When You Talk About Music Therapy… “R”oll Your Tongue!

The other day I realized that there are many words starting with “R” that describes the essential traits of music in music therapy.

3034468639_a79e035565_bHere is a summary of the major 6 traits that music can provide in therapy contexts.

RHYTHM, which helps to create regularity in our activities such as movements, physiological responses like breathing, and information processing patterns.

REPETITIONS to maximize the effect of therapeutic exercises or practice because structural nature of music creates an efficient and effective template that provides sufficient opportunities to repeat what s/he is working on. Therefore…

REWIRE neural connections to enhance neuroplasticity!

REMINISCE to brighten our days and increase social engagement through interactive music experience

REDIRECT our focus away from unpleasant feelings or sensations

REWARD to release dopamine, a chemical to control the rewarding and pleasure center of the brain.

Can you think of any other words starting with R to describe the important traits of music in therapy?

Posted in Music and the Brain, Music Therapy | Leave a comment

Are you listening with humility? Revisited

I wrote this post a while back: Are you Listening… with humility?

How can we keep our perspective “non-biased” without judgment from prior experience and through truly emphasizing with others?


Music has oftentimes been described as “safe” and “non-judgmental” therapeutic medium. It can be, but not without conscience use of it. It does not mean that music automatically makes”safe” and “non-judgmental” therapeutic environment. Music therapists are ought to be sensible whether the therapeutic musical environment we are creating in sessions are indeed safer or least-judgmental.

Because many of us like music in some forms of fashion, even if there are different degrees or styles of enjoying music among us, we may not initially think about possible negative effects of music.

People with “Amusia” do not comprehend music at all.  To them music tends to be something unpleasant.

After experiencing brain injuries, some patients I have worked with were not able to enjoy music that they used to enjoy anymore because their sensitivity to the sound got changed after brain injury. It is just noise to them or there are only certain types of music or sound they can “handle”, not even “enjoy”.

In clinical situation, music therapy process conducts assessment session(s) to get to know the client’s strengths and needs as well as their music preferences.  If music happens to evoke negative emotions in patients, we music therapists are trained to properly follow up on the situation.

It is an ethical practice for us music therapists to conclude that music therapy may NOT be an option that patients are looking for.

Our professional judgment is the foundation to reflect our humility.

Posted in Music Therapy, Traumatic Brain Injury | Leave a comment

Welcome Home to Myself

I don’t know where to begin this post, because I have been away from my blog way too long.

Long story short, I had a full-time non-music therapy work until April in addition to taking care of my “not-so-baby-anymore-but-surely-toddler-now” daughter. I’ve tried to be in front of my Mac and type something, but have found myself being so exhausted. I gave myself a little break from the blogsphere. Again.

Then I have finally started to get back to the great land of music therapy since last month. Last night, I had an opportunity to present music therapy at a brain injury support group and it was AMAZING to get to know a little about the audience and share about music therapy with them.






I loved the way the support group facilitator suggested to ask the audience a question, “What is music therapy to you anyway?” at the beginning and I elaborated my presentation based on their comments.  I was feeling like, “Why haven’t I done presentations in the past this way?”  I have always tried to be interactive and be sensitive about what the audience wants to know, but this time it was better because my presentation could become much more “audience-focused” ever thanks to the suggestion by the facilitator and I was less “just delivering my message”. The audience seemed to be fascinated by learning what music therapy actually does and can offer and I couldn’t stop grinning 🙂

And to be honest with you, THE question “What is Music Therapy?” used to haunt me at dinner tables with family and friends, doctor’s offices, or anywhere I go.  It’s not that I didn’t want to talk about music therapy (of course not!) but that it was so challenging to sum up what we do in a short conversation. I have my own version of elevator speech for “What is Music Therapy?”, but in the end I tend to get excited to talk a lot about it and sure enough, I realized I was talking non-stop for a while… 😛

Now you know why I was away from this blog and music therapy for a while. I’ve been feeling something was so missing.  I did not have many enough opportunities to answer to the question, “what is music therapy?”.

Focusing on music therapy brings one greatest thing- I have more time with my daughter and family!


I feel I’m “home” again.





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New beginning!

September… already.

Well, for me it has been the wildest 9 months I have ever spent. Since we had our daughter in January, things have been dramatically changed… all in good directions.

Beside our baby’s arrival, another big change is that we moved back to Washington in July. I briefly went back to work after my maternity leave in Colorado, but I have been focusing on spending time with the baby since we moved back.

While she is napping/sleeping, I have been slowly prepping for relaunching my practice in the area. One more big change is that I decided to change my practice name.

So, today I would like to make an announcement of relaunching my music therapy practice in Washington called…







I liked the name MusiClinic for my practice.  Despite many people have complimented about the creative naming (thank you for your idea, hubby 🙂 and as much as I may get sentimental about my first music therapy practice name, I decided to change it with my new beginning.

Now…, what should I choose for a new name?  I want it to be simple and easily remembered.  Plus, I wanted to add a local touch to it this time. That brought down to a few choices and I liked “Puget Sound” because it has a nice ring to it.  The name implies the entire area I may serve even if my central location may end up moving from one place to the other in the region.

I am SO excited about the opportunities that this name may bring!  I will also share about my daily attempts of  being a mom, wife, therapist, and self!! Please visit my website and send me with any feedback– I’d LOVE to hear from you!

Posted in Music Therapy, Private Practice | 2 Comments

Connecting & Wiring

A half of the first month has ALREADY been passed. One of my resolutions this year is to keep writing blog posts more regularly.  With the big life-change event coming up soon with our baby’s arrival, I will try my best to stick with my promise!!!

January is a special month for the field of music therapy and MT bloggers– yes, it is the Social Media Advocacy Month to spread our love and passion = music therapy through social media like blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc. etc.  And you may have already known that Ben Folds (@BenFolds) is following all music therapy twitters #FollowMTWeek!  This is AWESOME!

Introduction: Advocacy –> Recognition –> Access

Since 2005, the American Music Therapy Association and the Certification Board for Music Therapists have collaborated on a State Recognition Operational Plan. The primary purpose of this plan is to get music therapy and our MT-BC credential recognized by individual states so that citizens can more easily access our services. The AMTA Government Relations staff and CBMT Regulatory Affairs staff provide guidance and technical support to state task forces throughout the country as they work towards state recognition. To date, their work has resulted in over 35 active state task forces, 2 licensure bills passed in 2011, 1 licensure bill passed in 2012, and an estimated 7 bills being filed in 2013 that seek to create either title protection or a licensure for music therapy. This month, our focus is on YOU and on getting you excited about advocacy.

Wonderful stores and facts have been shared by fellow MT bloggers about how music therapy connects one another. Putting a neurologic music therapist hat all day long, here is the one word instantly comes to my mind when I think of “connecting”… synapse.

UntitledSynapse happens when one neuron (or nerve cell) passes an electrical or chemical signal to another neuron in the nervous system.  So, neurons “fire” to “wire” together = neural connections!

So why do I talk about synapse in relation to music therapy advocacy?

1. Shared & Extended neural networks

The brain has certain cortical pathways that consist of different areas of the brain dedicated to specific functions.  Certainly, it has been debated that there are the areas of the brain that are dedicated to music processing (Perez & Zatorre, 2005). But research findings indicate that those areas are not only for music processing– they are also engaging in NON-musical functions such as speech, attention, executive functions, memory, and more.  It means that those areas of the brain are “shared”, implying music can be an effective stimuli for facilitating new neural connections despite the damage in the area to affect non-musical functions. Check out these posts for more details:

The Music-Speech-Rehab Connection by Your Musical Self (Psychology Today)

Shared Networks in Perception of Song and Speech by Music Therapy Research Blog

And not only there are shared neural networks, there are also “extended” networks through musical processing (Brown, Martinez, & Parsons, 2006; Ozdemir, Norton, Schlaug, 2006).

2. Connecting the dots in people’s live through NMT

How do all these mean clinically? My music therapy clinical interactions are based on the use of neurologic music therapy (NMT) interventions. In neurorehabilitation setting, NMT interventions are applied to facilitate the positive change in the brain after an injury (or trauma) for regaining functional skills that may have been damaged (Thaut, 2005). At the neural level, re-wiring neural dots together for the better.

In addition to the moving stories music therapists and people who have been introduced to music therapy share on the effect of music therapy, the growing body of research literature in music and neuroscience research will also help to connect the “dots” for music therapy advocacy work by providing objective explanations why music therapy works.

3. Music Therapy Advocacy in Action!

In fact, there was a great news this week in Colorado that music therapy is included in the new medical treatment guidelines for treatment of Traumatic Brain Injury.These guidelines are put together by the Division of Worker’s Compensation for the State of Colorado.

This is a huge accomplishment for gaining MT recognition in our state. A big thank-you to Sarah Thompson, MM, MT-BC, NMT-Fellow for her persistent effort to make this happen!  Sarah “connected” all pieces together to present music therapy as a viable therapy option for people with TBI. Visit her blog to read about more details.



Brown, S., Martinez, M. J., & Parsons, L. M. (2006). Music and language side by side in the brain: A PET study of the generation of melodies and sentences. European Journal of Neuroscience, 23(10), 2791-2803.

LaGasse, B (2010). Shared Networks in Perception of Song and Speech. Music Therapy Research Blog. www.musictherapyresearchblog.com

Moore, K. S. (2011). The Music-Speech-Rehab Connection. Psychology Today – Your musical self. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/your-musical-self

Ozdemir, E., Norton, A., and Schlaug, G. (2006). Shared and distinct neural correlates of singing and speaking. NeuroImage, 33, 628-635.

Peretz, I. and Zattore, R. J. (2005). Brain organization for music processing. Annual Review of Psychology, 56, 89-114.

Thaut, M. H. (2005). Rhythm, Music and the Brain. Routledge.

Thompson, S. (2013). Guide to Music Therapy in the new Traumatic Brain Injury Medical Treatment Guidelines. Rehabilitative Rhythms Blog. www.denvermusictherapy.com

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My 2012 in a Snapshot

NewYearsEve2012Only one day left for 2012!  Oh my goodness, this year flew SO fast!  I’ve been looking back what have happened in my personal and business life this year and wow– can’t believe that I’ve actually had this many exciting changes and events!  I have not been good at keeping up with writing blog posts (which will be one of my 2013 resolutions for sure), so here I summarize my 2012 highlights in a snapshot (somewhat in a chronological order):

10. Working with new population

This year has started with a couple of temporary assignments. One of them was to cover a maternity leave colleague at a local hospital for providing medical music therapy in helping patients to alleviate their pain, nausea, and anxiety.  I also led my first drum circle for cancer support group members! (thanks again Kat Fulton for your advice 🙂  This new experience let me discover a new horizon in my music therapy practice!

9. Teaching a college class

Another assignment was to teach a guitar class for music therapy students.  It was so much fun yet challenging to manage the weekly schedule and keep things on track in addition to my regular music therapy practice.

8. Singing for Senior project

I also started a new project with a local choir group, the Larimer Chorale to provide an outreach community program for seniors to promote wellness through singing.  We successfully completed the 6-month pilot phase and we are now preparing to launch the formal program starting next spring!

7. iPad

I finally purchased my iPad last spring.  This gadget has tremendously helped my every day work from documentation and scheduling to sessions and everything else!

6. Rocky 🙂

My husband and I adopted a dog last spring and what a joy he is! He somehow learned how to jump a 7-feet fence and got out of our yard a couple of times, though (this problem has been solved).  He will be a great guard dog for our baby girl 😉

5. Working more with pediatric patients

I also work as a relief music therapist at a local hospital, and recently started to regularly see a handful of pediatric patients at their outpatient clinic.  I am LOVING working with them!  I co-treat with speech, physical, and occupational therapists, which I really really enjoy working with and learning from them all the time.

4. Growing my private practice

My private practice has also been steadily growing.  I am going to be on my maternity leave for a few months at the beginning of next year, so things are a little slowing down right now. Throughout this year, I learned ups and downs of private practice, which was exciting but stressful as well!  I will share my experiences here in my blog sometime next year.

3. AMTA Presentation Debut!

I presented my master’s thesis at the AMTA conference in St. Charles this past October (Presentation Title: Neurologic Music Therapy (NMT) for Individuals with Speech and Vocal Deficits in Perkinson’s Disease ).  I was in the second trimester of my pregnancy and have been feeling good, but was so nervous at the same time to give a presentation at 7:30 in the morning…!  Many people came to attend my presentation and we had a good time sharing experiences and interacting through vocal warm-up and singing exercises!

2. First Student Piano Recital

My piano studio has also been growing and eight students showcased their wonderful musicianship and hard work at our November recital.  I am so proud of them!!!  They made me think to seriously get back on playing more (again, this will be one of my 2013 resolutions!)

1.  Baby, Baby, Baby!

And of course, the biggest event of my 2012 was to find out we are having a baby girl! My husband and I are so excited to begin this new life-changing adventure with her pretty soon. Also, many of my music therapy friends/colleagues are sharing their pregnancy/baby news lately, which put a smile on my face every time I read their blogs or FB posts 🙂  We have been receiving so much support from so many friends, families, and students’/clients’ parents! Thank you all and I will report her arrival here in a month or so!

Thank you for reading my blog throughout this year and I will see you again here in 2013.  A very happy new year to you!



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We’re going to be four of us!

I had a long break from the blog for the past few months and finally made a comeback around a month ago. Earlier this year, I have had my first college class teaching experience and explored new population to work with through covering my maternity leave colleague in addition to keeping up with my private practice duties.  It has been a really rewarding experience but also challenging to stay on task every day under crazy work schedule!

Things were finally settling down before summer and I was ready to be back to report all these here in the blog. Then we found that I am pregnant…!

That changed my summer work schedule completely…!   My morning (evening for me) sickness was not too bad, but it had enough impact on my daily functioning under this year’s hot and crazy Colorado summer weather.  I was only doing the minimum and trying to get through the first trimester.

I am now in my second trimester and my energy is coming back.

And I found some music therapists I know are also pregnant with close due dates 🙂

My dear friend Kimberly also started her new blog series “Mommy Mondays” to share her experiences being as a mother, music therapist, wife, phD student, and herself and all (you’re just amazing as always, Kimberly!)

I am yet in my second year running my private practice and now I am pregnant.  To be honest, I feel a little uneasy about what’s waiting for me in a few months.  But I feel I already have a ton of encouragements from my supportive colleagues at work, students/clients’ parents, and of course family and friends.

Now I have one more thing to report you here for the next few months!

Oh and why I say, we are going to be “4” of us… Not that I am pregnant with twins 🙂 We also adopted a dog 5 months ago.  He’ll be a great guard dog for our baby girl!







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Got Singing?


Do you sing during driving because you just feel good? Do you sing during shower being relaxed?  Or do you hum at work and don’t even notice until somebody tells you?  I used to go to Karaoke with my colleagues after work and sing away my stress 🙂

Many of us know that singing is good for us without having too much explanation.

A week ago, I was a part of Informance presentation of a program that I have been involved as their music therapist for this summer. The program is called Singing for Seniors, a new outreach program that promotes senior citizens active and healthy lifestyle through singing, offered by the Larimer Chorale, a symphonic choir in northern Colorado.

At the Informance presentation, I had an opportunity to talk about the health benefits of singing to the audience.

Singing is good for you but why?

It may be intuitive for you to think that music is therapeutic. As music therapists, our job is to extend this intuition in more organized and systematized ways and explain why music provides benefits in the target areas with valid scientific research results.

For this time, my job was to explain why singing has benefits in our physiological, psychosocial, and cognitive well-being. Here is the health benefits of singing in a nutshell:

1. Physiological Benefits of Singing

Improves/maintains breathing functions: While we sing, we naturally breathe more deeply.  Singing songs asks us to breathe in certain timing by following the song’s phrasing patterns, so it gives you a framework to naturally exercise deeper breathing. In turn, respiratory muscle strength can be achieved to improve/maintain breath support.

Improves/maintains posture stability: Consequently, singing encourages correct posture for achieving deeper, well-supported breathing.

Enhances active coping with perceived pain: A research study in a pain clinic has shown that active singing may help better to cope with perceived pain.

Boosts immune system: A research found that secretory immunoglobin A (associated with immune competency) was increased during choir rehearsals.


Continue reading

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Forever Young


Right before I started my grad school a few years back, I came across a documentary DVD called Young @ Heart.  The documentary is about a group of seniors in Massachusetts singing rock and punk music who was preparing for their upcoming concert.

They sing “rock” and “punk” music that the seniors never heard before until their director introduces. But when they sing songs like “Should I Stay, Should I Go?” (by the Clash) or “I wanna be sedated” (by the Ramones), the song means totally different.  The meaning of the lyrics and their life as seniors uniquely blend and their message through singing becomes something special.

You can imagine watching the documentary shifted my “schooling” gear into the 5th 🙂

This Young @ Heart Chorus has been going on tours nationwide and even across the ocean. And last night they came to Boulder, so my husband and I went to see them!

While they were shooting the documentary, several members passed away. But the chorus went on and carried their message of hope and resilience.

Last night, I could recognize a couple of the members from the documentary. The lady who shouted in the song “I Feel Good” is now 90 years old.  She is still singing, dancing, and shouts “Whoaaaaa!” for that song 🙂

The gentlemen who always went to the rehearsal with two other friends and now he lost both of them (one in the documentary and the other afterward) is still a member. He was sitting on a chair for the most of the time but was singing along and sending a good spirit to the audience.

After the concert, I was uplifted, grateful, and happy.

Whenever I serve seniors through music therapy or being as a CNA in the past, I have admired and been encouraged by their positive spirits and resilience.

It was the most heart-felt concert experience I’ve ever had.


To learn more about the Young @ Heart Chorus, click here.

If you are interested in watching the DVD: Young @ Heart (2007)


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Finally, I’m back!

I know… it’s way beyond past due… As I promised in the last post to be back here on blog in May, it didn’t happen.  I have many excuses I can make why, but instead of listing them up here, I will just move on and start writing more posts again…! And I will share what I have been doing in the next few posts!

Today I added a new information spot on the left side of the blog, “Where is Megumi?” I am not a college student any more, but living with my teacher husband, we often talk about our year in “school” year, which begins in August in Colorado.

I have more presentation opportunities coming up this “semester” and thought I would like to keep you updated with what I will be doing by month/semester in addition to regular music therapy sessions/groups.  I will post relating to each event, too!

I will be back here to write more again very soon (I promise, I promise, I promise…). Till then, have a great summer wherever you are!

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