Thursday, September 20, 2012


I know this is a bit late, but I just found it... thank you pinterest! And since I've been a terrible blogger lately - I thought I'd share. Enjoy!

Ilene Woods, the voice of Cinderella, died on July 1, 2010, at age 81, from causes related to Alzheimer’s disease. Towards the end of her life, she did not recognize a lot of what was going on around her, and did not remember that she had been the voice of Cinderella, but her nurses found that she was most comforted by “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes,” so they played it for her as often as possible.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


If you are a music therapist, likely you understand the above paradox. People's perceptions are all different about what "music therapy is".  Hence why we need a “elevator ride” length pitch on music therapy in our back pocket at any moment in time. Starting a new position I have been asked to explain what music therapy is multiple times in the past week alone. AND if you have any experience as a MT (even as a student or intern) you may have already encountered some preconceived notions and well... to be honest... annoying comments/assumptions/generalizations that people may make. For example: My first day out in the field with my new colleague we were greeted at a facility by their front desk personnel with a cheerful,

“Oh great! The entertainment is here!” I kind of assumed that my fellow MT might brush it off and go on her way, but instead she politely corrected the lady across the desk with a short, simple, and non-judgmental educational statement on what she was actually there to do. The employee's eyes widened slightly, you could see the wheels turning in her head as she understood just a bit more about “what music therapy is”. She was genuinely interested and impressed. I had that old familiar PSA theme running through my mind, "The More You Know"...

We all have that cousin, or friend of a friend, or neighbor that at some point says to us, “You paid all that money to go to school and learn to be a music therapist! I'm a (enter other non-music therapy related credentials here) and I just sing to/play a CD for my patients/kids/dog!”

I have a basset hound but she wont sing with me. I've tried. Maybe I'm NOT a music therapist...

Well, that's fantastic that you sing to them. Really. It is. Music is a fantastic and powerful part of care giving. HOWEVER! When I drag a guitar, computer, industrial sized hand sanitizer, sanitizing wipes, song books, paddle drums/xylophone/electric keyboard/ocean drum/thunder tube up to a patient's bedside it is not a grand entrance for the “Annie Walljasper Music Hour”. I'm on a mission. I've taken time to plan and prepare. I've created goals to work on for each client. I've checked up on, studied, and planned out the best way to serve their diagnosis. I do more than sing. I do more than play the guitar. I watch every little action and reaction. I change my approach on a dime. I create goals for patients, I develop ways to achieve those goals. I collect data and prove to doctors, nurses, social workers, as well as insurance companies and the government that what I am doing is clinical, beneficial, and appropriate. It's a clinical and evidence-based way to assist others in order to help them accomplish social, emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual goals. In order to reach those goals, I use music intervention. It's THERAPY, and I use music to do it. 

Furthermore, in order to "do music therapy" you must be a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program. Music therapists take courses in everything from biology, anatomy, and psychology to acting,
There are many fantastic colleges and universities who offer
music therapy education... the University of Iowa is just one of them
conducting, orchestration, and movement to voice lessons, music research, music theory, and music appreciation. Not to mention specific courses such as "Music Therapy in Special Education" or "Music Therapy and Older Adults". After completing coursework and studying hard, our young budding music therapist goes on to a six month internship. They must apply, interview, and successful secure and internship and then work (normally 40 hours a week) more often than not without pay. Interns gain real world experience and truly get a taste for what it is like to be a full time employed MT - at least I did.

AFTER you complete all 1,080 hours of your internship it's time to start studying up. There's a big old certification exam. The CBMT Board Certification examination consists of a 150 question multiple-choice test, you are allotted 3 hours to complete it, and it costs a pretty penny (if I do say so myself). Now, some of you may ask "Why? Why get certified?" The credential MT-BC is to provide an objective national standard that can be used as a measure of professionalism. Basically having the credential allows the public to identify qualified practitioners who have passed a national exam measuring the knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary to competently practice in the field of music therapy for the given year. So, they KNOW that they are getting someone who knows what they are doing and are doing it with intent... not just playing a CD. Also, it's a way to hold me accountable for my actions. If I am not working within my scope of practice (meaning if I am pretending to know how to do something I don't know how to do) or if I am doing something unethical or illegal, there is a certification board who will hold me to higher standards or will revoke my credentials. When you finally take the test, you find out right away as to whether or not you passed. Thank God, because just waiting for the results to print off was a torturous wait itself. If you passed, you then get mailed an official certificate that looks like this:

Isn't it beautiful? I think so. So, then you frame it and hang it in your office... or in your car if you work for hospice. I might put mine on a chain and just wear it around. I'm the Flava Flav of music therapy,

"Yeah boooiiii!"

And then? Well, then you GET A JOB! Oh an every 5 years you either have to have continuing education credits or you have to retake the test... darn that whole keeping you accountable thing. ;)

Whew, I'm tired just thinking about all that work! But you know what, it's totally worth it. Everyday I am honored to share some of the more intimat