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Dynamic Lynks Blog

Being a Therapist in 2021

2020 was a year of upheaval and uncertainty. 2021 became a year of learning, shifting, and finding a new center. Our therapy team got together to share what they've learned this year, what they're leaving behind, and the new skills/strategies they're bringing into 2022!

Alyssa Stone, MT-BC, NMT, CYT 500

Running and growing a therapy company was no small feat in 2021! I am beyond grateful for the amazing community of support we have around us as well as the fabulous therapy team at Dynamic Lynks.

My 2021 Favorite

In 2021 I have been able to shift my work as a clinician from solely therapy work to supervision and therapeutic intervention to support my incredible clients. I have enjoyed working with clients and fellow clinicians across the country to grow the access everyone has to music therapy services.

What I'm Taking with Me into 2022

This is less of an intervention and more of a mindset, but I'm taking "stress is a season" into 2022. Things have been hard for a long time, but these challenges can, and do, pass. This moment is hard, but we are capable of surviving it. We are even capable of improving our systems and selves to thrive in the chaos!

Ava Marvin, MT-BC, CYT 200

Thanks to the amazing work of scientists and healthcare workers, this year we were able to go back to more in-person sessions safely. It was wonderful being able to make music with a group of people in-person again, there is really nothing quite as magical!

My 2021 Favorite

One of my new favorite tools to use in session is crepe paper as a movement prop and a sensory tool. I have found children love getting creative with these as streamers and, when we are done, we can just throw them away! Use your imagination - there are endless possibilities with this fun and engaging tool.

What I'm Taking with Me into 2022

This year I have really learned to further appreciate the value in improvisational experiences. A lot of this was from inspiration that came to me after taking a Nordoff Robbins music therapy course, but also from switching back to in-person sessions. Improvisation really is not the same virtually.

I have learned to trust my instincts, and I am more able to recognize the significant therapeutic value of improvisational experiences for self-expression and regulation, especially after such a hard year. 2021 showed me a new love and appreciation for the pure joy of making music together. This feeling was so energizing and I hope to continue this in 2022!

Deb Soszko, MT-BC, NMT

One thing I have learned this year that I will carry with me throughout my career is the MANY ways I’ve restructured my interventions to allow for more forms of communication. Using picture choices is often most successful, but I wanted to expand my clients' choices this year to be more flexible and accessible. I utilized Smart Boards to make visuals that were big enough for even my largest groups to see and interact with by pointing, circling, or even standing in line behind one item in a field of two choices (one of my most requested interventions)!

I've had to get creative with physical distancing and safety protocols as well. I’ve asked clients to shake their foot hello, show me using their fingers whether they’d like item #1, #2, #3 etc. I’ve even placed items on the floor vs. table and asked them to SIT or STAND to indicate their choice of preferred item. These changes allowed me to see communication strengths I would not otherwise have known and increased independent communication that the staff have seen the clients utilize successfully.

My 2021 Favorite

It is hard to pick a favorite intervention I have from this year, but I do notice that I use the Cabasa Roll Cool Down very often across groups of all ages and diagnoses. In this intervention, I play a calming, open chord progression using a slower tempo while providing structure to the movement. I ask the clients to roll the cabasa on their hand for a full verse and 10 second countdown. I ask them to then move to their arm, then their shoulder, leg, foot, and even belly or forehead.

An overwhelming majority of my clients find this structured sensory intervention either calming or fulfilling a sensory need that allows them to regulate themselves with the greatest autonomy/independence. Part of the reason I think this continues to be so successful is that the cabasa rolling on the body is already a very unique sensory and tactile experience. To have such an experience during a time when so much LESS tactile sensory input is allowed between clients, peers, and/or staff, this activity fulfills a specific and deep need. I will definitely continue utilizing this intervention into 2022!

What I'm Leaving Behind

One thing I am leaving behind is the use of set visual schedules prior to the start of the music therapy session. As a good music therapy student and new professional, I used visual schedules in every session, checked them after each intervention, and while I often improvised to meet a client(s) need, that visual remained. For most of 2021, I have been utilizing a visual schedule to note what will begin and end a session; typically a Hello, Question song, or sensory check-in to begin and a Sensory/Relaxation or a Goodbye song to close. I now leave the remaining spaces blank and, upon completion of the opening intervention, I ask the client(s) what their body/self needs that day.

What I'm taking with Me into 2022

I'm providing multiple ways for my clients to interact and engage in session creating using picture choices, dry erase board, and placing instrument and sensory items in view. I may ask verbally “Do you feel the need to move? To talk? To not talk? Do you want to work alone or work as a team? Would you like to play instruments or do more listening?” Some may choose by pointing to a picture, the ocean drum, or the bluetooth speaker. Some may gaze at the scarves or stand up and move in response.

Using these increased opportunities for communication, WE build the session TOGETHER. This also provides reassurance to the group that changes can be made based on need; we are not beholden to the schedule or routine made by the therapist. This will continue to give clients more opportunities for increased communication. It also gives opportunities for the therapist to prepare for sensory needs while supporting independence, self-regulation, and self-advocacy skills.

Emily Padilla, Student Music Therapist

2021 has been a year of change and growth for me. As I continue on my journey to becoming a Music Therapist, my biggest takeaway from the year is that I am capable of doing hard things! I have learned that my biggest moments of growth have come from stepping out of my comfort zone. Being a practicum student at Dynamic Lynks has been pivotal in my growth as a Music Therapy Student. This experience has helped to shape me into who I want to be. In the new year, I am leaving behind my self-doubts and bringing with me confidence and positivity!

Zach Kritzer, M.M., MT-BC

This year has been quite a year for me, having joined the Dynamic Lynks teams in late August! There is so much I’ve experienced and learned these past three months, it’s hard to even know where to begin.

My 2021 Favorite

My favorite intervention this year is one that I’ve used to help my clients develop their conversation skills that I call “Off-Topic”. We select a talking topic and alternate making statements related to it as I play music on my guitar. At some point, I’ll intentionally say something off-topic while also altering the music I’m playing. Their goal is to yell “off-topic!” when they catch me doing this. Unsurprisingly, they get a kick out of yelling this at me each time I “messed up”. It was amazing to watch many of my clients become more skilled in conversational exchanges over the course of the year through this fun intervention.

What I'm Taking with Me into 2022

One big lesson I’ve learned is how helpful strong visuals are when working with younger clients to increase their levels of engagement. I’ve become a pro with our office laminating machine and spend many hours finding new ways to support communication and autonomy for my early childhood sessions.

What I'm Leaving Behind

One thing from 2021 I’m more than ready to leave behind are the days full of Zoom sessions. I’m sure many other therapists would agree that, even amidst the precautions we all must take, it has been wonderful to return to in-person sessions with our clients. On the flip side, the one silver lining of a year’s worth of teletherapy is that I’ve become far more knowledgeable about using the amazing digital applications and programs available for music therapy sessions, and I will continue to find new ways to utilize them in 2022!


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