Hi there, I’m Abby. Before we jump into my must-haves list, I want to introduce myself. Whether or not we’ve met before, I’m glad you’re here and am appreciative that you’re taking the time to read some words I’ve written. About 3 years ago to date, I began my clinical internship with The Groovy Garfoose. It was a great learning experience that prepared me for my first job as a board-certified music therapist serving people through the Medicaid waiver in Indiana. All that to say, I am thrilled to be back working with the GG team—it is a warm & fuzzy, full-circle feeling.
Still being a newer MT, I’m continuing to figure out my own therapeutic style. When I started my first job, I remember feeling that my sessions were “not even really music therapy” if I wasn’t engaging clients in music-related experiences the whole time. I remember having feelings that my work wasn’t valid if I wasn’t providing an exceeding amount of “measurable” opportunities. But I also felt so much resistance to these ideas, especially after sharing meaningful sessions that didn’t include any music at all. Through supervision, conversations with trusted peers, and time spent doing my own personal work, over time I was able to diminish those imposter-syndrome thoughts. I began to focus more on being instead of doing. With a humanistic & person-centered approach, I ask myself how I can cultivate a space where clients are seen, heard, and feel safe to express themselves just how they are. I ask myself what I can bring into a session that will make space for humanity, creativity, and joy. I don’t try to plan for every scenario anymore. I show up as I am and I bring materials that I know the people I’m supporting will enjoy, help them feel calm and secure in the therapy space, and provide unique opportunities for self-expression–while still supporting their self-identified therapy goals. So, here’s my list of 5 must-haves. I hope these give you some helpful ideas on how to implement them into your sessions!
1. Art Materials
I always like to have a creative outlet available during my sessions aside from instruments. Since I’m a traveling music therapist, I can’t always bring a ton, but some sheets of paper (blank, cardstock, or scrapbook patterns), a glue stick, scissors (as appropriate) and fun markers go a long way. Art is a great way to make receptive music-listening experiences multimodal, and it can support relaxation and self-expression. Drawing and writing can provide the people we support with opportunities to express themselves in ways that spoken words may not allow for them.
Oh, fidgets. I love that these have become more accessible these past few years. They are inexpensive and you can find them pretty much anywhere! I always keep a small makeup-sized bag of fidgets with my travel materials. To keep it functional, but to still have options, mine includes: a pop-it, a monster pick, a fidget spinner, a “DNA” ball (a client taught me the name for it!), a beanbag, a mesh marble fidget, stretchy strings, a miniature play-doh, an infinity cube, and a snap-and-click rope.
3. An Uno Deck
I love “game-ifying” concepts and activities during music therapy sessions, and so do the people I support. Games are an adaptable and accessible way to practice a variety of skills (sequencing, reading and other academic concepts, following steps on a list, planning, problem solving–to name a few). They are also FUN! One of the most popular ways I’ve used them in sessions is by playing musical uno. (I’m not sure who came up with this idea, or else I’d credit them). Each player gets 4 instruments that correspond with the card colors. If I place down a “red 5” I would play my red instrument 5 times, etc. You and your client can also create your own rules for all of the wild cards.
4. Story Cubes
I was introduced to these by my friend Kate over at Creative Therapy Umbrella, and they are such a fun creative outlet. There are a variety of different sets you can buy, and they are cost-friendly. If you want to get creative, you could even make your own with a client’s help. These are great for supporting someone who may be working on EF skills like organizing, sequencing, and problem solving. You can also add musical sound effects to the different parts of the story, or turn it into a songwriting experience. These come in storage tins about the size of your palm, so they’re easy to just toss in your bag. If you get multiple sets, they’re also fun to mix and match!
5. Doodle Drawing Board
This is always a big hit in my sessions. It’s basic, but the novelty of it is something that a lot of folks enjoy. The stylus allows you to draw on the board and the drawing is erased when the button is pressed. There is also sometimes a switch on the side you can use to “lock” the drawing in place. This is great for writing a visual schedule, drawing music notation, keeping score in a game, writing mantras, or even just another communication outlet.