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Blogs by Katey, MT-BC

What I've Learned in the Past Five Years as a Music Therapist
By Katey, MT-BC
8/6/2012 12:56:00 PM  

Over the past five years, I have learned a lot and grown a lot as a hospice music therapist. These past couple weeks I have been using less music, and trying to haul less things around. I have started to feel that while the sheet music does serve as a good focal point for you as well as the patient, most of the times it just gets in the way. I’m shuffling through music and not spending as much time as I could be with giving them attention. Here are some things I have changed about my style/practice in the last five years.

  1. Attempt any song they request. I used to fear playing anything that I didn’t know 100% perfectly. If I sort of knew the tune but didn’t have music and barely knew the words, I would never try to attempt. I have learned that most of the time they really don’t care if its perfect, and usually you end up doing a better job than you would expect.
  2. Don’t be timid. If you walk into the room and tiptoe around and introduce yourself quietly, I feel like you come across that you really don’t know what you’re doing. Now I introduce myself and show my personality right away. It shows you are comfortable, and I have found they are a lot more comfortable with you.
  3. Don’t run away when you see a large group or family. All they are doing is waiting for something to do! Unless of course they specifically say they don’t want any music, but most of the time they are pleased to have a distraction.
  4. The nurse is your sidekick, and I feel like they are my cheerleaders. I have learned to say “well the nurse mentioned you have some anxiety, and thought music would help”- this is usually a better selling point to them than me quoting music therapy journal facts. Always communicate with your nurses so they know what’s going on with you and your patients.
  5. Lose the drawn-out introduction. I used to hate making phone calls to new patients. While it’s still not my favorite thing to do, I don’t find it nearly as hard. Simply state who you are and ask if it’d be ok if you stop over to play some music. This generally skips the confusion of “what exactly are you going to do?”. Same as when you enter a room with a patient, I now say “Hi, I’m Katey and I came to play some music for you!” You can say more later if they ponder.
  6. Accept that you can not know every song. Its impossible- but of course, we keep trying.

These are my reflections from the past five years. Nothing really shattering, but definitely some things I wish I would have thought about when I was first starting. 

Learn more about Music Therapy.

Tags: Music Therapy, Music Therapy Career, Being a Music Therapist, Music Therapist
Categories: Music Therapy
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Why I Love My iPhone
By Katey, MT-BC
8/22/2011 10:45:00 AM  

iphone musicLet me preface this blog by saying as of April 30th I was SO anti-smartphone. I did not understand why I needed this fancy thing, when I knew it would just break and cause me many headaches. I know I sound like I’m ancient, and most 25 year olds have a smartphone of some sort, but I just thought it was excessive. This brings me to my blog—Why I love my iPhone!!!!!!!!!! I am loving it for several reasons, but obviously since I’m blogging for work purposes I will blog on the ways I am using my iPhone to help my music therapy practice. I’m sure there are a million more ways as I have only had it a month, but this is what I have done so far:

1)      Documentation - For the students I see I used to carry around goal sheets. These were cumbersome and obviously a waste of paper. I downloaded the App called “Documents.” I now have my goal sheets right on my phone in an Excel file. Obviously, I don’t use any identifying information in these documents. Why is it cool? Saves paper, kids love to enter in their data, and I can upload it right to my computer. A huge time saver!

2)      YouTube - If you do hospice music therapy you know the plight of being on the road, no office, and the nursing home lunch hour. You basically can’t see anyone from 11:30-1:00. Now it's time not wasted. I can YouTube songs that have been requested (that I have saved in my notes on my phone). I can learn the chords right from my phone and actually have a productive lunch.

3)      “Do you know the song that says something about watermelon and roller skating?” - These are the weird requests we get all the time. Google the lyrics and there ya go. Bring it up on youtube, play it for the patient, they can identify if it’s the correct song. One of my patients said “I need to get one of these!” Never thought I’d hear an 85 year old say that about a smartphone.

4)      Recording - Now obviously you must have releases for recording, but this has been very helpful. Write a song with a client, record it with them, and they can listen to it as reinforcement. I recorded one of my clients to show the teacher how he was doing in music therapy. She has never seen him in action, so that was an easy way for her to visualize what was going on in the session.

5)      Tuning - Yep, there are a million apps for that. I have Epic Tune (free) and it hears your pitch and tunes your guitar just like a conventional tuner, which is one less thing for me to carry around. I still prefer my conventional tuner that clips on my guitar, but if I'm without it, this is the next best thing!


One day I'll have an iPad and never have to carry around a piece of sheet music again. Awww, wouldn’t that be nice. Comment and share ways you use your smartphones to better your practice!

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Categories: Music Therapy
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Sing You Home
By Katey, MT-BC
3/1/2011 11:51:00 AM  

Many of you are probably a fan of the author Jodi Picoult. I know I have read a few of her books and have found them to be amazing! Monday, March 7th, she will be releasing her latest book “Sing You Home.” The main character of the book is a music therapist! To learn about music therapy, Jodi shadowed several music therapists from Berklee school of Music in Boston. She writes a lot about what she observed, but this paragraph jumped out to me:

The most moving moments for me, though, occurred at a burn hospital in Boston. I shadowed another therapist as she moved through her work day, which consisted of using music to help reduce pain. Our first patient was a two year old from Central America with burns over 70% of his body. As they changed the little boy’s dressing, the therapist sang Spanish lullabies. “Escucho la musica!” she’d say, whenever he began to cry. And as she started playing again, his heart rate monitor would slow. What struck me the most was that music therapy allowed other health professionals to do their jobs more easily. While the nurses were focused on the medical activity, the music therapist was the one focused solely on the emotions of the child.

Music therapy can be used in so many facilities, and I especially like the line where she said: “What struck me the most was that music therapy allowed other health professionals to do their job more easily.” This is very true, and I see it every day especially in my hospice work. From aiding in relaxation so a patient can be catheterized, to playing music for a successful transfer from chair to bed, music therapy helps to mask pain and make everyone’s job a little easier.

See more about Jodi’s book here:


Happy music therapy week!!!!

Tags: Music Therapy, Music Therapy Books, Books about Music Therapy, Music Therapy in Pop Culture, Pop Culture, Books, Jodi Picoult
Categories: Music Therapy
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Within the Walls of Music Therapy
By Katey, MT-BC
11/26/2010 11:26:00 AM  

Let me take you on a mental journey inside the walls of a music therapy session (picture a small closet, a conference room, the end of a hallway). Today our subject will be a 4 year old with autism. His goals (from his Individual Education Plan) include using 3-word phrases and counting to 3. We start by singing “hello” as a greeting, to establish a routine, and to work on communication. The 3 word sentence he would use is “Hello, Miss Katey” within the song structure. Three-word phrases continue to be used when requesting instruments or during a conversation song.

We then move on to working on his math goal of counting 1-2-3. I lay out 3 shape drums with the number 1, 2, 3 on each corresponding drum. We may sing a song and drum 1-2-3 to a tune. This activates both hemispheres of the brain—the right by melody and the left by rhythm. I have a student who can count to 30 now because of starting with a simple song and rhythm. We end our session by singing “Goodbye” which completes the general structure of a music therapy session.

What did I work on? Matching pitch? No. Singing the right words? No. Am I a music teacher? No. The goals I worked on were: communication and math. So there you have it, within the walls of a music therapy session part 1. Next blog I will discuss within the walls of a music therapy session: adults with disabilities. I will continue to uncover the truths about the mysterious job of a music therapist.

Learn more about West Music Music Therapy Services.

Tags: Music Therapy, Music and Math, Music and Communication, Music and Special Needs, Music and Education
Categories: Music Therapy
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Obsession: Cupcakes, Chiquitas, and Recommendations
By Katey, MT-BC
10/8/2010 4:36:00 AM  

Do you ever have those times where you are just completely obsessed with things? You know, so much so that your friends give you a hard time about it every time they can. Not a DSM-IV type of obsession, just a healthy love and passion for something. Lately, mine has been cupcakes. I don’t know why, but my world just changes when I eat a cupcake with extra frosting (cream cheese if you are wondering). As a music therapist, we go through phases where we are obsessed with certain instruments or activities. Here are my latest:

  1. Glow in the dark egg shakers and chiquitas. They are the neatest things and kids of all ages love them. I have a student who is almost fully non-verbal, but when I got out the glow in the dark egg he remembered it from the week before and tried to put it under the table where he thought it might glow. Wow! I was shocked what this 2 dollar investment did for one of my students. With Halloween coming up, they are as necessary as jingle bells at Christmas.
  2. Speaking of Chiquitas, I am also obsessed with the song Matilda the Gorilla. It works on a whole host of letter sounds and the kids enjoy the actions.
  3. I have been addicted to this classic country website that is every hospice music therapist’s dream. (http://www.classic-country-song-lyrics.com/) What a fabulous resource complete with chords for every song!

It is easy to get burnt-out as a music therapist, but adding new ideas keeps it fresh and exciting for you and the kids. Believe me, I’m just as excited as my non-verbal 3 year old to get out the glow in the dark egg shakers. Check for them on the west music website—they are worth the investment!

Click here for a link to the glow in the dark egg shakers.

Tags: Music Therapy Tips, Music Therapy
Categories: Music Therapy
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