Lyric Corner: Thank You

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I wanted to write about a song I like to use in mental health and substance abuse recovery groups, though I think it is pertinent in most peoples’ lives. It’s from the late 90′s, which I know is showing my age! You can read the lyrics here and watch the music video, but be forewarned that she is “naked” in the video.

When I first heard this song as a teen, I didn’t give it much thought, but years later and listening to it as a therapist, I hear it so differently. There are a lot of contradictions in this song, in my opinion. There are also a lot of things Alanis “thanks” in the chorus that we probably wouldn’t typically “thank,” such as “terror,” “frailty,” and “consequence.” Why would someone ever be thankful for any of those things? I think the answer comes with time after one has experienced those things. Isn’t it true that at the moment we experience consequences for our actions (especially negative consequences) it seems as though it is the worst time in our lives, but later, we tend to realize that the consequence had to happen for our own growth? Is it after a brush with terror that we realize what we need to do to keep ourselves safe? And isn’t it so that being in a frail state is what teaches us to be grateful for and to value our own strength? Life is certainly not 100% “good” all the time, but without the “bad,” can there really be any “good?” All the negative things we encounter in our lives seem to help us to change for the better in a lot of situations. If I really think about it, there are a lot of things that have happened in my life that, at the time, seemed terrible, but looking back, there are other more positive experiences that I’ve had because of the negative things.

In between the choruses, Alanis sings about things she is thinking about doing differently, such as “unabashedly bawling my eyes out” and “enjoying the moment for once.” If you look at her list, there is a lot of valuable advice:

  • Get off those antibiotics (or any other kind of unnecessary medication, for that matter).
  • Stop eating when you’re full.
  • Don’t blame someone else for everything.
  • Enjoy the moment for once.
  • Forgive others.
  • Deal with things one at a time.
  • Stop hurting and being mean to yourself.
  • Remember your divinity.
  • Bawl your eyes out every once in awhile.
  • It’s not the end of the world if you choose to stop doing something.

What if we chose to do some of the things she suggests? Even just making one or two of these changes could be life-altering, couldn’t it? That being said, none of these are particularly easy and would take some effort, but it really could be worth it in the end.

In a mental health and/or substance abuse recovery setting, we can talk a lot about the experience of being hospitalized during a discussion about this song. This may be one of the worst times in those patients’ lives but once they are further into their recovery, they may one day realize that this hospitalization was maybe one of the best steps they could have taken. Discussion could also include things they need to do to better care for themselves. There are lots of lyric discussion opportunities as well as song transformation options with this song!

What do you think of this song? Do you see it differently than I do?

Lyric Corner: Unworthy by Cheryl Wheeler

I just learned of a song that I think would be good for use in sessions as well as in our personal lives. It’s called Unworthy and it’s by Cheryl Wheeler. You can listen to it on youtube and view the lyrics.

I had never heard of Cheryl Wheeler before but someone let me know about this song and I’m so glad they did. If you at least read the lyrics through the link above, you will know exactly what I’m talking about. I don’t necessarily think I should be doing everything she lists in the song, but I’m pretty sure I could rewrite the lyrics with my own to-do list. I’m sure you could, too.

I realize the song itself sounds a little goofy, but I do think it has a lot of relevance in a variety of settings. I could see myself using it with my substance abuse and/or mental health groups or even in just a session with people seeking help with wellness. I also think it’s something I need to take a look at myself.

Obviously, this song lends itself well to lyric analysis and a good, hearty discussion about self-care and the importance of living in the moment. There might be some songwriting or lyric substitution opportunities here as well.

What are your ideas?

How I Got Here…

As my 7th year of being a professional music therapist ends and I begin the 8th year of my career, I have taken some time to reflect on all the reasons I became a music therapist.

As a teenager, I had a lot going on in my life that took quite a bit of processing. (What teenager doesn’t have that?) It is a major time of transition because one is developing independence (which, therefore, means less dependence on one’s parents, whether they like that or not) and learning who one really is and where her place is in the world. I won’t even mention the hormones that come into play in a teenage girl’s life! I was the oldest child and the only daughter, which I suspect made it more difficult for my parents to understand how to deal with me at this age. There were numerous arguments with my parents, various love interests that came and went, and lots of drama at school, which is probably pretty common for most teenagers.

I am firmly convinced that music is what kept me afloat during these formative years. I began playing the piano when I was 7, so by the time I became a teenager, I had a fairly good handle on my piano skills and could play quite a bit of repertoire ranging from classical music to church music to popular songs. I also played the flute and mallet percussion in the high school band (including marching band, concert band, jazz band, and pep band) and was the drum major of the marching band my junior and senior years.

There were several things I did on a regular basis that relieved a lot of my anxiety and stress that I didn’t come to know as being therapeutic until much later.

1. I spent a lot of time when I got home from school just playing my piano. I usually didn’t play anything that was written. Instead, I improvised in keys that matched my mood. I had no idea at the time, but now as a music therapist, I know that I was using improvisational techniques to help me to express my emotions in a positive way.

2. I also wrote numerous songs. No one has ever seen these songs because I always viewed them as too personal (and probably not very good) but they seemed to make me feel better. There was something therapeutic about writing it all down on paper and getting to sing and play about it.

3. I spent hours (and I mean HOURS) in my room listening to all kinds of music, trying to find the perfect song to match whatever situation I was in at the time. Now I know that this is a form of lyric analysis, but at the time, I was merely looking for something to validate how I felt. Once I found the perfect song, I would listen to it over and over again, sometimes singing along with my music. I can’t imagine what my parents thought I was doing up there. I often spent time writing out the parts of the lyrics that I could relate to the most. I have since found tons of folded up lined paper with numerous lyrics scattered all over the page in collage-like fashion.

4. If you were to look at the relationships and friendships I had at that time, they were almost all related to musical extracurricular activities. I felt closest to these people, probably because we had played music together. We knew each other well because so much of our personalities spilled over into our playing. We had a connection that really could not be expressed in words because so much of it just came out in the music, whether it was while playing in a large ensemble, me accompanying a soloist or vocalist, or just improvising with friends after band practice. Because we knew each other musically, we developed a stronger relationship outside of the band/practice/rehearsal room.

I’m sure there are many more things I did that I am missing here, but the point is that all those years, I voluntarily chose to use music as my outlet. Because of this, I know that music works as a way to heal and process all kinds of emotions. Even at the age of 31, I still remember how it felt to be a teenager and whenever I hear those songs I used to listen to in my room or come across some old original songs I wrote during that time, it brings me back to those days. The music got me through those tough times when I felt really misunderstood and lost. I think this is a large part as to why I was drawn to this profession once I learned more about it – it was all the things that I had done for myself that I hadn’t even realized was therapeutic at the time.

Unfortunately, not everyone is equipped with the musical skill and knowledge I had at that age, but that doesn’t mean they can’t benefit from music. As a music therapist, my ultimate goal is to help others use music as a healing process in whatever way works best for them.

How did you come to be a music therapist?

Introductions

Since this is one of the very first posts I am putting out there on the web, I thought I would give everyone a bit of my background.

I studied at the University of Evansville for my undergraduate coursework. Upon graduation, I moved to Bluffton, Indiana to complete my six-month internship at Bi-County Services where I worked with adults with developmental disabilities. Right before I moved, I met my husband, who also lived in Evansville, so when I finished my internship, I moved back home to Evansville. This was definitely not my original plan but I trusted that somehow things would work out.
Fast forward to 6 and a half years later. It took some time but I finally found work (sometimes more than I can really handle) and I have had a broad variety of experiences during that time. I’ve worked with adults and children with developmental disabilities, hospice patients, adults with Alzheimer’s Disease, geriatrics, individuals with substance use issues, and adults, children, and adolescents with mental disorders and behavioral problems. During this time, I also completed a Masters degree in Music Therapy from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College.

Currently, I work two to three days a week at a psychiatric hospital and spend two days doing private contracts that consist of long-term care facilities and an adult psychiatric facility. I also teach piano lessons, play for weddings, and substitute as the organist or pianist at a local church a couple of times a month. In September, I am offering a music and wellness course for adults, so I am waiting to see if I will have enough participants to teach a class. Obviously, I keep myself very busy! That being said, there are some changes at the psychiatric hospital that will be happening on Oct. 1. I may still have some opportunities to do some work there but my hours will be cut drastically. While this isn’t great, it will allow me to develop some other ideas that I have had waiting in the wings for some time now. When one door closes, another door opens!

Anyway, that’s me in a nutshell! I hope to post here in this blog regularly and share some of my ideas and thoughts about my work and music therapy in general as we continue to grow as a profession. I also look forward to joining the ranks of other music therapy bloggers out there!

Hello!

Hello! I am planning on creating a new website containing information about my music therapy private practice. I also plan to join numerous other music therapists who have created blogs to discuss various topics about music therapy. When I’m not working part time at an inpatient psychiatric facility, providing contractual music therapy groups at various facilities in my area, working on my thesis to complete my Master of Arts in Music Therapy, taking care of my 1-year old daughter, spending time with my family, or taking a break from my chaotic schedule, I plan to work on this webpage.

In all seriousness, I hope that you do check back from time to time, as new information will be added to this page. In the meantime, if you have questions about my music therapy services, or just about music therapy in general, please do not hesitate to contact me at uepianogirl@gmail.com and 812-455-9039.