Recently I arrived to a session my usual 10 minutes early. I like to be early not only to have set up time, but to have allowed myself time in case of traffic jams or any other unforeseeable hang-ups that might cause me to be late to a session. As I unloaded my trunk I realized I had my guitar, my documentation sheets, an ocean drum that I had brought along with me for the day. That was it. Where was my instrument bag? How was I going to survive three sessions with no instruments?
I got back into my car to check the time; it was now 5 minutes before my session was to begin. My office was a 5 minute drive from my session, plus parking time, plus time to go down to the office, back up, and another 5 minutes back. Let’s see, that would put me at 10 minutes behind schedule. If you know me at all, you know that I am a pretty relaxed person until it comes to arriving on time. I actually have pretty bad anxiety when I am running late.
I realized that in order to not have an anxiety attack by starting 10 minutes late with all of my gear, I was going to have to be an experienced music therapist and do the session on time, on the fly, and without my instruments. My mind immediately went into “emergency session planning” mode and I did a mental inventory of what I had on me. Guitar, a few visuals for song choices, conversation cards, and an ocean drum. This had to last me two 15-minute sessions and one 30-minute group session. I thought to myself “I can do this.
My first session went off without a hitch. That particular client uses a communication device to request songs/instruments. Luckily for me he prefers to sit and just listen, so he only picked songs. Good enough, he satisfied his goal to make requests using his communication device. One down, two to go. The second session went fairly well. I gave her my picture cards that have songs on them to work on her goal for requesting. Five requests later and I realized that we needed to work on following directions. We did the song “If You’re Happy And You Know It” (she’s young enough) and I told her what actions I wanted her to do to have her “practice” before each verse. OK, four of four directions met. Session two done. One more. The group.
I got my clients seated and finished the “Hello Song” (thankfully since it was a group, this took longer). I then said that it was going to be Client A’s turn to pick a song. Thank goodness he picked a long one! After we all sang the song we got out my conversation cards that I luckily had with me. We did “The Conversation Song” by Coleman/Dacus by placing the conversation cards face down and making a game out of it. After we finished several rounds of that we moved on to some body percussion. The kids really got into that and even took a few turns creating their own body percussion patterns. We then moved on to the only instrument I happened to bring, the ocean drum. Hooray for an instrument so captivating that kids don’t mind waiting for their turn to play! Client B then got to pick a song for the group to sing. Another long song and we had filled 30 minutes!
It was nice having a day to challenge my improvisation skills as a therapist, but I think next time I’ll try to plan for that rather than surprising myself like I did.