Monday, January 10, 2022

Back at it!

Okay. Seriously, this break from the blog has gone on way too long. Here's the thing though: 

I retired from my job in 2021. 

Yeah, I know. I never would have thought I'd be capable of it either, but here I am. Alive. Retired! And, astonishingly, kind of digging it. So...what the heck am I doing with myself?

I just finished a draft of an article for a special edition of Voices (with huge thanks to my friend, Dr. Henny Kupferstein, who kindly helped me re-organize and finish the thing already, before it ended up becoming a 387 page book). The title is Getting to 'no' you: When nonspeaking autistic people refuse music therapy. Here's the Abstract, in case you're curious:
Nonspeaking autistic people frequently begin music therapy at the request of others. Typically, family or care systems are tasked with making decisions on their behalf and have decided this service will be of benefit. Consequently, music therapy is a given rather than a choice. For this paper I have used my own evolving understanding to explore the complexities and power dynamics related to nonspeaking people being able to say ‘no’ to music therapy. Elements in this discussion include: (a) the ability, and safety, to say 'no' in the context of a culture of compliance (b) the complicated relationship between music therapists and the systems within which they work, and how this affects the therapy relationship, and (c) the role of music therapy practice standards. I advocate the following:  (1) presume competence; (2) enter the therapy space with curiosity and openness, (3) be willing to ‘get to know’, (4) coping skills or communication attempts are not ‘behavior’ in need of correction, and (5) learn how each nonspeaking person communicates ‘no.’ Actively encouraging and respecting treatment refusal goes a long way toward building a respectful music therapy practice/relationship.
 It was, as most things I seem to do are, a complicated topic. Not so much complicated because nonspeaking people should be listened to (that's a given), but more because I wanted to address (in as respectful and calm a way as possible) how many elements stand in the way of nonspeaking autistic people being heard at all, let alone experiencing self-determination. It, um, required a lot of editing before I could submit it. 

I finally finished reading Music heard so deeply: A music therapy memoir, by my colleague, Betsey King, which I quite enjoyed (especially the stories of her work). In fact, as I've discovered, one of the nicest things about being retired is having time to read! 

I've been exploring collage, because...why not? This one was inspired by one of the folx I worked with for a long time. He is a brilliant, curious man, who, besides being a news junkie, wanted to learn about space. 

As you might imagine, I miss the people who I spent so many years with as a music therapist. I suspect you'll be hearing about what it was like to spend my last year or so working, and retiring,  during a pandemic. know...welcome back!  

Sunday, January 24, 2016

It's January, and that means it's Social Media Advocacy Month

As you've probably surmised, from the festive badge and such, it's that time of the year again where we music therapists use the power of social media to advance the cause of music therapy in our respective states. 

The good news: it seems to be working! 

As the lovely Kat Fulton of Music Therapy Ed points out, we've been recognized in major publications (online and off), and we've even been named Persons of the Week for gosh sakes! Amazingly, nowadays we can even see characters who are music therapists in books, on television series and in movies

As a person who's been at this a while (ahem!), it's refreshing to meet people, tell them I'm a music therapist and have them respond with "Cool!" rather than "you're a what?" 

Dena Register (see below for her 2016 article) sees our advocacy styles as falling into three different categories. She identifies us as Connectors, Reflectors and Directors (I mean, don't we all really want to direct?). This is certainly true, and many of us do have these characteristics. But I want to propose another feature music therapists of the world possess, which is that of being Innovators

We've only just celebrated our 65th anniversary as an official profession. In that time, we have grown in remarkable ways. We've become an actual profession, complete with professional competencies, standards of practice, a code of ethics, board certification, journals, along with new and innovative research methods that use the arts as their basis!

We are curious, we're determined, and we work hard to find news ways to grow and extend what we already know as a field. When we're faced with our clients day after day, we are truly with them. We take our failures, and we try again, learning from our mistakes as we boldly explore new ideas and approaches. 

Yes. We are Innovators. And because of that, there is a profession called 'music therapy.' 


And I will now step off of my soapbox and invite you to read Dena's perspective on the matter: 

Social Media Advocacy Month 2016
Dena Register, PhD, MT-BC
Certification Board for Music Therapists
Regulatory Affairs Advisor

Each New Year brings the opportunity to reflect on all that we have accomplished and to determine what is needed in the coming year to move forward. As the Regulatory Affairs (CBMT) and Government Relations (AMTA) teams reflect on the first 10 years of the State Recognition Operational Plan, we are grateful for the number of individuals that have actively engaged in the advocacy process. We have had the incredible fortune to watch groups of diverse individuals pull together, capitalize on their strengths, and create access to services for clients and families that benefit greatly from music therapy.

One of the observations we reflect on regularly is what makes an advocacy team successful. The teams that stand out are those that have 3 different kinds of participants: Connectors, Reflectors and Directors. While this is certainly not an exhaustive list, this seems to be a “triple threat” of action-oriented personalities that are able to work in tandem and move a group forward.

Building Bridges 
“Connectors” are people who are gifted at building bridges by bringing others together and recognizing complimentary skill sets in those that they know.  Connectors enjoy creating opportunities for people from diverse background and experiences to meet and interact. The role of the Connector in advocacy is to maximize the human resources available to them and to increase the network for their cause by helping interested parties get to know one another and discuss common interests. It is often the Connectors who are able to establish relationships with legislators or other decision makers that develops them into incredible advocates.

Holding Up the Mirror 
“Reflectors” are gifted at taking in information, experiences, and perceptions and—as the name implies—reflecting back the most salient points to those around them. Reflectors often have a knack for diffusing situations by indicating an understanding and empathy for someone else’s position. Reflectors also make great advocates because of their fierce loyalty to their cause. Their ability to see issues from multiple perspectives and then to communicate that to multiple audiences brings all sides of an issue to the foreground for discussion. Reflectors unite various individuals and guide the group to a vision that recognizes the complexity of all issues.

Consulting the Compass
“Directors” are the ones who are able to see the big picture of possibilities that exist beyond the current situation. They are able to assimilate the work of the “Reflectors” and the “Connectors” and navigate a course of next steps based on that information. Directors also gather additional relevant information as they move forward and constantly attend to what course corrections are necessary to get to their end goal. Those who are most successful in this role demonstrate flexibility in their thinking and actions, which allows them to accommodate to various situations that are presented and that often change without prior notice. Directors take a broad view of an issue, projecting out beyond it’s current status or challenge and using an ideal vision or end goal to guide the day-to-day steps necessary to get there.

So how about you? Are you a Connector, Reflector, or Director? Or maybe there is another description you would use? We would like to hear from you about other characteristics or personalities that you find “key” in advocacy.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

How to be together

We sat together yesterday, our group of seven, on a Monday afternoon. And the curtains in the room were open to the afternoon sun, closed as the sun blinded us, and then open again to watch the beautiful dark frames of leafless trees against the pink and yellow and blue sky as the sun began to set. And, with the early evening news as a background, we noticed, for ourselves and with each other, our music was made of...

...sound and silence,
terror and safety,
change and consistency,
feeling frozen and being in motion,
comfort and discomfort,
certainty and uncertainty,
sleeping and awake,
light and dark,
presence and absence,
judgment and acceptance,
loud and quiet,
intensity and gentleness,
curiosity and detachment,
containment and freedom...

And then, this morning, I read and listened to this gorgeous conversation between Krista Tippett and Ann Hamilton. When Krista asked her what questions we should be asking, without hesitation, Ann responded:
" to be together. I mean, isn’t that — that seems like the biggest question. How to be together." (Ann Hamilton
Yes! And yes again!

There are so many who believe music therapy sessions with people who don't use speech as their first language are about "playing for your clients." In fact, it is about

 and wondering 

"...when you’re making something, you don’t know what it is for a really long time. So, you have to kind of cultivate the space around you, where you can trust the thing that you can’t name. And if you feel a little bit insecure, or somebody questions you, or you need to know what it is, then what happens is you give that thing that you’re trying to listen to away. And so, how do you kind of cultivate a space that allows you to dwell in that not knowing, really? That is actually really smart, and can become really articulate? But, you know, like the thread has to come out, and it comes out at its own pace." (Ann Hamilton)