Your Guide to Advocacy Zen

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Note: Earlier this month we found out about Social Media Advocacy Month. It’s been going on since 2013, and this year Earthtones SO EXCITED to take part! Spearheaded by Kimberly Sena Moore, the mission is to empower music therapists to advocate for our profession. So enjoy this guest blog post, and let’s get advocating!  – Emilie Wright, MT-BC

Advocacy can help open doors, produce opportunities for growth, expand your horizons, and grow your personal and professional network.

That said, advocacy is also not without its challenges. Over the course of the past decade, music therapists have been faced with responding to misinformed, potentially damaging comments that can serve to undermine the profession and services we provide, all while striving to continue moving forward with advocacy efforts that make a positive difference. These negative exchanges can lead to feelings of frustration, anger, and stress, and serve to potentially distract us from focusing on our clients and our work.

In light of the contentiousness that seems to surround legislative and policy issues, we propose incorporating a spirit of mindfulness to advocacy efforts. Mindfulness is defined as a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. This requires an awareness of our attitudes, feelings, thoughts, and actions; an understanding of how they impact our experiences and behaviors; and a willingness to take responsibility for our mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical well-being.

To that end, we offer the following guide to assist you in your search of an advocacy zen space and ask…when have you been REACTIVE or PROACTIVE in your advocacy efforts?

Scenario 1: When feeling REACTIVE to a misinformed comment, demeaning question, or misleading blog post…

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How to react from an advocacy zen space:

Step 1 – Perceive. Notice the feeling and visceral reaction you are experiencing. Be aware of your physiological response to the situation.

Step 2 – Process. Implement coping strategies to help you process through your reaction and self-regulate. Take a slow, measured breath, count to 10, or walk away from the situation and take a break.

Step 3 – Respond. Be intentional in what you say and do in response to the situation. Redirect the conversation to the main focus: the client.

Scenario 2: When being PROACTIVE by taking initiative in advocating for the profession and our clients…

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How to react from an advocacy zen space:

Step 1 – Visualize. Begin with the end of mind. Imagine what your ideal outcome would be without barriers and challenges. Envision your goal or purpose.

Step 2 – Develop. Focus on the strengths of your current situation as you design your strategy. What is working for you? What’s going well? What do you have that you can build upon?

Step 3 – Accept. Approach your plan with an attitude of acceptance. Though you begin with the end in mind, you may not know the path to get there or the obstacles that may occur. Be open to and accepting of the options and possibilities that are presented to you.

As the music therapy profession continues to move forward in its advocacy efforts, we encourage you to be mindful in your reactive responses and proactive endeavors. We cannot control the vitriol and negativity that seems common to the political climate, but we can control and take responsibility for our own reactions and responses. Let’s continue in our efforts from this  intentional advocacy zen space.

Earthtones Spotlight – Tonya Fisher

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Tonya Fisher, MT-BC is many things. She is a genealogy enthusiast, a rock fan (both the musical and geological variety), and a karaoke champion. And if that wasn’t enough, she is a wonderful music therapist! She loaned her powerful voice and presence to Earthtones after completing her internship with us last year, and we couldn’t be happier to have her on board.

What drew you to music therapy?

I wanted to find a career that would be rewarding for me, that helped other people, and yet allowed me to make music every day. For a long time I worked in the restaurant industry and was really dissatisfied with that. It was taking a toll on my mental health AND my physical health!

How did you become a music therapist?

I was actually complaining to my therapist in a session one day about how dissatisfied I was. We were listing the qualities that other people had remarked on in regards to me, things that I had noticed, what I love to do… and she’s the one who said, “Have you ever heard of music therapy? I think you would be perfect at it!”

So then I went and did an online search for music therapy to find out what it would take to be a music therapist. I saw that, in my own backyard, there was a program at Marylhurst. I applied, and I got in!

What population do you work with?

Mostly adults with developmental disabilities and memory care.

Do you have one population in particular that resonates with you?

I love them all but I think I love memory care the most. I’m also very interest in working in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit), although I’ve only completed the first tier in certification*.

*In order to work with this very fragile population, music therapists must undergo a 3-tier certification training.

Tell us about a typical day for you.

A typical day will have probably 3-4 sessions, and I will be in my car a lot. Depending on my day, I’m probably in the car from noon to 6:30 PM driving to and from clients! I try to plan for a week in advance, then review my plan in the morning to make sure it’s fresh. I usually do something in the evening for self-care, either writing, singing a song, doing research…

Me: Research  for self care?

Well in the evening sometimes I’ll look up something about a population I’m interested in. Like I said I want to keep it fresh, and not do the same things over and over.

After every session I jot down notes in the notebook I carry with me so I can remember the significant highlights and whether goals were met. Which makes it easier when you’re writing 15 quarterly reports!

What has surprised you the most about your work?

Just about every session I have I get to witness little minor miracles…some of them not so minor! I get to see clients with dementia who haven’t spoken in a length of time, suddenly open up and start singling. Or talking to me and having a conversation! Or persons with developmental disabilities who are nonverbal who suddenly starting singing the horn part to “I Feel Good!” [by James Brown] *She sings it and shimmies, before bursting out laughing*

Just, the happiness I have now. I can’t describe it. It’s not work, it’s magic!

Who has influenced you?

There is a myriad of female music therapists in the Portland that have influenced me. Jodi Winnwalker, Laura Beer, Chris Korb, Liska McNally, Emily Ross, Beth Rousseau, Jessica Western…
Another mentor of mine is [Earthtones music therapist] Ted Owen!  He’s so laid back and had such good advice for me. He takes a “Let’s just see what’s gonna happen” approach.
There are a whole bunch of people that influenced me in the field. Then other times my own family experiences will come back, like the song that I sang with grandmother or my mom. I can use my familial knowledge of their generation to connect with my clients. They influenced me too!

Favorite genre of music?

I would say probably rhythm and blues.

What about your favorite song?

Right now it’s Build Me up Buttercup!

Any advice for someone who wants to become a music therapist?

A great way to see if this might be for you is to try a job shadow. I think if I would have had a chance to do that you’ll have a good idea of what you’re getting into. Get to know your music therapy community and learn what it is that we do. Read the AMTA scope of practice. Just do your research!

Make a list of your strengths, and build on them. Know yourself: your interaction style, how you deal with stress, etc! If music is a joyful experience for you then this will probably be a joyful job for you.

If you’re someone who has had life experience and considering going back to school, it’s doable. Don’t be afraid to go back and do this if the calling is there. Don’t let age hold you back! It’s never too late to bring the joy that you deserve into your life and help others.

Intern Highlights – This is Bananas!

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I recently went to observe one of our interns, Yu-Wen Huang, at a memory care facility. Our interns are currently at the mid-way point of their internship and they are starting to develop their own style and presence. With Yu-Wen’s permission, I’d like to share a snapshot from the session with you.

 

The session was underway and we’d just finished singing some familiar songs. Yu-Wen was getting ready to distribute scarves for an expressive movement experience she had planned, when suddenly the activities director (who is a fantastic woman by the way), began giving each of the clients their snack – a banana!

So now they had their hands and their mouths full! Let me just say that when I was an intern, this would have seriously freaked me out. Yu-Wen, however, held her ground. She sang a few more familiar songs and was generous enough to let me have a crack at singing “Day-O.” When the clients were done snacking, she grabbed a napkin and swapped out their banana peels for scarves.

It’s little moments like those that I love. To the untrained eye, it’s imperceptible. But if you know what to look for you can see that in one move, Yu-Wen managed to remove an obstacle and ease the session onwards, all while maintaining her own composure, preserving the dignity of the clients, and holding the therapeutic space.  If that’s not professional, I don’t know what is!

The Story of Earthtones

Edit 10/27/16 : Just to clarify, we here at Earthtones have a long and vibrant history of over 25 years with tons of incredible people involved. I wrote this poem for our admin retreat and really focused on the current members of our administrative team. If I wrote a comprehensive story it would be like 10 pages long. But ya know, I might make it a long term project to write a Poetic Edda Earthtones-style someday! 

 

The Earthtones admin team had a retreat this past weekend. We put our heads together and talked about all kinds of exciting stuff – The future of Earthtones, what our goals are, how to better serve our precious clients. In order to get a good look at where we’re going, we wanted to understand where we came from. I was tasked to write up a “History of Earthtones.” I tried, seriously, for hours to write our story in prose, but it just was not coming out right. It felt too formal and not like the vibrant group I know and love. Instead of tearing out my hair, I did what I do best. I adapted! What came out was a poem that’s part “Night Before Christmas,” part Shel Silverstein, and all kinds of awesome. I hope you’ll enjoy….

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Gather ‘round one and all, for a tale that will delight and excite

The Story of Earthtones…

(Harp/Dream sequence music)

Earthtones began some time ago, in 1992

Founded by Jodi Winnwalker, MT-BC, LCSW

Jodi’s brother David was an inspiration

For a family business of love, service and communication

By 1997 Earthtones started to blossom

Beyond the scope of just one soul, because it was so awesome

Though it was a good problem, it still had to be solved

And so Jodi got independent contractors involved

As time continued to pass, things just grew and grew

Until in 2001 when Jodi added interns too

By 2007 the internship was formalized

And all the students in the land knew that to be accepted was a prize

The interns from that year were Ted Owen and Liska McNally

Who will always be part of the Earthtones family

And at the time, there were a few contracts here and there

With names that you may recognize, like Lambert House, Marie Smith Center, and Marquis Care

Liska recalls watching Jodi work with a group at Glendoveer Place

Thinking of it still brings a smile to her face

As the music was playing Jodi walked outside of the circle

And on each person’s back, gave a touch so gentle

Liska laughed as she told me the rest

She said she felt like she had been blessed

Back in those days, the headquarters for Earthtones

Was located on the top floor of Jodi’s home

Jodi mentored the interns as only she could

By baking them brownies — they tasted so good

But in 2011 enough was enough

Running a business from home became tough

She searched and she searched for just the right place

And the answer to that was TaborSpace

A single office, though, just wouldn’t do

And so the space was divided in two

Liska was the internship director for a spell

She loved her job, and she did it well

But as time went on, she knew she couldn’t stay

And they had to find someone who could take her place

Jodi tried to bring on another director

But some didn’t work out, and some just didn’t “get” her

Until in 2011 in a beacon of light,

Maggie Johnson arrived to solve the plight

(In that same intern cohort, lest we forget,

Was Keeley St. Claire, but we’ll get to her yet)

It was clear from the moment she arrived on the scene

That Maggie would be a strong addition to the team

(She became internship director in 2013)

By now, I suppose, you’re starting to see

How Earthtones in its current shape came to be

But you would be quite wrong if you thought we were done

So snuggle up as we continue the fun

2014 was an eventful year

As even more familiar faces appeared

That was the year Keeley started CHIRP!

A program for young children and their families to be heard

Her enthusiasm was contagious, as was the demand

And soon CHIRP had classes all over Portland

Kate Bodin was hired as Associate Director

And introduced the horticultural therapy sector

It was a beautiful merging of music and nature

Something that Jodi was eager to feature

Through Kate, Jodi connected with Genevieve Layman, HTR

Who has proven to be a real rock star

For two lovely years, things were steady

And Jodi said, “Okay, I’m ready

To expand and solidify behind the scenes

And bring some new admins onto our team.”

So she hired Emilie Wright, social media whiz

(Hey I can take credit, it is what it is!)

Then not too long ago, just this summer

Kate had to take leave, it was a huge bummer

It became obvious then, how much Kate had done

To help Earthtones excel and be number one

It was a very long search to find the right fit

But when we met Lauren Moomaw we knew she was it

Her organization skills were top notch

She skipped through paperwork like it’s hopscotch

Jodi’s dear husband Greg Wheeler was pleased

Having Lauren and Gen made his job a breeze

For although he still had his hands full with tech

He could think about accounting without breaking into a sweat

As the season changed and the autumn leaves fell

Who finished her internship but Greta Arell

Greta was professional, wise, and sharp

She even taught a client how to play autoharp

Along with Greta was Patricia Chang

Compassionate, client centered, and played beautiful songs

From the start of their internship ‘til the end Jodi knew

That it would be a mistake not to hire those two

That brings us to now, and oh what a dream

To be part of this wonderful Earthtones team

Jodi encourages us to be true to ourselves

To treat each other and our clients well!

Come On Baby, Let’s Do the Twist

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If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably already well acquainted with how awesome music can be. Maybe you’re a music therapist, or know and love one. You might be an activity director who has seen your residents sing along to Frank Sinatra long after they’re lost their ability to speak. Or maybe you know the feeling of getting in the car after a long day and hearing your favorite song come on the radio. No matter what, nearly everyone has some kind of connection with music. That’s why I want to share this next story with you. If you love music, you’ll understand.

It’s Monday after a weekend of pouring rain. The sun is trying to peek through the clouds. I get called in for an impromptu music therapy session at a day program for adults with mental health needs. I and another music therapist normally have a group here on Tuesday and Thursdays but they requested an extra session this week and I’m glad to step in. When I walk in the door I see a woman beelining towards the exit, staff not far behind. Exit-seeking behavior is a common symptom in dementia, and the staff at this day program are well-versed in redirection, but nothing seems to be working. I make eye contact with the director and she says, “Do you want to go to music?” The woman looks at the director, looks at me, and says, “I don’t think I can.” I approach the woman with my hand extended and introduce myself. She takes my hand and tells me her name. Then I ask, “Do you like rock & roll?” The woman’s eyes light up. Like the sun peeking through the clouds, her affect begins to brighten. She starts humming and moving her shoulders up and down in time, and enthusiastically agrees to walk to my group with me. We hum “The Twist” by Chubby Checker as we go.

A Golden Moment

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Not long ago I had a gentleman join one of my memory care groups. We can call him “John.” For the first few weeks that I saw him, John sat on the periphery of the group and declined invitations to join in. One day he was wearing an Oregon Bach Festival t-shirt, so I naturally struck up a conversation with him. John was soft spoken and kind, and from that point on we bonded easily over our mutual love for baroque music. When I brought my flute to a session and played a sonata by Handel, he lit up. After that it took very little prompting for John to make himself comfortable in the group. He played maracas and sang along to Sinatra. One afternoon John’s wife came to visit and sat in on a music therapy session. She pulled me aside afterwards and said, “I haven’t seen him like that in a very long time. You’re the only one who can reach the real John.”

 

Working as music therapists gives us a special and unique perspective. We get the gift of seeing our clients in a light that is only possible through music. If you believe in magic, this is where it happens. I feel honored to be a part of it!

Song List Series – Classic Rock Songs with Vowels in the Chorus

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This may seem like an oddly specific sub-genre, but music therapists often work with clients that have speech goals. Songs that have sustained or repeated vowels in the chorus can address breath control, word “shaping,” and even self-expression! Plus, in this day and age classic rock is an increasingly popular genre that reaches across generations.

  • “Who Are You” by The Who
  • “Jersey Girl” by Bruce Springsteen
  • “Brown Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison
  • “Livin’ on a Prayer” by Bon Jovi
  • “D’yer Mak’er” by Led Zeppelin
  • “Sweet Child of Mine” by Guns n Roses
  • “Take on Me” by a-ha
  • “Crocodile Rock” by Elton John
  • “Don’t Worry Be Happy” by  Bobby McFerrin
  • “Immigrant Song” by Led Zeppelin
  • “Obla Di Obla Da” by The Beatles
  • “Bad to the Bone” by George Thorogood
  • “Listen to the Music” by Doobie Brothers
  • “Bobby McGee” by Janis Joplin
  • “Judy Blue Eyes” by Crosby, Stills & Nash

 

Tune in next week for songs with great hooks!