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A huge thank you to the Certification Board for Music Therapists for helping our clients verify that we are, indeed, highly-qualified to provide clinical music therapy services! When searching for a Music Therapist, be sure that they are nationally board-certified through the one and only credentialing board, CBMT, and look for this badge!

Board-certified music therapists are able to practice music therapy with the highest level of proven, current music therapy knowledge using clinical and evidence-based music interventions. These interventions are utilized to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship addressing physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs of individuals. This knowledge is enhanced by a program of required continuing education and renewal every five years.

SKILLS:

  • Certification
  • Competence
  • Music Therapist
  • Music Therapy
  • Music Therapy Assessment
  • Music Therapy Evaluation
  • Music Therapy Treatment

Dungeons & Dragons & Music Therapy Advocacy

Did you know that March is Music Therapy Awareness Month?
Cool stuff!
Did you know that the idea of “advocating for my profession” makes me super duper uncomfortable?

Well, it does. And here we are.

March. Music Therapy Awareness Month.
Guess I should, like, advocate?

I mean, okay, I know it’s important!
There’s a lot of misinformation about Music Therapy out there, and it’s in the best interest of our current and future Clients – not to mention our brothers and sisters in therapeutic arms – that the general public is made aware of what exactly Music Therapy is, and what it isn’t. Music Therapy is an evidence-based (founded in research) practice, carried out by collegiate-program-educated, board-certified – and (depending on the State) licensed – health professionals, who are called “therapists” for a reason. Namely, that they are, in fact, trained therapists.
We know this, but a lot of people don’t yet. And that’s okay!
We’re learning and spreading awareness together.

I think what makes me hesitate when it comes to advocacy is that I never want to come across as confrontational, defensive, or – Heaven forbid – hostile. I don’t want to be throwing immediate correction in the face of some poor bystander whose only crime was uttering the words, “musical therapy.” And my people-pleasing self would rather let someone continue in misunderstanding than step on toes and “rock the boat,” as it were. I go to the extreme in thinking that advocacy is automatically aggressive in nature. (It’s not.)

If you’re a Music Therapist, maybe you struggle in the same way.

Or maybe you’re one of those gung-ho, shoot from the hip, neon signs and billboards advocators. If so, more power to you!

For the rest of us,
I hope this blog will be an encouragement.
There really is a positive, affirming way to spread awareness and excitement about Music Therapy.
And for me, a good method was put into words by a friend while playing “Dungeons & Dragons.” (Yes, I am a nerd, and I am proud.)

Us fighting Music Therapy misconceptions.

My friend, who was the “Dungeon Master” – the head honcho, if you will – said that, in a game of role playing and improvisation, everyone brings something new and interesting to the story. So his job as facilitator is to have an attitude of “Yes And,” rather than one of “No But.” In other words, agreeing – if possible – with what is brought to the table and helping the player make the most of it – without derailing the game. Then contributing something new to help create the best experience for the players.

In my head, I’ve been afraid of “No But” advocacy. (And rightly so.)

  • “No, Music Therapy is not lying on a couch and listening to smooth jazz for an hour to relax. Why would you think that?”
  • “No, I don’t just teach my Clients how to play instruments. Then I’d be a Music Teacher, obviously.”
  • “These plebeians have no clue what it is I do, and therefore I must educate them.”

Feels rude just to write these kinds of responses here.
So I’ve avoided advocacy altogether.

The truth is, most people I talk to about my job have a genuine curiosity. Their questions and initial thoughts about what sessions could look like are valid!“Yes And” advocacy acknowledges the validity of these initial thoughts while contributing new, expanded knowledge on the subject.

  • “Yes, music is so powerful as a tool to help ease anxiety and shift mood states! And actually, did you know that research shows it can be even more effective to use Client preferred music than just ‘easy listening’?”
  • “You’re right! Learning instruments is a great way to practice motor skills, increase breath support, improve cognitive function – that really touches on a lot of the non-musical goals we might be addressing with a Client! The main difference is that the end goal for our Therapy sessions are those non-musical objectives, whereas a music lesson focuses primarily on the knowledge and ability to play the instrument itself.”
  • “These folks have a good head-start in understanding Music Therapy. Let me help them learn even more about it.”

Now that’s positive and affirming, and educational!

There are certainly times when a person may be convinced of something factually inaccurate regarding Music Therapy. And there are times when people might be spreading misinformation or attempting to advertise themselves as “Music Therapists” without any training or certification. In these moments, correction is necessary. “No” is not a bad word. But for those genuinely interested folks who just want to understand, an attitude of “Yes And” can make Music Therapy advocacy an enriching experience for everyone involved.

Thank you, Dungeons & Dragons, for helping me to see advocacy in a new, positive light.

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

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

Adapted Lessons vs. Music Therapy: What’s the Difference?

As a Music Therapist, I (along with many others, I’m sure) often hear the following question: “So, what do you do? Do you teach music to your clients?” And while Music Therapy most often looks different than what would be called a “music lesson”, there are certainly situations in which the teaching of a new instrument within a therapeutic relationship can be immensely beneficial. On the other hand, when I tell people that I do also teach “adapted piano lessons”, I receive another logical question: “What does that mean?” And once again, you may find therapeutic elements within an Adapted Lesson, especially when taught by a Board-Certified Music Therapist. Where, then, is the line? How do you decide whether what’s taking place is a lesson or a therapy session? The confusion is understandable. Hence, this blog post! My hope is to offer a quick and simple explanation of the differences between Adapted Lessons and Music Therapy. Ready?

The easiest way to differentiate between Adapted Lessons and Music Therapy (in my mind) is to take a look at your primary goal, and what I like to call “bonus prizes” – secondary effects, also beneficial, that may result from (and aid the process of) working toward said primary goal.

In Adapted Lessons, the Primary Goal is musical.
For example: “I want to learn how to play the piano.”
The “bonus prizes” are non-musical, and may include: improved cognitive functioning, improved fine motor skills, increased self-esteem, increased focus and sustained attention, etc.

In Music Therapy, the Primary Goal(s) is (are) non-musical.
For example: “I want to improve fine motor skills [perhaps for a client with Parkinson’s Disease], thereby enhancing my overall quality of life.”
The “bonus prizes” are musical, and may include: learning to play piano or guitar in the pursuit of practicing fine motor skills, learning to read music, etc.

One more thing to mention: Why the word “adapted”? An adapted piano lesson, as we’ve just discussed, has the same primary goal as any other piano lesson: to teach the student how to play the piano! The word “adapted” simply indicates that the curriculum – the repertoire, the teaching methods, the style of written music, etc. – has been “adapted” to suit the needs of the student. Maybe the student has autism, quickly becomes overstimulated, and could really use a dance break every 5 minutes. Maybe the student has a physical disability that requires repertoire to suit his or her capabilities (no octaves, for example). Whatever the case, the teacher incorporates adaptations to help each individual learn. Does that sound like what any piano teacher would do with a wide variety of students? It should! Teachers do this all the time with their typically developing students! Music Therapists are often preferred for Adapted Lessons, though, simply due to training and experience with a range of disabilities and needs, as well as an understanding of how music affects the brain and the body. Think of it like the difference between a Third Grade teacher who recognizes and responds to the learning styles of each student, and a Special Education teacher who has a specialty in particular styles of learning regarding intellectual and developmental disabilities.

So… Adapted Lessons vs. Music Therapy.
Hopefully the difference is starting to become clear in your mind, but let’s go through a few examples, just to practice!

1) Johnny is a bright young boy with down syndrome who loves music. He has expressed interest in the guitar, and regularly asks his mom if he can learn. Johnny’s mom has reached out to a Music Therapist.
Which are we looking at here? Music Therapy or Adapted Lessons?
… if you said Adapted Lessons, that’s right! Johnny’s primary goal is to learn the guitar. The curriculum may need to be adapted due to the physical and cognitive characteristics of down syndrome, as well as Johnny’s individual preferences and learning style.

2) Claire is a bright young girl with autism who loves music. Her mom has noticed that, although Claire rarely speaks using more than one- or two-word phrases, she will sing along to an entire song on the radio. Claire’s mom has reached out to a Music Therapist.
Which are we looking at here? Music Therapy or Adapted Lessons?
… if you said Music Therapy, that’s right! Claire’s primary goal is to increase communication. Lots of singing will be done in her music therapy sessions, but these are not “voice lessons” – singing will be used as a vehicle to promote communication outside of music. Whether or not Claire sings with correct pitch is irrelevant!

Make sense? I hope so! If you ever get confused between Music Therapy and Adapted Lessons, just look for that Primary Goal!

This has been a message from your friendly neighborhood Music Therapist.

Music Therapy and iPods

gratitudeA few weeks ago, Sam and I had the honor of traveling to St. Simons Island to attend the Georgia Health Care Association’s Annual Social Worker’s Meeting. We were invited to this conference to view the film, Alive Inside, with the conference attendees, and we presented immediately after about the benefits of music therapy for patients and residents in long-term residential care. I want to tell you what we observed, learned, and have taken away from this experience!

First and Foremost, let’s address the elephant in the room: Why do Music Therapists get so fired up about the film, “Alive Inside,” and the hype surrounding it? If you are a music therapist, you know what I mean. If you are not a music therapist, you might be confused as to why our field is a little on edge about this film. I think our collective defensiveness is based off of this simple idea: the common public perception is that the Music & Memory program IS Music Therapy. Many friends and family members have been thrilled to share the news of the film with us, saying, “This reminded me of you and of the work you do!” — and while that should be a compliment, we get defensive because our field is often misunderstood.

During our presentation, I told the room of social workers that as a musician, I was excited to see the seniors in the film receive access to their favorite music. As a music therapist, however, I saw missed opportunities to address clinical goals such as reducing isolation, increasing opportunities for socialization, memory recall, verbal processing, making emotional connections with family members, life review, and improving overall quality of life. This is why the iPod program is not a replacement for music therapy services.

One example of this “missed opportunity” involved Henry, the elderly gentleman with Alzheimer’s. The facility staff described him as being confused and isolated most of the time, a very typical description of any individual with dementia or Alzheimer’s. When the staff placed the headphones on Henry’s ears and began playing his favorite music, Henry became “alive” – he truly lit up. His affect became bright and his eyes flew wide open. He began singing (beautifully), and then recalled memories about the music he was hearing. So why would I call this a missed opportunity? If you watch the room while Henry is having this experience, you see other residents sitting around him, craning their necks with genuine interest to see what Henry is doing. You see Henry, a man who is typically isolated, becoming even more isolated while he closes out the world to listen to his music, completely by himself. I saw this moment as an opportunity to send in a board-certified music therapist to facilitate a group session which would incorporate everyone in the room in any capacity. Henry would then be able to share his memories and experiences with his peers – something that is nearly impossible for him to do when his memory is not livened by the music.

ipodSo, Music Therapists should be defensive then, right? I don’t believe so. This film shows us the positive power that music holds over our minds and memories. I wholeheartedly believe that every human should have access to their favorite music, and should be able to listen to it whenever they want. I also believe that Music Therapy is an effective clinical treatment option and – hear me – should not be implemented in a unit or facility all day every day. We work on clinical treatment goals and our patients and clients get exhausted. They need a mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual break. Just as a physical therapist shouldn’t be with a patient all day every day in order to let the body rest and restore before the next session, we can’t be with a patient 24/7. Music Therapists listen to me carefully: we cannot have it both ways. Let’s be very careful not to contradict ourselves. We can’t ask the world to view our services as something different than music entertainment (which it is!) and also get upset or offended when a facility brings someone or something in to act as entertainment. So we shouldn’t be defensive when a facility with whom we work brings in an iPod program, as long as that program isn’t meant to replace music therapy services (if it is, we need to better educate on the differences between the two, and the exclusive benefits of both).

This is why I believe every facility will benefit from having a music entertainment program (be it iPods, live musicians, etc) AND a music therapy program. People need to listen to music leisurely and for entertainment, and in a separate time and place, patients and clients with any diagnosis should have access to music therapy services to address their treatment goals. It shouldn’t be a choice between one or the other – it should be both.

Music Therapists, we have come a long way in the past 60-70 years. Think about how much further we can go if we were to view music entertainment programs as allies, and not enemies!

*Want to learn more about approaching and educating facilities on the differences between an iPod program and Music Therapy services? Attend the MMT Academy Spring 2016 course entitled, “Music Therapy & iPods” taking place in Atlanta and via live streaming on March 13, 2016! More info announced here on 11.12.15

Why do we need a Music Therapist?

school

It’s a great question, and one that we hear so often.

Can’t a volunteer provide these same services for free? Can’t a classroom teacher, whose salary is already in our budget, do the same thing that the music therapist is doing?

Hey guys, I get it. I’m a business owner, and sometimes it has to come down to the bottom line (even though we know that music therapy services can save your program money). But simply stated: just as a P.E. teacher cannot perform the duties of a physical therapist, a volunteer or classroom teacher cannot do the same thing as a music therapist. Here’s why:

  • In healthcare settings, Music Therapy (MT) is a prescribed clinical treatment option
  • In educational settings, Music Therapy is considered a related service under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
  • Music Therapists are trained and qualified to assess the patient or client’s physical, emotional, educational, and/or spiritual needs
  • MT services are specifically designed to address a patient’s individual treatment plan or a client’s educational goals and objectives
  • Music Therapists complete and maintain clinical documentation after each session
  • Music Therapists have musical, clinical, psychological, and some medical education and training
  • All Music Therapists must complete a six-month clinical internship before graduating from their degree program
  • Music Therapists hold at least a bachelor’s degree in music therapy
  • Music Therapists must sit for and pass the national Board Certification exam to practice music therapy (MT-BC)
  • In Georgia, once board-certified, MTs must become licensed in the state (LPMT)
  • MT-BCs are required to complete 100 hours of continuing education every 5 years

Even if your program isn’t the same type as one listed here in the cost-savings overview, what if I told you that music therapy can add significant value to the services that your program already provides?

I was on the phone with one of our clients the other day, and she told me how valuable our services were for their private school for children with special needs …

“When parents send in their preschool program applications, they request to have their children in school on the same days that music therapy sessions are being held.”

“Families choose us because we offer music therapy through you.”

If you own or manage a program that offers services to children with special needs, or perhaps you provide services to hospice patients that are nearing the end of their lives, then chances are there are other companies surrounding you that offer that exact same services to the exact same potential clients/patients. So, you have to ask yourself, “What makes us stand out from the rest? What makes a family choose us over them? Why are we different?” 

This is a crucial time for healthcare facilities and special education programs. While music therapy is becoming more widely recognized as a healthcare profession, there are still plenty of people and places who have not yet heard of it or felt its effects firsthand. Owners and managers: this is your time. You can become more valuable by providing music therapy services to your clients. You should be one of the firsts in your area to include music therapy in the lists of services you provide. You should be the ones to introduce music therapy to your clients. You should be the ones to tell them how important music therapy is as a part of their treatment plan. You should be the ones to partner with clinically trained, nationally board-certified, and state-licensed music therapists.1mmtlogoresized

2016-12-03T04:33:12+00:00August 12th, 2015|MT Advocacy, MT Misconceptions, Music Therapy|
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