Creating Archives - Access Music Therapy
Creative Ways to Meet Client Goals

Creative Ways to Meet Client Goals

As a Music Therapist, I work with a number of people, individuals and groups. They have varying areas of goals for their lives depending on the individual and collective group. Since they come to me for music therapy, of course, they want to make music. Music therapy is different than music education. In music therapy, the life skill is first, then music is constructed to accomplish that goal. I always tell my clients and families that the client will learn music along the way. Learning can come in many forms in music therapy. It can be visually, auditorily, verbally, and physically or kinesthetically. I learn how my clients learn best, and focus on the skill using music as the vehicle and motivator to bring about achievement.

Sometimes my clients need a little adjustment with the tools of the music therapy trade. So, I try to find ways to meet the goal of accomplishment while building confidence. That means I adapt the surroundings or the instruments. For instance. I had a client who needed to work on movement in his legs, but overall mobility was low. He wanted to play the drum, and the best way to get movement in his legs was to kick the drum. So, I turned a gathering drum sideways. But, it would always roll away. So, I sewed a long (about 36″) tube of tough fabric and filled it loosely with rice. This tube became a cradle for the gathering drum, so it wouldn’t move around when kicked. Awesome!

The Wobble Mallet

The most recent adaptation that I have shared with the world is my Wobble Mallet. I created it a year ago to help a client play the drums. The issue was his range of motion and the lack of force that he could put behind the mallet in order to hit the drum and make sound. It was very important to him to play the drums. So, I configured this mallet with two sections that were connected with a strong spring just wobbly enough to cause the wooden mallet head to hit the drum with force. All of this with just a slight movement of the arm or hand. BINGO!! It worked! We use it all the time, and it has stood the test of time and drums! If you are interested in purchasing this mallet, it is available for sale on my Guitten website.

I am always willing to make adaptations in order to promote success, achievement and happiness for my clients. These are just a couple of the ones I’ve done over time. I know I will be creating more in the future. Do you have an adaptation that you have created for your clients or students? Share in the comments below.

Ideas, Inventions, & Patents, Oh My!

Ideas, Inventions, & Patents, Oh My!

Do You Have An Idea? An Invention?

Have you ever been doing something and said, “It would be cool if I had this…it would make this so much better.” If you have, you might have an invention. Some are worth pursuing and developing further. It happened to me early in 2013. Here’s my story…

I am a Music Therapist – Board Certified, and in my work, I am frequently in close proximity to my hospice clients and clients with physical disabilities. My most used instrument has always been the guitar, but the guitar has sharp string ends that wrap around pegs at the head of the guitar. Those sharp ends can be hurtful if touched or if the guitar head accidentally bumped a vulnerable individual.

I also work with kids who are very mobile. Kids are curious about the tuning pegs and try to turn them. These are issues I didn’t want to worry about when being present in my sessions. I love to create from nothing, so I brainstormed ideas to resolve this problem. My big idea! I tried putting a sock over my guitar head….lol! That worked okay, but with issues. It didn’t last long.


March is Sing with Your Child Month

March is Sing with Your Child Month

March symbolizes rebirth and growth, and it reminds us that our children of our most precious resource. To celebrate the importance of making music with children, and since March is Sing with your Child Month, I have included a list of fun activities you can do with your child which incorporate singing. I love sing-able books! I’ve provided a list of wonderful books you can read and sing with your child. Don’t worry. Your child doesn’t care what your voice sounds like. Just go ahead and sing with your child! With the invention of Pinterest, you can now find all sorts of activities to do with your child. Some may cost a lot, and some won’t cost anything, like singing. Singing supports your child’s development.


Sing with your childMusic and singing supports your child’s development. According to Psychology Today, musical training increases brain volume and strengthens communication between brain areas. Listening to and making music with your child is not only an auditory experience, but it is a multi sensory (hearing, touch and sight) and motor experience (from finger tapping to dancing).  Being involved in music increases the connections in the brain.

Babies Love Singing

baby singing

Here are some easy, well-known songs to get you started:

1. Humpty Dumpty
2. Ring-a-Round the Rosy
3. Baa Baa Black Sheep
4. ABC’s
5. Twinkle Twinkle
6. Make up your own song!

Your child will learn rhythm, pitch, listening skills, speech development, and memory skills. The more you sing to and with your child, the more he/she will learn these skills. Repetition is key. To make it more engaging, change the way you sing the songs. Make changes, for example, volume (loud like a lion, or soft like a mouse), speed (fast like a rocket, or slow like a snail), with your eyes closed or open, with accompanying instruments (shakers, bells, or pots and pans) with a recording.

sing-able books


Sing-able Books

Here’s my list of suggested sing-able books.

The Seals on the Bus (Sing to the tune of: “Wheels on the Bus”) by Lenny Hort & C. Brian Karas
Sing-able Books










The “Itsy Bitsy Spider”
Sing-able Book










All of Raffi’s books are sing-able

The Leaves on the Trees (Sing to the tune of: “London Bridge” or” Wheels on the Bus”) by Thom Wiley
Sing-able Book




Jamberry  (Sing to the Tune of “One Little, Two Little”) by Bruce Degen
Sing-able Book




“Octopus Garden” by Ringo Starr & Ben Cort
Sing-able Book




“Knick Knack Paddy Whack” (Sing to the tune of: “This Old Man”) by Christiane Engel
Sing-able Book
I hope you enjoyed this post. Having fun and singing to your child is one of the most important things you can do to bond with your child. Be silly, spontaneous, and sing with your child! If you want to learn more song, have fun with other parents, check out my Learning Groove Classes. They are Music & Movement Classes for parents and children under 5 years old. They are 8 weekly classes held at Access Music Therapy in Duluth. Next class starts March 10th.

5 Things To Know When Opening A Music Therapy Location

5 Things To Know When Opening A Music Therapy Location

This blog entry is late for the  #MusicTherapyBlogger Challenge hosted by Julie Palmieri at Serenade Designs. Better late than never! I skipped Week #4 post, but I will get back to it. There are so many books that I love. I just have to choose one. For Week #5, I chose to create a list of 5 things about my current experience in preparing to open a music therapy location in Duluth, MN.

At the beginning of July 2015, I signed my first lease for a physical space to expand my music therapy services. It was an exciting and scary experience all at once. I am now responsible for paying rent and the “extra” prep work that comes along with taking on a brick and mortar location. That “extra” came in the form of a marathon renovation tearing down walls, sanding, re-carpeting, and a lot of painting. That’s a lot of physical work, and boy, oh boy it is taxing on the body and mind. I’m so very excited about seeing the development and getting the work done, that at the end of the first week, I was crashing every evening. Thankfully, I have a wonderful, strong, supportive husband to help me with the physical work. Otherwise, I don’t know that I could have done this on my own. In this journey, I have already been blessed with so much experience and a little wisdom about the work involved that I thought I’d share what I’ve learned so far in  just 5 “little” suggestions. My first one is…

#1: Don’t overwork yourself. Get help from others. Take breaks, relax, and listen to your body.

If you don’t do this, you may end up somewhere like the emergency room with kidney and bladder trouble, as I did after the first week. Exhaustion can take a toll on the body.
On the business side of things, make sure you have plenty of time to get organized. I’m sure you will have groups to plan, sessions to schedule, financial planning, and marketing to roll out. I have given myself 1 1/2 months in total to prepare for my opening. I feel confident in that timeframe. I have been working with the NE Entrepreneur Fund to assist me in preparing financial projections, program calendars, navigating Quickbooks, and start-up funding. I have found them to be an invaluable resource which leads me to my second tip.

#2: Work with an entrepreneur organization that can guide and educate you.

I manage my website myself, so in preparation, a month prior, I hired Carrie Schaefer of to create a new logo for Access Music Therapy, and I love it. Totally worth the investment!
For my online presence, I’ve added an online registration for groups and classes to my website. This should cut down on my time taking registrations and organizing payments manually. The new system will take payments online for each individual class. For anyone who is interested in the WordPress app I am using, it is called Event Espresso (under $100).
It’s even more important to create marketing materials. I must get the word out that my services exist. So, I have created flyers for each music therapy group that will be offered starting in September.  In person, I’m offering brief presentations to specific populations. I’m participating in community events, posting updates of our progress, and building anticipation with my storefront windows to get the word out and impart information about my services to the community. I might even try an online contest from my windows!
There are so many things to plan, and if there were not enough time, I would imagine it could be disasterous! My third point pretty much sums it all up.

#3: Be organized, have a plan, plan again, and plan some more.

I love being creative! If you have storefront windows as I do, design them creatively. Think about the foot traffic, privacy, and educating the community about your services by way of your window display. One tip I learned is that vinyl lettering on the outside of the window versus the inside is more visible. My large group area is visible through the windows, so it will be important to provide confidentiality and avoid distractions through smart design. I love Pinterest for getting ideas for designing the inside and outside of my studio. I created a board with all of my colors and fabrics to keep me focused when looking for things. You can view my “AMT Studio” inspiration board at @AccessMT on

I have a large group room, a 1:1 room, and an office as well as a kitchenette and bathroom. It’s an adequate amount of space, although I could see myself growing out of it eventually, so I must be smart in the storage of my equipment. I love to sew, and refinish wood, so I put my skills to work in some of the needed storage equipment in order to save money. And, that leads me to tip #4.

#4: Don’t be afraid to make your dreams come true. Be creative!

Celebrate the opening! Have an Open House. I’m planning mine for August 24.  I’ve created a low cost budget with a marketing plan, food & drink, activities and contests. To get the word out, I will use Facebook, send postcard invitations to the community through snail mail, email invites to friends, family, clients, and networking agencies.

To gain attention from people passing by, I made a chalk sidewalk sign out of picture frames I bought at the Goodwill and will attach balloons to it. This sign will be awesome on a daily basis too!
When the open house is over, I plan to send thank you cards out to everyone who attended. I think an open house will be an excellent way to inform, educate and celebrate the opening of my music therapy location!

#5: Celebrate! Have an Open House.

There you have it! My list of 5 important things to keep in mind when you are opening a brick and mortar music therapy location. Personally, I am still walking through this process as I write this. I know there are additional areas of business that I haven’t covered here, but I wanted to keep it short. There are many music therapists out there who have already opened a music therapy location (or multiple locations), and have many pearls of wisdom. Please share in the comments

Stressed? Sew a Dress.

Stressed? Sew a Dress.

Do you have stress? I bet you do. Most people have some level of stress. Do you like to craft, paint, sew, or make music? I do. In regards to stress, I deal with stress everyday. Stress over family issues, business, money, and the dreaded upcoming Minnesota winter! Lately, I have found myself doing a lot more sewing than I had been in the past few years. Unfortunately, I had stopped sewing for a number of years despite how much it was part of my life. It happened because back in 1999, when I decided to go back to college to get a degree, I made the decision based on my two talents, sewing and music (violin player). My music influence started when I was 10 years old in the public school system, and continued on until graduation. I played the violin occasionally over the next ten years before going back to college. My sewing influence came from my mom and the sewing/vacuum store my parents operated. I used to sew all of my girls clothes, and anything else I needed.

Keep calm and play violin
In thinking about these two talents and possible careers in either area, I decided to go the music route. I thought I would become a violinist with a Music Performance degree. However, three weeks into violin lessons, as my instructor was asking me questions about my life to see how music performance could fit. And, since I was 27 years old at the time, a mother of two little girls, I had already done some living, and she suggested other music career ideas. She told me about music therapy. I just happen to be at one of the two schools in the state of Minnesota that offered the music therapy degree (Augsburg College).
I checked into the degree, and I was SOLD! I never looked back. However, sewing was always there for me. As I started college, I made the mistake of selling my sewing machines as I thought that I wouldn’t have time with all the demands of college and running a family. After a few years, I started sewing again.
Now, another ten years later, I am sewing a lot more. Especially with the creation of the Guitten. I am finding myself thinking about other sewing projects that I could do. When I shop for clothes, I find myself thinking, “I could just sew that for less money, and I could make it exactly how I want it.” It makes me feel good to be creative, and I love brainstorming new ideas.
This creative thinking and doing is actually healthy for anyone. With all my busy-ness with my business and family, I have been sewing more, and realizing how relaxing it is to my well-being. It’s really good to be in the moment with any task, but with sewing you have to be completely mindful of what you are doing. Multi-tasking is not an option.Keep calm and craft on
Did you know that creative expression helps you to relax, reflect, distract your mind, and relieve stress. I love to be creative in many ways. One way is sewing. I also like to collage, resurface furniture, and remodel areas of my home. When I sew, I can’t multi-task. I must devote all of my attention to the project. Sewing requires you to be in the moment. I have found that sewing helps me to slow down. I love the creativity of designing the product that I plan on creating. I start by putting on my “Happy” iTunes playlist while I sew. For me, playing music while I create adds to the therapeutic benefits of creative expression. Happy Playlist
Research has found that crafting activities involves many areas of your brain. It works your memory, attention span, visuospatial processing, creative side and problem-solving abilities. Whether you draw, paint, craft, quilt, sew, or chainsaw wood into beautiful works of art, crafting has been found to have physical, psychological and spiritual benefits. Gail McMeekin, MSW, a career coach in West Roxbury, Massachusetts, and the author of the books “The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women,” said “Crafts are a way of valuing yourself and giving to yourself. They allow you to express what’s inside.”
Professionals in the creative arts such as music and art therapy use these and other unique forms of expression to communicate, and release tension. In working with elementary children and teens, I often use collaborate with a fellow therapist, Nikki, on using art in our music therapy groups.
Not only can crafting ease stress, increase happiness, but it could protect the brain from damage caused by aging. According to CNN, “Neuroscientists are beginning to see how studies on cognitive activities such as doing crossword puzzles might also apply to someone who does complex quilting patterns.” Scientists are studying these type of activities. The Journal of Neuropsychiatry reported that you could reduce your chances of developing mild cognitive impairment by 30%-50%.
Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmigalyi first described this phenomenon as flow: a few moments in time when you are so completely absorbed by an activity that nothing else seems to matter. “Flow” can dampen and calm internal chaos. It’s like a natural anti-depressant.
I certainly like that data. It’s motivating for me and encourages me to KEEP ON being creative. So, for all of YOU, get that project out of the box that you’ve been procrastinating! Turn on the tunes, complete it, create more, and you could be contributing to your own health!


Lewis, R. (2011). Engaging in cognitive activities, aging, and mild cognitive impairment: a population-based study. Journal of Neuropsychiatry.

McMeekin, G. (2011). The 12 secrets of highly creative women.Conari Press; 10th Anniversary Edition edition.

Wilson, J. (2014) This is your brain on knitting.

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