

Thank you voice.

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