By: Nick Paredes, MT Intern
Music is an intrinsic part of being a teenager. From discovering new music to singing along to familiar songs, listening to, singing, and playing music can help someone open up and express themselves. Especially when words might not be enough, music can help relate and connect.
Music therapy with teenagers can look like all sorts of things; it all depends on the goals and interests of whoever is present, whether in a group or individually. Below are some examples of music therapy experiences a teen might participate in.
With songwriting, a person can have control over the words and sounds of a song while expressing their feelings or processing life experiences. They might choose to rewrite part or all of a song they already know, or start from scratch. The music therapist might help formulate the lyrics, give examples of melodies and harmonies, and be a sounding board for ideas.
Music listening can allow the opportunity to dive deeper into a song’s meaning and its relatability. When words are too difficult or feelings can’t be verbalized, a song can communicate what a person might be experiencing. Music listening could also include relaxation to music, such as progressive muscle relaxation or imagery-based relaxation experiences to help with anxiety and other stressors.
Improvisation in music therapy is when the teenager(s) and the therapist create music together in the moment to express and explore feelings musically; this could also look like one teen taking a turn expressing how they feel on one instrument, while the rest of the group listens and supports them with other instruments. Though the improvisation might be discussed afterwards, improvisation allows for a musical “conversation” to take place, and challenges everyone present to find different ways to communicate and connect. Improvisation could be instrumental (piano, drums, xylophone, body percussion etc.) or vocal, and often is a mix; it all depends on the teens’ preferences and the predetermined goal of the improvisation.
Music making encompasses the rest of what might occur within a music therapy session with teens: singing, playing instruments, and even performing for an audience. This might be playing a song together in a group or singing a favorite song along to a recording. Learning to play new instruments within a therapeutic setting could also give a teen new ways to express themselves and connect with others. Singing itself requires deep breathing, and has been shown to help improve mental health and decrease chronic pain (Bradt et al., 2016).
Creating music in the moment with a teenager is the purest way of working towards understanding, acceptance, and development.
Katrin McFerran, 2010
The flexibility that music allows gives the opportunity to a music therapist and teenager to explore whatever they might be needing in the moment. The music therapist, teenager, and the music itself can foster understanding, acceptance, and development at a time when music is already so intuitively a core part of self-understanding.
Bradt, J., Norris, M., Shim., M., Gracely, E. J., & Gerrity, P. (2016). Vocal music therapy for chronic pain management in inner-city African Americans: A mixed methods feasibility study. Journal of Music Therapy, 53(2), 178-206. https://doi.org/10.1093/jmt/thw004
McFerran, Katrina. (2010). Adolescents, music and music therapy. Jessica Kingsley Publishers. Source linked here
Written by: Nick P., Music Therapy Intern
Every part of a music therapy session is planned with the growth and development of the individual or group in mind, even the “hello” or introduction song. For most younger populations, calling it the “hello song” is perfectly acceptable, as it reinforces social cues and expectations when interacting with others. But when working with most adolescents and adults, calling it the introduction to music therapy or not even naming it is more appropriate. Whether or not it has its own title, most people benefit from having a musical transition from outside life into the music session.
Hello songs with younger children have many benefits, including reinforcing the greeting of others, improving their understanding of sequences and the order of activities, and serving as a way to engage and prepare them for the session. The “Hello Song,” by The KIboomers, for example, can be used as it is or modified based on the group or individual to provide the above benefits as well as offer a way for children to begin to recognize and name emotions and feelings and possibly relate to other peers and how they might feel.
For groups of adolescents, giving them the opportunity to share songs that were or are meaningful to them or symbolize how their time has been since the last session can serve several purposes. First of all, it can give the music therapist some insight into their inner world without having to dialogue, improve the relationship between individual and therapist, give the rest of the group a way to possibly relate and connect with the individual who shared, as well as provide space for someone to communicate their feelings beyond just verbalizing them. For individual sessions with adolescents, song-sharing can be beneficial as well, and so can a short relaxation experience, or simply playing instrumental music from a speaker as they walk in to provide a simple but effective transition into the music therapy space.
For adults and older adults, especially if working on memory recall, choosing a song that’s familiar to everyone in the group and singing it every week can be a great way to signify the transition into the music therapy space. Though for some groups of adults, a verbal transition or simple musical transition into the space might be more beneficial, such as a relaxation experience or verbal check-in. Currently for a group of older adults, my internship supervisor and I are using the song “It’s a Good Day,” by Peggy Lee to open up each session. Once the song is over, the group is asked “What makes today a good day?” This gives the group a chance to share something personal with the group, and gives opportunities for connection and relation.
These are some of the ways I have incorporated opening experiences in sessions, mostly during my practicum experience while studying music therapy. While a hello song or introduction song may not always be appropriate, they can be a useful way to transition into a session in a routine and beneficial way.
Will the real PMT please stand up, please stand up, please stand up...
~ inspired by Eminem's The Real Slim Shady (2000)
Piedmont Music Therapy (PMT) chose to change classification from a Limited Liability Corporation to a not-for-profit organization (NFPO) earlier this year. This structural difference will now provide funding options to clients who could not previously afford "out of network" options. Grants designated only for NFPOs are one such funding option that will be newly accessible under this designation. Although this means many additional hours of PMT staff writing and applying for additional grants, PMT believes this change will grow its mission!
Over an estimated 125 hours of work was placed into completing necessary NFPO documentation. PMT wanted to maintain its history of inclusive service to greater Charlotte (CLT). When energy was running low during these months of paperwork, PMT gained inspiration modeled by the perseverance and self-advocacy of clients, families and organizations with whom we have served!
PMT received the 501(c)(3) categorization as a tax-exempt organization effective March 1, 2023. This structural change will yield a sustainable way for clients to receive highly qualified services, AND fair wages for clinicians earning their livelihoods. Maintaining the name "PMT" allowed the continued use of established email accounts, website branding, employee uniforms, etc.
The seven member Board of Directors was formed spring 2023. These volunteers aspire to promote increased access to music therapy. PMT is grateful these individuals are sharing their expertise and time!
As we officially embark with the tax-exempt status, we ask for your ideas, feedback and vision approaching the reformed identity. The private practice once solely geared towards mobile service delivery has evolved to provide more appointments for individual clients of all ages visiting PMT's location in South CLT.
Our organization hopes to improve its reach within our community. Tailored offerings for veterans, individuals with Parkinson's Disease, Traumatic Brain Injury, and post-stroke will be a new focus. We also hope to improve group opportunities for children, youth and young adults of diverse abilities.
Please consider PMT with your yearly tax-deductible contributions. Thanks for encouraging our formation as...
the real PMT please stands up, stands on up...
Written by: Gretchen Benner, Exec. Director
Written by: Molli Smith, Music Therapy Intern
In wrapping up my final two weeks of internship here at PMT, it’s been nice to look back on this journey and think of how far I have come. I’ve learned so much in the past 6 months and I feel more prepared to enter the professional world as a board-certified music therapist. Through my reflection, I figured compiling a list of songs was a fun way to represent each month of my internship! I’ve also highlighted some of the lyrics that stick out to me the most.
Change of Seasons - From graduating college, to finally starting internship, month one was a big period of change! There was a lot to learn and adjust to - especially with a larger clinical caseload. I had to remind myself to not worry too much about what was to come and simply focus on taking things step by step.
Where the Adventure Begins - As I started to gain more clinical experience and refresh all the skills I had learned in college, I sort of rediscovered my passion for music therapy and was reminded of why I chose this career path in the first place. It was exciting to be on this new adventure.
Keep Your Head Up - While I began taking on more responsibilities, my days were growing busier. At times it was a lot to keep track of, but I reminded myself that I could do it and that my hard work will pay off.
Try Everything - At month four, I was feeling more confident in my abilities and was just ready to try anything! It’s also important to learn how to keep going and make the best of the situation if things don’t go as planned. Having the opportunity to try new things with support from my clinical supervisors truly helped my growth as a music therapy intern.
Brand New - Nearing the end of my journey, I was worrying less and enjoying each experience I had. Although I still got a bit nervous before some sessions, I was beginning to feel a lot more at ease.
Thank You For The Music - Finally in month 6, I am so thankful for all of the experiences and music I have gotten to share with others. The best part has been seeing positive change in many of my clients and being able to make connections with them through song. It is something I shall never forget.
I hope you have enjoyed this collection of songs. They each tell a little story of my time here at PMT.
What are some songs that relate to your own experiences in life?
Written by: Molli Smith, MT Intern
As I am heading into month 5 of my internship, I wanted to reflect on my experience at PMT and the personal growth I have seen within myself. In the beginning, I was extremely nervous and did not have a lot of confidence in my skills. Finding an internship was a tough and lengthy process for me, and after receiving multiple “no’s,” it was becoming harder to envision myself reaching this point.
It took some adjustment to get back in the groove of doing clinical work and trusting in the knowledge and skills that I had. Among the required American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) Professional Competencies that I have been working on, I have seen substantial growth in the following:
9.1 Recognize the impact of one's own feelings, attitudes, and actions on the client and the therapy process.
When I first started co-leading some sessions, I would spend a lot of time practicing and worrying about how things were going to go. While this allowed me to be prepared for the interventions I was leading, I feel as though it hindered my ability to fully connect with the clients. I was so focused on my own readiness and emotions that I was not as present within the sessions. Now, however, I feel more confident in my skills and instincts, which allow me to be flexible and adapt based on client needs and responses.
17.8 Demonstrate critical self-awareness of strengths and weaknesses.
In the early months of my internship, I would struggle to think of things I did well in sessions. I would immediately point out what I wished I had done differently instead. Although this critical self-awareness allowed me to develop within those areas of need, it was also important for me to learn how to acknowledge and praise areas I was succeeding in. This definitely took some practice, but as I have grown more confident in my skills, I am able to evaluate myself in a more objective way.
While there is still more to learn and growth to experience, I am proud of myself for how far I have come in such a short time. I look forward to completing my internship and truly starting my career as a music therapist. I am excited to see how I continue to evolve on both a professional and personal level.
Interested in learning more about the educational journey of music therapy internships? Check out the AMTA Standards of Clinical Practice available online.
Written by: Molli Smith, MT Intern
A couple of weeks ago, I was able to attend my second SER-AMTA Conference - this time in Chattanooga, Tennessee. It was a great time to catch up with friends and professors, and to meet some new faces. I enjoyed going to the concurrent sessions, especially due to the wide range of topics. One of my favorite sessions was about how to incorporate children’s literature in music therapy, presented by Kirby Carruth, MMT, LPMT, MT-BC, Rachel Coon-Arnott, MMT, LPMT, MT-BC, and Amber Weldon-Stephens, EdS, LPMT, MT-BC. The majority of this presentation consisted of hands-on intervention examples that we could implement in our own practice, which was a fun way to end a long day of concurrent sessions. I really enjoyed learning about different ways to make children’s books more interactive, and wanted to share some of my takeaways.
Why choose singable books when working with children?
Ways to make the books interactive:
An example of a specific application that they included in the concurrent session was with the book Pete The Cat: Rocking in My School Shoes by Eric Litwin. Materials needed for this include: book or powerpoint of book pages, visuals of school settings, guitar, and tambourines. Begin the book by singing the chorus “I’m rocking in my school shoes,” using a blues progression and upbeat strumming pattern. Have the students play their tambourines during the recurring chorus line, and place them in their lap or on the floor for other parts of the book. When Pete moves to a different space within the school (such as library, cafeteria, playground, etc.), give students the opportunity to match the correct visual with the location from a field of choices.
Here is a link to an online resource where you can virtually borrow books for free.
What is your favorite book you have incorporated in music therapy sessions?
Written by: Gabby Jones, MT-BC, Neurologic Music Therapist
I had the pleasure of attending a Neurologic Music Therapy® training recently and can now practice under the title of Neurologic Music Therapist, in addition to my board certification title. With the intention of advocating and spreading knowledge about the evidence-based model, I’ve shared some takeaways from the training below:
As indicated on the Academy’s Website, “NMT is a research-guided clinical model that is driven by advances in neuroscience and the understanding of the perception, production, and performance of music and how music can influence and change non-musical brain and behavior function.” Although commonly known as a model used specifically for neurorehabilitation, the training emphasized the intention of using Neurologic Music Therapy techniques for the purpose of addressing needs and function, rather than diagnosis. There are 21 standardized techniques that can be used to treat deficits in sensorimotor, cognition, and speech and language.
Additionally, the model of Neurologic Music Therapy® is well-known throughout the world in the field of neuroscience. The academy recently became an affiliate of the World Federation for Neurorehabilitation, which not only brings stronger validity to our practice, but increases our capacity for advocacy! I’m thankful for the opportunity to be a part of the incredible advances music therapy is making.
I’ve adopted a more intentional model of practice that is informed by years of research that will serve the needs of the people I work with in new ways! Although I’m continuously learning, I’m eager to begin transferring my knowledge to my work in our communities.
Follow this link to learn more about Neurologic Music Therapy and catch up on current research.
Written by: Molli Smith, MT Intern.
During my internship thus far, I have gotten the opportunity to work with multiple groups of older adults with dementia. Because I have not had as much hands-on experience with this population during my undergrad clinical work as a music therapy student at Queens University of Charlotte, I wanted to explore research studies that have examined the benefits of music therapy for older adults to gain more insight. In my search, I found a study that was conducted in August of 2022 - just a mere 7 months ago. With this study, Leticia Prieto Álvarez, PhD, MT-BC, LMHC examined the effects of Neurologic Music Therapy (NMT) on treatment acceptability, cognition, mood, and behavior of older adults with dementia in comparison to participation in an Enrichment Program (combination of mental and physical exercises) and a non-facilitated television program.
While facilitating the music therapy, about seven to nine different NMT techniques were used in each session. To highlight some of the techniques that were used to target sensorimotor skills, speech and language, and cognition, here are a list of a few examples:
Participants were residents of an assisted living community that had been diagnosed with moderately severe to severe Alzeihmer’s Disease or related dementia. They were placed into three groups and attended each type of intervention four times a week. Results indicated that the average participants’ acceptance of treatment and completion of full treatment sessions were higher in NMT than compared to the enrichment and television programs. During implementation, several residents left their assigned intervention and chose to attend NMT instead (86% of the time) whereas no residents left NMT to attend a different intervention. Participation in NMT resulted in higher scores of positive mood, followed by the enrichment program, and then television. Researchers also found that NMT had a larger effect on cognitive functioning, receiving higher scores across five of the seven cognitive subdomains.
I have seen numerous positive impacts for older adults with dementia from my own clinical work, but never had an opportunity to look into differences among other provided programs. Reading about the results of this study was very interesting. Not only did this research study provide me with further validation of why the work we do with this population is so beneficial, but it is a great resource in advocating for more implementation of music therapy programs in assisted living communities.
To read the full article, visit this link.
How have you seen music therapy benefit older adults with dementia?
Written by: Molli Smith, Music Therapy Intern
I began my journey to become a music therapist with little knowledge of what exactly I was getting into. The minute I first read about music therapy, I just knew I wanted to be a part of it. Getting the opportunity to sit in on an actual music therapy session, however, really sealed the deal, and my passion for the field began to grow.
Music has always been my creative outlet. I was really shy as a child and never felt comfortable sharing my thoughts and feelings with other people. Music was my way to do so; It provided me with a sense of comfort and peace through the obstacles I faced. I knew I wanted to give that same experience to other people some day, to share the power music has to aid in our self-expression and ability to connect in other ways.
What intrigues me the most about becoming a music therapist is the positive impact it can have on other people. There’s nothing more rewarding than seeing someone light up whenever you begin to play a song they recognize, witnessing someone reach their goals or succeed in something new, and fostering connections through musical interaction. Knowing that your work has made a difference, however big or small, makes this field so inspiring. What is also intriguing about music therapy is that there is always more to learn. No risks of having a boring job here! There are plenty of opportunities to learn new songs or discover new genres, how music therapy may work with different diagnoses, new research in the field, different intervention techniques, and even expanding awareness of different cultural backgrounds. It’s nice to stick to routines that work for you, but I also enjoy switching things up and trying something new. Not only does it keep me from feeling stagnant, it’s a great way to keep evolving and improving my skills to be the best music therapist I can be.
There are many layers to being a music therapist that are not always seen on surface level. I am so excited to continue uncovering those layers throughout my time as an intern here at Piedmont Music Therapy. I am reminded each day of why I chose to pursue this career and how much I enjoy the work I am doing. That’s a feeling I'd never thought I’d get to experience, so I am beyond grateful to have found my passion.
Check out more personal stories about music therapy here.
Piedmont Music Therapy has been an approved Cultural Arts Education Provider through the Arts and Science Council since August 2019. We offer multiple educational programming options ranging from a residency, to a PD workshop that are designed to support students (Kindergarten through grade 12), educators and staff in learning more about themselves through the arts. No prior musical skills are required by participants and we provide all materials such as instruments and hand-outs while on-site for the programs.These are just a few of the programs available to schools who have received ASC funding.
If you are an Arts & Science Cultural Arts Representative (ASCAR), check out PMT’s webpage that details the programs and fill out a contact form on that page if you are interested in providing tailored cultural arts programming at your school!
Providing music therapy services for early childhood to older adults, music instruction and enrichment plus continuing music therapy education in Greater Charlotte Area of the Carolinas.