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Memorial Day 2020

Memorial Day is a day to remember and mourn the military personnel who have given their lives so that we may continue to live in freedom with our families and friends.

Here at Metro Music Therapy, we take today to remember, celebrate, and appreciate all who have given their lives so that we may continue to live.

We have known many of you, and have never met most of you; but today, we celebrate all of you.

Thank you — and may we honor your lives by never taking for granted the immeasurable gift you have given to us all, and by continuing to uphold and sustain each other through the good times and most especially through the hard times.

With our deepest gratitude,
The Metro Music Therapy Team

Who Even Keeps Resolutions, Anyway? S.M.A.R.T. Goals Are Better

It’s hard to believe that we’re already mid-way through February of 2019!
New Year’s Eve doesn’t seem so long ago. The promise of a new year, a fresh start, exciting possibilities… it’s more than enough to get the old motivational engine revved and roaring! Plans form, goals are etched in stone, and we feel certain that this year – really, though, this year! – we’ll stick to that New Year’s Resolution. We will not waver!

Alright so, show of hands:
Now that the excitement of the new year has begun to wane, how many of us are actually keeping up with those resolutions?

If your hand is raised, way to go! Keep it up!
[Bonus points if you literally raised your hand just now.]
If not, don’t beat yourself up. You’re in good company!

This blog is certainly not intended to make anyone feel bad about themselves.
If it were, what kind of a weird Music Therapy practice would we be?
This blog is rather an attempt to offer a – potentially – more effective method for those of you, like myself, who have a hard time maintaining those lofty resolutions.
I mean, who even keeps resolutions anyway?
[Ahem… Y’all just keep doing you, hand-raisers. You’re awesome.]
Instead, try S.M.A.R.T. Goals!

Yes, S.M.A.R.T. Goals – the very same type of goals that we like to set with our amazing Clients!
You may have heard this acronym before, but in case you haven’t, let’s review what it means, and look over some examples.

S – Specific
S.M.A.R.T. goals are specific. They can be explained in detail.
“I will exercise more.” Sounds a bit vague, huh?
How about… “I will go running for at least 30 minutes, two times a week.”
That’s getting specific!
“Client will improve articulation.” In what way?
How about… “Client will practice bilabial consonant sounds five times per session.”
Now we’re talking.

M – Measurable
S.M.A.R.T. goals are measurable. We can keep track of them.
“I will drink more water.” How much?
How about… “I will drink five 18oz bottles of water each day.”
Sounds good!
“Client will improve short-term memory.” How can that be measured?
How about… “Client will recall at least 4 of 6 notes in a melodic sequence.”
That’ll work!

A – Attainable
S.M.A.R.T. goals are attainable. They are realistic and within reach, given the effort.
“I will be a famous actor on Broadway.” Maybe someday! What steps can you take now?
How about… “I will audition for the local production of The Little Mermaid next month.”
Totally doable.
“Client will walk independently, without assistance.” Admirable goal! But let’s take it one step at a time – literally.
How about… “Client will independently take 8 steps using a cane, by March 31, 2019.”
Challenging, but within reach.

R – Relevant
S.M.A.R.T. goals are relevant.
They have something to do with the area on which you’re focusing.
“I want to read more, so I will go swimming twice a week for three months.” Wait, what?
How about… “I want to read more, so I will join the ‘book of the month’ club.”
That’s more like it.
“Client wants to improve her fine motor skills. Client will write a song to express and cope with feelings of anxiety.” Not quite what we’re looking for right now.
How about… “Client wants to improve her fine motor skills. Client will practice isolating fingers by playing a 5-finger C Scale on the piano for 5 minutes each day.”
There we go!

T – Time-Bound
S.M.A.R.T. goals are time-bound. They indicate by when the goal is intended to be met.
“I will learn to speak Spanish.” Okay, but what’s your time-table?
How about… “I will learn 10 new Spanish phrases before my niece’s quinceañera next Saturday.” Having a schedule helps!
“Client will create a playlist of preferred music to ease anxiety.” When will they need it?
How about… “Client will create a playlist of 30 preferred songs [~90 minutes] to ease anxiety during his chemotherapy treatment this Friday.”
Friday it is!

So when it comes to New Year’s Resolutions, are your goals Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound?
If so, you’re thinking S.M.A.R.T.!
Lofty, vague resolutions can be intimidating and disappointing when we don’t live up to them. But S.M.A.R.T. goals can help us stay motivated and on track, by focusing on the specific objective, measuring progress, and establishing a schedule for completion.
Who keeps resolutions anyway? S.M.A.R.T. goals are better.

– Written by Kevin Middlebrooks, LPMT, MT-BC, NMT

What If Christmas Makes Me Cry?

*In accordance with HIPAA, and out of respect for our client’s privacy, the name “Ruth” will be used as an alias in this blog post.*

Happy Holidays!
Merry Christmas!
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! …right?
Or, at least… it’s supposed to be?

For a great many people – maybe yourself included – this season truly is a time of good cheer, fond memories, gatherings of family and friends, bright spirits, colorful decorations, and cherished traditions. It’s a time to be grateful, to be kind and compassionate.
And I sincerely hope that the holidays bring all of this and more to you and yours!

But acknowledging, and even experiencing, all of these warm emotions and happy thoughts typically associated with the holidays certainly does not negate or invalidate those painful feelings that may also be stirred up at this time of year.
Joy may be followed by sadness. Laughter may be preceded by tears.
Maybe the gift you’re really hoping for this season is just a little bit of relief from the seemingly constant fatigue, stress, irritability, anxiety, depression, etc. Stressors like lack of time, lack of money, commercialism, pressures (whether perceived or stated) of gift-giving, and loneliness can feel all the more amplified when the rest of the world seems to be telling you to celebrate. Family gatherings can bring up difficult and painful memories, whether of childhood trauma or the loss of a loved one.

As Music Therapists, colleagues, friends, brothers, sisters, parents, neighbors – it’s important to remember that any number of painful circumstances, situations, or seemingly conflicting emotions could be the reality of the person sitting next to us this holiday season.
Our clients, our friends, our family could very well be hurting, and that pain might even be brought to surface by the very season that’s intended to bring joy, peace, and good will.

Take the phrase, “Happy Holidays!” for example.
Do you ever feel a sense of pressure when you hear that?
What if I’m not happy at all? Am I doing this wrong? Shouldn’t I be happy right now?
What’s intended as a simple expression of well-wishes can start to feel like a command.
“Have a Holly Jolly Christmas. Do it.”

Kacey Musgraves says it well in her song “Christmas Makes Me Cry.”
Let’s pause and take a listen.


So how do we respond when Christmas makes us cry?

One good rule of thumb is validation. 
It’s okay not to be okay.
It’s alright if Christmas makes you want to curl up in a ball.
And if the last thing you want to hear right now is another chestnut roasting, sugar-plum dreaming, mistletoe waiting, bell jingling, sleighing song, then so be it!

A client – let’s call her Ruth – recently said to me, “I’m dealing with a lot of holiday depression right now. Is it okay if we don’t do Christmas music? I’d rather just keep singing country songs with you, if that’s alright. That actually helps me feel better.”

Can’t you almost hear that sense of pressure?
Ruth was asking *me* if *I* would be okay with not doing Christmas songs –
and of course that’s okay, because the session is for her.
But, since it’s “the most wonderful time of the year,” Christmas songs are just expected. And maybe they don’t need to be. 
Especially if they’re a detriment to a person’s mental health.

If Alan Jackson’s “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere” does more good for your soul than “Silent Night” right now, then that is okay. Really. And if you change your mind later and feel like singing “Joy to the World,” that’s okay too!

Ruth, in fact, did ask for Christmas songs the following week (“The upbeat ones, though, not the sentimental ones.”) We sang “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer” and had a good laugh!

All of this to say, whatever you’re experiencing this holiday season, it’s worth respecting and acknowledging.
If you want to laugh, do it heartily. If you need to cry, then go right ahead.

It may not be a bright, shiny, sing-songy, happy good time, and that’s alright. (Though I hope it is!)
To paraphrase [or, y’know, just rewrite] the song “White Christmas:”

May your days be whatever they need to be right now,
And may all your Christmases be white.

If you’ll allow me to finish with a simple expression of goodwill – for real, though, no pressure –
I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!


– Written by Kevin Middlebrooks, LPMT, MT-BC


Resources:
What We Know About the Holiday Blues
The Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research, 2017
https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/evidence-based-living/201712/what-we-know-about-the-holiday-blues

Photo: xenia_gromak / Photocase

Summer Camp Recap!

***Photos used with Permission***

Now that school is back in full swing, many a young mind is likely pining for the days of summer past (as in, like, four weeks ago.) Here at Metro Music Therapy, we have a lot of exciting new adventures ahead – new clients, new contracts, and even our very own Music Therapy room in a private school! *Stay tuned for future blog posts.*

But for now, let’s take a moment to reflect on MMT’s music-filled summer camp experiences:

Camp Cadi
At the beginning of summer, MMT participated for the third year with Camp Cadi – a week-long camp for girls that have suffered from childhood sexual abuse trauma. Our own Camila Casaw served as the Music Therapist for the duration of the camp, staying with the girls on site and providing Music Therapy sessions. For seven days, Camila worked with the girls to provide validation, a safe space for self-expression and empowerment through the power of music and therapy! It was a privilege to be able to collaborate with Camp Cadi again and we are grateful to make some music with these brave girls!


Pictured is a portion of Camila’s musical “toolbox,” and an artistic expression created by the campers.

Stone Soup Camp
We were also excited to participate for the fifth year with Stone Soup Camp, a summer camp for kids and adolescents with autism and other special learning needs. Stone Soup held two sessions this summer, one week in June and another week in July, with the super fun themes of – wait for it – Dinosaurs and the Renaissance! Everybody loves dinosaur songs and court jesters playing recorder! While the students engaged in all kinds of amazing activities at Stone Soup, each camp also included one Music Therapy session with Kevin Middlebrooks for each age group. The students practiced their motor skills, sustained attention, auditory discrimination, teamwork, vocalization, and self-expression – all through singing, dancing, drumming, and, yes, even musical jousting! Kevin had a blast with the students. It was an honor to walk the dinosaur and fight dragons with these amazing kids.


Left: M. shows some quick response time during musical jousting to hit the target (bell) that matches the dragon. Right: Everyone uses their “dinosaur bones” to play some not-so-fossilized rhythms.


We’re grateful for our summertime experiences, and for our relationships with these two wonderful summer camps. They’re offering such valuable experiences for their campers, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to have been able to add the benefits of Music Therapy to the mix.

And now school is back in session. Time to learn new things, make new friends, and create more music!

2018-08-24T21:00:54+00:00August 24th, 2018|Blog, Holidays, Mental Health, Music Therapy, Pediatric|

Born to Rock + A Very Merry Moving Day

Friday was a big day for the MMT Team!

Our morning was spent with a remarkably large group of bonafide rockstars – namely, the students of Simpson Elementary School! We were so excited to be there with these amazing kids to celebrate Exceptional Children’s Week. All week long, March 5 – 9, schools around the country celebrated students with exceptionalities and the families and professionals who serve, love, and support them. The theme of the week at Simpson was “Born to Rock!” and we had a chance to join in the fun with some instruments, singing, and dancing!

We were also excited to be sporting our new team “jerseys!”

First up, Bianca showed us how to “Shake It Off,” with several of the students using their brand new shakers. The whole crowd clapped, patted, and shook along, but we had to listen carefully – sometimes the instructions got tricky as they sped up!

Next, Kevin demonstrated how to get the instruments of a rock band going with some “Air Guitar” (and “Air” piano, drum, and violin) while the rest of the team provided a looping musical backdrop – all to create the song, “In the Jungle (The Lion Sleeps Tonight).” We even had some technical difficulties, like a real rock band!

Then Maria taught us how to use ASL to sign “please,” “thank you,” and “you’re welcome” using a familiar tune from Disney’s Moana. Everyone sang and signed along to practice, and Maria even rapped for us, a la Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson (a.k.a. Maui)! So I believe what we’re trying to say to Maria is… thank you. (“You’re Welcome!”)

Camila kept us on our toes with a “freeze” dance set to Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” Whenever the music paused, everyone had to give their best pose to match whichever poster was suddenly flipped over. Things got even more interesting (and hilarious) when we had to do two – or even four! – poses at the same time!

All day long, the students were practicing their “Superhero,” “Dab,” “Selfie,” and “Hippie” poses.
To be honest, we were too!

Finally, Laura led us in some echo singing to the Jackson 5’s “A-B-C.” It was a school event, so why not do a little bit of learning while we sing? The students were divided into three groups to try and outdo one another with a hearty “A-B-C,” “1-2-3,” or “DO-RE-MI!”

We had such a blast rocking out with our new friends at Simpson Elementary. They are exceptional, every one of them, and we couldn’t be more thankful for the opportunity to celebrate them!

And for us, the excitement didn’t stop there!

After a team lunch at La Parilla, we had work to do, organizing, packing, and…

…wait for it…

…Moving!

In case you haven’t heard, Metro Music Therapy just moved into a new office space in Peachtree Corners, complete with a brand new Studio Room, where we’ll soon be able to offer music lessons to meet the needs of all learners! More details are on the way!

We can’t wait to welcome our students to Studio PTC!


Happy Anniversary, Metro Music Therapy!

It was a lovely October night as our team enjoyed delicious Italian food, indulged in musically decorated cookies, and divvied up a large cake in the shape of the number 10. Why, you may be wondering, did we become temporary gluttons? To celebrate 10 years of Metro Music Therapy, of course! Most of us have only had the privilege of working or interning with MMT for a few months out of those 10 years, and even we were getting teary-eyed seeing all of our colleagues and community partners together, hearing stories of how Metro Music Therapy has impacted the Atlanta area in profound ways. Speakers from organizations including The Alchemy Sky Foundation, Neuro Community Care, Wellspring International, Northside Hospital, Helping Mamas, and Life’s End Logistics each shared their unique and moving experiences of partnering with Metro Music Therapy, and more specifically, with our fearless leader: owner and director, Mallory Even. If that night was special for us, it’s safe to say that we can’t imagine how meaningful it must have been for the woman who started it all. So we’ll let her do the talking!

Mallory,

How did it feel seeing family, friends, partners, colleagues, employees and interns all together in one room? What was it like to know they were all there to celebrate something you started?
    The phrase ‘an embarrassment of riches’ comes to mind. It was a humbling, joyful experience to see people that have supported me and Metro Music Therapy’s mission from the very beginning, be in the same room to celebrate 10 years of heartfelt, raw work. I keep picturing all of the beautiful faces that filled the room that night, and can feel nothing but gratitude for having each of them as a part of my story and my song.

When you first began Metro Music Therapy, what did you imagine it might look like in 10 years? Looking back, how has it been different than you expected?
To be honest, back then I didn’t know that Metro Music Therapy had a future that would last 10 years! We started in such a humble way, with only me traveling to people’s homes providing music therapy services and music lessons, and I wasn’t looking forward – I was just living in the moment. Looking back on that now, I wish I would have had better insight as to where this journey was going to take me, but I think there’s something beautiful in the not knowing. I often tell people I did not grow this company, but this company grew me. I was along for the ride, and what a beautiful ride it has been so far!

What is one of your favorite (proudest, funniest, most rewarding) memories from the past 10 years?
“Wow, this is very difficult to narrow down! I’ve been grateful for each and every day that I’ve had with Metro music therapy, but I think one of the ones that stands out the most is the day that we signed a contract to be in partnership with Wellspring International. For a big part of my life, I’ve been a supporter and follower of RZIM and the ministries within and supported by their organization. To be able to be a part of their mission by bringing music therapy services to those who would not ordinarily be able to participate in such services, has impacted me in such a deep and meaningful way. Creating the Songs of Hope program, which is fully funded by Wellspring, has caused me to pause several times in order to just be able to wrap my head around where MMT has come over the past 10 years. I feel lucky and blessed that this is my job!”

If you could give one piece of advice to music therapists beginning their own private practices, or small business owners who are wondering how to make it 10 years –  what would it be?
Have vision for the future, but remember to take each day as it comes. Celebrate the highs, grieve the lows and learn from them. Surround yourself with amazingly loving and supportive people. And most importantly, never forget why you chose this field in the first place.

Mallory, we are all so proud of you, and humbled to be a part of your journey! It is an honor to be named among the ranks of such a special company, bringing joy and healing through music.
To you, and to everyone who has been a part of Metro Music Therapy – employees, clients, families, friends, partners, encouragers: thank you for 10 amazing years, and here’s to many more!


Written by Kevin Middlebrooks, LPMT, MT-BC

Children’s Bereavement Services

Do you know of a child who is currently experiencing grief? We may not think of it too often, but where there are grieving adults, there are sure to be grieving children.girl-with-candle
The holidays can be a very difficult time for a young one to experience the sorrows that can accompany death or divorce.
 
You may know a child who is experiencing anticipatory grief; a grief reaction that occurs before an impending loss. If a child knows that their sibling, parent, grandparent, or friend will soon die, they are likely already grieving and may need additional support.
 
Our Songs of Hope Children’s Bereavement Music Therapy Services may be just what they need. All services are absolutely free due to grant-funding from Wellspring International.
Please share this post to help us reach more hurting families in the metro Atlanta area.

 

2016-12-13T21:48:46+00:00December 13th, 2016|Grief & Loss, Holidays, Music Therapy|

Freedom Isn’t Free – #MemorialDay

“Freedom isn’t free.”

We hear it so often, especially during the time surrounding patriotic holidays. But these words have been ringing loudly in my ear this weekend as I spend time with my family; drinking coffee in my pjs, watching movies, playing with legos, watching my children run through the sprinkler in their friends’ yard. My family is whole and complete this weekend and everyone is here with me enjoying this precious down time.

I doubt that any veteran or their family would want us to feel guilty for enjoying this holiday weekend while their loved one is overseas, here in the states working, or is home from active duty with a life-long injury or scar to remind them of their time-served. I don’t think that guilt will help anyone heal. I do think that each veteran and their family would appreciate a pause in our celebrating – just a moment to think about what their sacrifice has meant to them, their family, and what it is has done for each of us.

I wrote the song below this weekend and wanted to share it with you all. From my family to yours: thank you to all of the veterans and active-duty military who know the cost of our freedom.
signature2

 


Freedom Isn’t Free
© Mallory Even 2015

They say that freedom isn’t free
In the land of love and liberty
Some pay a price that’s never known
Some pay the price and never make it home
The land of the brave and the home of the free
We only hope that you can see…
Because you’ve served, I can tuck my children in at night,
Because you’ve served, I’ll follow my dreams into daylight
Because you’ve served, I know the price you paid for me
Because you’ve served, we can be free – ee – ee – ee (repeat)

Watch it here:

 

2016-12-03T04:33:12+00:00May 24th, 2015|Holidays|
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