My response to a recent dig at Music Therapy Advocacy…/is-licensing-music-…/

Deregulating service industries places the responsibility on the consumer, many of whom don't have resources (time, networks) in order to do their own research about a field. Deregulation also brings down the respect for that field because even if 70% Of music therapists are doing great work, if someone chooses an unvetted silly person- that's what they'll remember and tell others about the work.
AND it's devaluing education. Why bother to get a degree in anything if you can just watch YouTube videos and hang a shingle on your new (insert procedure) Clinic? There's something to be said about conservatism and personal responsibility- and then there's the realities of education levels in this country and there is good reason to protect the public. While I do think that it's a bit of a reach to say there is a danger presented to the public by non MTBCs providing music (for entertainment or education), there is danger in an uneducated guitar-holder providing music therapy. To the client, and to the person providing a service in a space they can't properly hold.

There is No 'Disability' Without 'Ability'....

This past weekend I went to Space Gallery to see Gaelynn Lea , a violinist and songwriter who was clearly born with musical genius but has recently burst into the spotlight due to the NPR Tiny Desk Concert Contest which she WON! (against our band... no hard feelings! ;)). I was completely blown away and have since had Lea's album, The Songs We Sing Along the Way, on repeat in my car. Her voice is full, clear, honest, and unlike any female singer I've ever heard. The lyrics have moved me to deep emotion and clarity, providing a sense of peace. I haven't even dug in to her other albums yet, because I'm enjoying this one so much. 

As described on her website, "Gaelynn has a congenital disability called Osteogenesis Imperfecta, or Brittle Bones Disease. In recent years, she has used her music as a platform to advocate for people with disabilities and to promote positive social change." At the Space Gallery show, the ED of Disability Rights Maine moderated a Q&A - my favorite thing about it was that ALL of the audience questions were about Lea's music, not her disability. My heart was so full from being in the audience, I wished everyone I knew could have experienced it. Particularly some of my clients who are differently abled or whose bodies don't quite fit around the musical instruments they're trying to play. It can be so discouraging to a) not have the adapted tools necessary to create and b) not have representative role models. But they are out there. And the more opportunities for the general public to see these role models, the BETTER.

With most assumptions about 'groups' of people, it isn't malintent but unfamiliarity on the part of the assumer. I have watched strangers shout slowly at adult clients with cerebral palsy enough times to know this- and people with disabilities have, forever, had to be the bigger (:more patient, more kind, more generous) person. I'm so looking forward to the era when media is representative of the gorgeous diversity of humans- and not in the "We have one person in a wheelchair on this TV show and their entire character is about the chair" sort of way- the 'Gaelynn Lea writes and performs incredible music and the audience doesn't have any questions about her chair way'. 

So with that, go check out Gaelynn Lea's music. Try not to make assumptions about people who look different from you. Do ask questions. And if you have suggestions of other inspiring artists, please let me know!


Kate's Space: A New Music Therapy Clinic

I held my first online fundraiser this year because in September I signed a lease on my first music therapy clinic space! I still have my office in Portland, but this space on Main Street in Saco is centrally located with plenty of parking spaces so that I can hold groups and see more individual clients at a lower cost. Since my business goals have always been to see music therapy become more accessible in Maine, this aligns well. I am also still working at Maine Medical Center, Morrison Center, and other facilities doing neurologic music therapy work, but now I have a space for my music psychotherapy practice with adults and families. 

Friends, clients, and strangers have been immensely helpful at getting this fundraiser started. They've also been immensely helpful at getting my space set up!! Thank you to everyone who has donated, shared the campaign, or stopped by to help paint or fix a doorway. Thank you to everyone who sent me suggestions of where to get items for the space at a lower rate!! Because I saved so much money on the furniture, especially, I stopped promoting the fundraiser before reaching the amount I had budgeted for. 

Now I have a new, special goal. If we can finish the fundraiser, the last $1,000 will be put into a special fund to offer a yearly scholarship to a Maine student who is studying music therapy. When I was in high school at Gorham and at USM, I received scholarships that helped me reach my goals. And after finishing my master's degree at NYU, I know how expensive a music therapy program is. Tuition, but even more so the books and instruments you'll need for this career. Every little bit helps. In the past 5 years alone, I've spoken to over 30 Maine students who are going on to study music therapy. Help me help one of them this spring with the new Sarah Jane Music Therapy Scholarship Fund!! This is named after my grandmother, who was a pianist, piano teacher, and member of the Annie Louise Cary Club. 

And please stop by during one of our open houses, October 22 & 23. Saturday from 1-3 will be an open jam session during Saco's Main St Festival, and Sunday from 1-3 will be a more formal open house. :) See you there! 

“Together is Better”: Making art with new Mainers to build community

Refugee resettlement programs in Maine have created development and investment in communities but has lacked cohesion at times. Urban and rural areas should look for ways to assimilate new Mainers without taking away from their home culture identities- one way to do this is through public and community art. Humans have a fundamental relationship with the arts- the creative imperative is almost a biological necessity. The arts have a dynamic role as a mediating connection to meaning, identity, and cultural expression. Specifically for the refugee population, art making involves processes of conflict transformation, resolution, survival, social reconstruction, healing and acceptance.  New Mainers have a lot to offer the social capital of their communities. Sharing indigenous art forms can help them become civically and socially engaged while maintaining their cultural identity. This balance is important to keep a society functioning effectively.

Sharing artmaking experiences can help promote physical health, maintain family cohesion, and make social and economic connections. Teaching an art or craft, especially, allows for self-assertion as teachers and allies to new neighbors. It can also enable elders to communicate cultural traditions to younger generations (who may not remember or may not have even seen) and incorporate these traditions into their new land. Art invokes playfulness through unique expression and can be expanded upon to overlap into present circumstances of families.

Creating art often mirrors the creation of purpose and reinforces a sense of power and agency. Therapists and facilitators in art, dance, music, and theatre can offer tools to help cope with trauma and dislocation. A student at Telling Room in Portland created this multimedia piece on the unrest in Burundi, processing some of her feelings about war while containing it in a short format.

Sharing art with community members will foster cooperative values, engender mutual respect, and challenge stereotypes. It’s important for communities to explore their own deeply embedded cultural assumptions. Two conflicting groups in Ghana, the Konkombas and the Dagombas learned the intricacies of the ‘other’ through psychodrama’s techniques of role reversal and staged scenario exercises. The arts can safely address sensitive issues, indirectly and directly discussing them for public consideration. Check out this creative writing from a student at Tree Street Youth in Lewiston, addressing some of the misconceptions about Somalians and swimming programs. 

What are some considerations in putting together arts programming for refugee populations? First of all, they need to be participatory- this type of art has intrinsic value in its ability to inspire (sort of like religion). Also be sure programs are intergenerational and community-based so as to create shared expressions of culture. Explicit group dynamics combined with individual creativity will create the strongest connections. Civic bridging and bonding will happen if the programs are accessible to a broader group- invite community members old and new. Partner with social services agencies to provide the safest structure for participants- personal disclosure should not be a requirement, and focus should be on present feelings and future goals.

If you’re interested in starting an arts program for new Mainers in your community, go into it with a conscious interest in learning about another culture, not preconceived ideas and plans. Participants should feel a sense of ownership and choice in what they’re doing. Facilitators should model respect and equality, and be able to adapt different experience levels to the creative process. Be sure, if you’re facilitating a group from a culture you have little experience in, that you spend more time listening than speaking. 

A case (study) for hospital-based music therapy

Working together, we used music as a distraction, as a reward, and as the motivation. Responding to Mia’s actions and moods through musical improvisation meant that she felt understood and was more motivated to participate in the therapy session. The music pushed her to lift higher, stretch longer, and laugh in the middle of crying.

Read More

Music Therapy and Parkinson's Disease

Why is Music Therapy Good for People with Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinson’s Disease, like many medical diagnoses, brings with it many challenges. Along with the obvious physical difficulties, a new diagnosis can be stressful for both the patient and his/her loved ones. Navigating a confusing system of healthcare options while just trying to get through a day without pain or discomfort can be exhausting, and many patients feel alone in the process. Music therapy, particularly group music therapy, is an option that can address cognitive, physical, and psychosocial issues all at once. Here are a few key examples:


Steadier gait, improved walking speed

            Rhythmic Auditory Stimulation is when the music therapist creates music to match the tempo of the walker, and then gradually increases the tempo (or pace) of the music. The walker will entrain to this tempo and gait will even out, improving speed and balance.

Improved Clarity of Speech

            Melodic Intonation Therapy is a technique that’s been used by speech therapists for years. Important phrases are slowed down and sung to a steady beat until the speaker is able to enunciate clearly, when the music is removed and then the melody is removed and the phrases are spoken. Singing of familiar songs and beloved melodies bring up memories and associations that motivate group members to participate, keeping up with the words of the song.

Emotional Well Being, Quality of Life

            Listening to music can help individuals relax- in music therapy, receptive techniques are explored on a deeper level. Guided imagery and breathing exercises are resources that can be taken home and practiced more regularly for long-term results. Lyric discussion allows clients to discuss feelings and life circumstances in a safe, contained environment.

            Group music therapy helps build lasting connections within a community, creating peer resources for social support and health advocating.

Improved Motor Function in the Extremities

            Therapeutic instrument playing in a group setting increases range of motion and physical strength- percussion instruments, especially, are a fun and accessible instrument for those who have never studied music but want to benefit from music making!



Models of Music Therapy

any music therapist should have clinical practice backed by firm research and implemented with creativity and flexibility

Read More

"Je ne savais comment l'atteindre, où le rejoindre... C'est tellement mystérieux le pays des larmes." -Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

There is more to empathy than just taking on another person's feelings. It's about being open to how someone might feel, without judgment or assumption. It's about actively listening, and then really thinking about what you say and whether it really needs to be said. Sometimes, the best way to listen is silently. 

Read More

Music Therapy for Processing Emotion in Clients with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

This tension is representative of the aforementioned difficult emotions- suspense, uncertainty, sadness- and the resolution can help listeners move through these issues to a resolution of positivity. Unresolved tensions in music, as well as key changes or rhythmic surprises, can help listeners learn to deal with unexpected changes and accept them.

Read More

Decoding the Therapy Alphabet (and choosing the best fit!)

To recap, if you’re looking for a therapist, look for the following:

I.               Intensive academic study in their field.

II.             Supervised clinical experience.

III.           Certification, Registration, or Licensure.

Read More