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A couple of conference announcements:
First, is that Ellen Whealton and I will be hosting The Self-Care and Wellness for Music Therapists booth in the exhibit hall, which will be a space dedicated to music therapists’ self-care. We will be there for your self-care needs and education, and we will be giving away a Map to Self-Care to everyone who stops by.
I’ll be providing a 3-minute grounding meditation experience for anyone who needs to come take a break (or get grounded before your presentation), and I’ll have a preview available of my eBook, Resilience Over Burnout: A Self-Care Guide for Music Therapists. Ellen will have Young Living essential oils samples and mini classes available to learn about essential oils for self-care. We will also have info on CMTE opportunities for self-care, and you are free to come by anytime and chat with us about burnout support and prevention.
Second, is that I’ll be presenting on Friday 11/11 at 5:00pm on the Self-Care Trending Topics Panel along with Annette Whitehead-Pleaux and Deborah Benkovitz. We will be hosting discussion on self-care and I’ll be covering grounding techniques to use for self-care to feel more steady and centered so you are less likely to drain yourself at work.
Looking forward to seeing you there!
For more information, visit http://amtanationalconference.com
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I’m calling this my Summer of Self-Care, not because I had a lot of time to dedicate to self-care, but because I launched two new self-care resources. And, because of the time and energy this took, I needed self-care more than ever.
I’m going to share what this summer looked like for me, but first here are three announcements:
1. In July, I launched my new eBook, Resilience Over Burnout: A Self-Care Guide for Music Therapists. Designed specifically for music therapy professionals, interns, and students, this eBook addresses burnout in the music therapy profession and self-care practices to support clinical effectiveness, career success, and personal fulfillment.
2. This month, my online course, Self-Care for Healthcare Professionals launched over at musictherapyed.com. This video course is an introduction to self-care for all healthcare professionals, focusing on how to care for ourselves as we care for others. This course is available for a reduced price with additional CMTE units through August 23rd.
3. On Monday, August 22 at 4pm PST I’ll be hosting a webinar along with Kaleigh Thomas from MusicTherapyEd.com. This hour of self-care will cover daily self-care practices to help make self-care a natural part of your lifestyle. Because time and money are the most common obstacles to self-care, I’m specifically going to cover 5 self-care practices that do not cost money and 5 self-care practices that do not take much time. We will focus on supporting your self-care, however, many of these practices can also be be useful for your clients. A replay of the webinar will be available for 24 hours in case you can’t make it for the live broadcast. Click here to register, and feel free to bring any questions on self-care or burnout as this will be an interactive experience.
So, this summer continues to be an eventful one for me. Both my eBook and online course were years in the making to research, conceptualize, develop, design, create, test, and revise. It took heart, soul, and passion to create, and I was fueled by the desire to support my colleagues by creating something that was needed and did not yet exist. Working on these projects, on top of maintaining my clinical work, was a challenge, and I could have easily burned myself out. Writing can be tiring and stressful. So can creating videos and being in front of a camera. But overworking myself was not an option because of the nature of the subject. I couldn’t possibly let myself get too stressed because I was immersed in the subject of self-care and was constantly reminded of its necessity.
Here are three lessons I learned about self-care during my summer of self-care:
1. Hard work and self-care can co-exist.
You don’t have to choose between working hard or caring for yourself. You can do both at the same time. In discussions on self-care, sometimes it seems like caring for yourself and working are things that happen separately. However, it is important to keep in mind that self-care can be practiced while you are working. And, the harder you are working the more important it is to make sure this is happening. So as work increases, self-care does too.
Working on my eBook and online course meant long hours at my computer and decreased leisure time. I practiced this idea of simultaneous hard work and self-care by staying hydrated, taking breaks to stretch, diffusing essential oils while I worked, drinking lots of green smoothies, and eating healthy food to support my brain’s ability to function for long periods of time. I also bought a new chair which tremendously helped my posture and physical comfort. Even though I had less time for leisure, I made exercise a priority and kept variety in my physical activity to keep my energy levels up. Setting deadlines for myself and launch dates for my projects were also important to my self-care so I knew this period of hard work was just temporary and I had a plan in place to rejuvenate after.
2. Listen to your loneliness.
Both my eBook and online course came from the work I did in graduate school. While getting my master’s degree in music therapy at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, the support from my cohort and professors played a huge role when I wrote my thesis. The encouragement and mentoring from my professors made the process less intimidating, and our cohort leaned on each other, went through our frustrations together, and pushed through together.
One we graduated, I started working on converting my thesis into an eBook, and this time I was writing alone. The loneliness slowly crept up on me, and made me feel anxious, ungrounded, and I had a harder time meeting deadlines when I wasn’t accountable to anyone. Loneliness can be a big contributing factor to burnout, especially for music therapists who are a professional minority. However, when listened to, loneliness comes with some important messages. For me, my loneliness was telling me that I was trying to do too much on my own and that it was time to start asking for support and seeking sources of inspiration. So, I started listening to podcasts on writing to help validate my experiences, and I joined an online writers group. I also hired an editor and allowed other people to take a look at what I was creating. The feeling on loneliness decreased and was replaced with motivation.
3. Self-care is simple, but not always easy.
Self-care is not complicated. It can be as simple as rolling your shoulders back right now, and then taking a deep breath in, and slowly exhaling. Self-care can be as simple as asking for help, taking a nap, walking outside, saying no to a request, meditating for five minutes, or picking up your guitar and playing a song. Although these things are simple, it’s not always easy to remember to do this or to find the time for it. Sometimes it is easier for our actions to default to being busy, to push through without taking a break, or to tell ourselves we will do self-care later. We need to be very careful of this.
I caught myself many times this summer wanting to work one more hour before going to sleep, wanting to work on a project instead of going to a pilates class, or telling myself I’ll do my meditation at the end of the day. And this is a common struggle for many of my coaching clients. Sometimes it’s not easy to say no to ourselves, or to other people. Sometimes it’s not easy to remember to pause and take a breath once in while. But if we can focus on self-care being simple, we can make it easier for ourselves to practice self-care rather than making an excuse not to.
Take a moment to reflect on what self-care looked like for you this summer, and feel free to share.
Resilience Over Burnout: A Self-Care Guide for Music Therapists eBook
Self-Care for Healthcare Professionals online course
Click here to register for the self-care webinar with Ami Kunimura and Kaleigh Thomas on August 22, 2016 at 4pm PST. A replay of the webinar will be available for 24 hours in case you can’t make it for the live broadcast
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Each music therapist has their own story to tell of how they entered the profession. And, each music therapist brings a unique combination of skills, talents, strengths, interests, and inspiration to their practice. In this interview, Ellen Whealton shares her remarkable journey into music therapy and how she incorporates wellness, meditation, imagery, and essential oils into her practice.
You have a unique and wonderful combination of having Master’s in Transpersonal Counseling and being a board-certified music therapist. What lead you to pursue a career in music therapy?
Thank you! I’m so appreciative of my degree, which is an MA in Transpersonal Counseling Psychology with an Emphasis in Music Therapy. Through this unique program, I was able to take traditional course-work in psychology and music therapy while simultaneously learning about mindfulness, meditation practices and how to support different states of consciousness. And because this program bridged spirituality with modern psychology and music therapy, it also fit with what lead me to become a music therapist in the first place.
When I was twelve, I woke from a coma to music. It was then that I decided that I would dedicate my life to helping people through music. But it was more than just waking up to music, because something profound happened before I even opened my eyes. Before I woke, I found myself in a place that was full of all-encompassing love. A love that completely surrounded me, blanketed me. I remember it so vividly. I also remember incredibly unique and beautiful music, lights, bright colors and a feeling of absolute connection and completeness.
There were guides with me in this place and they asked me if I’d like to stay with them or return to live my life on Earth. In that moment of choice, I could see the path laid out before me, and realized that there was much more that I could do on Earth. I could also see that the paths of my family members would be shifted if I did not return to Earth. I also realized what a gift I was being given. In a moment of overwhelming gratitude, I made the choice to live my life on Earth and leave that place of love and connection. I felt a surge of appreciation rush through my body and though I knew they expected nothing of me, I made a pledge to my guides. I promised help heal people with music and be grateful for every day.
And after that beautiful moment, everything went dark. However, in the darkness was a colorful musical staff. I could clearly see the notes moving along the staff. (Interestingly, there was a different color for each pitch.) I watched the notes move along the staff, but could not hear the music. In time, the staff dissipated into darkness and I could hear the music very faintly. I tuned into the sound and allowed it to become louder and louder until it filled my mind. That is when I opened my eyes. No one was there with me. Just the music playing at my bedside in an ICU room. I had no memory of anything before my accident but I remembered my near-death experience. It is still one of the most vivid memories I have.
I didn’t even know about music therapy then. I didn’t hear about it until seven years later when I was in college, but when I learned about it I knew that is what I was meant to do.
Can you share your story of how you came to specialize in wellness and music therapy?
It all started when I was studying for my masters at Naropa. When I learned about the incredible benefits that come from meditation and mindfulness and how they can be used with music therapy techniques, I was sold! I started to think more about how thoughts can shape our experience of the world and how emotions can be held in the body. This fascination between the mind/body connection inspired me to pursue training in the Bonny Method of Guided Imagery and Music as well as Holotropic Breathwork. When I graduated and began my career in music therapy, I used mindfulness techniques and much of this training in my work. Over the next few years, I sought out more training. I started collaborating with a very talented somatic psychotherapist, attended workshops and trainings about vibration and the body, and began to review my music and imagery training.
Can you describe some of the wellness practices that support emotional health that you integrate into your music therapy practice?
I absolutely LOVE to incorporate new ideas and approaches in my practice to support emotional health. I always use music and imagery as part of my practice, but about a year ago I started to incorporate essential oils into my work as well. They have been such a great addition to my practice. I have also been collaborating more and more. Because of these collaborations, I’ve been able to incorporate reiki, mandalas, progressive muscle relaxation, somatic experiencing, visualization scripts using color and light, massage, energetic psychology approaches, meditation techniques, and more into my public workshops. Collaborations are fun and really build me up as a practitioner. They’ve also been a great way to build my practice.
How do you incorporate essential oils with music therapy to support your client’s mental health goals?
When it is deemed appropriate, I pair emotional release exercises with Young Living’s essential oils. This can be done many different ways. My favorite way to begin is to ask my client to share an intention for the session. I then suggest several oils based on the emotional and spiritual properties that best match their intention. We reflect on the intention and I lead them through a quick visualization exercise inviting them to imagine the positive manifestation of their intention as they deeply inhale the aroma of the chosen oil. I do this while playing an instrumental drone or low-pitched drum, allowing the vibration and/or rhythm to move them deeper into the experience.
I continue the process of playing along as I lead them through deep breathing exercises and meditation instruction. My goal is to help them move more into that place of introspection and connection. Soon after, I prepare them for the music and imagery experience. During the music and imagery experience, I often invite them to imagine their oil of intention. Imagining that it surrounds them as they journey through the imagery and music.
How do you personally use essential oils for self-care to support your role as a music therapist?
I am constantly teaching myself about essential oils and emotions and have learned that there are oils and blends that help with anything from relaxation to PTSD. It may sound strange, but I stay up late at night reading studies and researching the properties of the oils. I am fascinated with how well they’ve helped me in my personal life so I naturally want to share them with others.
In my personal life, I use Young Living’s essential oils multiple times a day. To explain it best, I’ll walk you through my day. This morning, I woke up to help my three children get ready for school so I was dragging a bit. I diffused cedarwood, tangerine and lemon to create an uplifting atmosphere and wake myself up. (My son has attention issues so the cedarwood is KEY to our diffusing routine.) I then washed my face and used a toner of geranium, melrose and frankincense. I rolled a little lavender on the back of my neck to destress and by that time it was time to see clients and schedule meetings. After sessions, my throat got a little scratchy so I sprayed my throat with my thieves, lemon, peppermint concoction. Tonight, I will clean the space with thieves and will diffuse again for focus during paperwork (and homework time for my kids).
And that’s not even half of it! I put a little frankincense on the roof of my mouth if I get headaches, roll peppermint on the back of my neck and shoulders for minor aches….the list goes on!
What is the most challenging part of your role as a music therapist?
As a music therapist, my biggest challenge it’s probably time management. Between three children, a busy practice and my constant desire to keep learning and growing, I hardly ever slow down. I’ve made it a goal over the past few years to build time in for relaxation and fun. I’ve learned that I need to have these things on the calendar or I will not follow through. I’ve also learned to slow down and use every opportunity to breathe deeply, take in the moment and give GRATITUDE for life.
What is the most rewarding part of your role as a music therapist?
I believe that the most powerful shifts come from within. These shifts are not something that we get from other people or something that we can buy. As a music therapist, I want to provide a musical experience that will help people connect to that place of knowing. That place within their own body and soul where they can find clarity and insight for their journey forward in life. When I’m able to hold space for them, remain present, and witness beautiful moments of connecting to that place, my heart is full. When I listen to them reflect on what they’ve learned about themselves through music and imagery, there are no words for how wonderful it feels. To me, moments like these are the most rewarding part of being a music therapist.
I have also treasured the time that I have spent teaching music therapists about how to incorporate music assisted imagery into their practices. I love sharing my approach and helping others find ways to use it to support their careers. I look forward to hearing about the creative ways people are using music and imagery.
What do you love about music?
Music will always be magical to me. It brought me out of a coma at a young age. It was my lifeline as I recovered from that injury. It lifts me up on a bad day and connects to my core as nothing else can do. It soothes my little one’s tears when words won’t help. It is what all encompassing love feels and sounds like.
For more information on Ellen Whealton, MA, MT-BC, visit wellnessmusictherapy.com
Contact Ellen at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on Young Living’s essential oils.
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The American Music Therapy Association’s national conference will be held this month in Kansas City, MO. I will be presenting at the conference as a part of the Trending Topics Panel on Friday November 13th at 7:30am that will cover a variety of skills for music therapists.
The panelists and topics include:
- Searching for Funding Opportunities: Finding the Right Grantmaker for Your Project
Presenter(s): Jessica Donley
- Implementing and Generalizing Improvised Song Interventions: A Conceptual Framework
Presenter: Kayla C. Daly LMHC, MT‑BC
- Using Thematic Analysis to Assist in Selecting Popular Music for Song Discussion
Presenters: Ashley Taul, MMT, MT‑BC; Chelsea Waddelow, MMT, MT‑BC
- Therapeutic Efficacy of Violin Playing Techniques and the Human Voice
Presenter: Tsz Hei Fatima Chan, MME, MT‑BC
- Promoting Wellness: The Role of Music Therapy in Undergraduate General Education
Presenter: Linda M. Wright-Bower, MS, MT-BC
- Relationships Between Music Therapy Graduates’ Perceptions of Undergraduate Curricula and Graduation Outcomes
Presenter: Stephanie Epstein, MM, MT-BC
- Resilience Over Burnout: Self-Care Practices for Music Therapists Working With Traumatized Clients
Presenter: Ami Kunimura, MT‑BC
In my presentation, I will be addressing compassion fatigue, vicarious traumatization, and secondary trauma as natural consequences of trauma work and the unique risk factors for music therapists. It is so important to be aware of the emotional demands of our work as music therapists, and I will present specific self-care techniques and solutions for coping with these professional fatigue syndromes in order to increase clinical effectiveness, well-being, balance, and resiliency.
More information about the AMTA conference can be found at http://www.amtaconference.com