My Most Helpful Non-Musical Tools

Helpful Non-Musical Tools for Music Therapists | Music Therapy Connections

Hi again! I’m back to discuss some things I find super helpful in my work outside of the music and the instruments. We talk so often about our favorite music therapy songs and instruments, but what are some OTHER things that we can’t live without as music therapists?

Of course, having functional instruments, including a voice, comes first. Without the music, there would be no music therapy! These are just a few of the necessities that help my sessions (and my life!) run a bit smoother.

First, and this might seem like an obvious one: water. Yes, it’s important to stay hydrated especially when you’re singing and talking all day, but to me, water is so much more. When I don’t drink enough water, my body really feels it. I start to get a headache, and when I’m not feeling well I’m not leading sessions well. This impacts my clients just as much as it impacts me!

I also treat water as a bit of in-the-moment self care. I lead very large hour-long groups at a behavioral health center, and it’s a lot! My clients take water breaks during our sessions, so why shouldn’t I? It’s as simple as taking a sip in between interventions, or when clients are picking out which instrument they want to play next. It takes less than 10 seconds, and a sip of cold water along with a deep breath or two really help me to center myself as I jump back in and do my best work.

Number two is twofold: a watch and time management skills. Seriously…these are life-savers. I went into a session a few months ago, realized I forgot my watch and there was no clock in the room, and panicked. I ended up having to pop my head out of the room and ask my client’s caregiver to let me know when there were only five minutes left in the session. Oops!

A watch has helped me more than I even expected. Obviously I need to know when one session ends so the next one can begin, but it’s also super helpful for timing behavior frequencies and being able to plan how much time you’ll have to get through all the other materials in your session plan.

My last helpful non-musical tool is my iPad. I do everything on my iPad, from tracking student and client attendance to storing/accessing music to writing blog posts! It’s much lighter to carry around than a laptop or a big binder of music, and using Google Drive and Guitar Tabs to organize my music allows me to have almost any song under the sun at my fingertips. This is especially helpful for those times I get odd song requests that I don’t know off the top of my head!

My iPad lock screen background also serves as my work schedule. I downloaded the app Power Planner and uploaded my week to week schedule — clients, meetings, lesson students, contracts, everything. It helps me keep track of when and where I have to be with literally just the press of a button. It’s color-coded too, which I especially enjoy!

These are just a few of the many things I find most helpful in sessions. I hope you found these tips to be useful and applicable to your own life. I’d love to hear your music therapy essentials, and how you use them!

As always, thanks for reading and let me know if you have any questions!


Why I Chose Music Therapy

My college graduation cap!

Hi again! I wanted to take a few minutes today to talk about what brought me to music therapy.

As a high schooler beginning to think about college, I had no idea what I wanted to do. After looking at my passions and hobbies, I settled on occupational therapy. By the beginning of senior year I had a college picked out and was planning on applying for fall 2015.

What brought me to occupational therapy? Throughout high school, the highlight of my weeks during the winter and early spring was volunteering with the local Special Olympics Swim Team on Friday evenings. I attended local meets and even State Games with the athletes, and learned that I had a passion for helping people. Naturally, this led me to occupational therapy.

However, there was always a little voice in the back of my head saying, “But what about music?” I couldn’t ignore that. I was very involved with my high school music department — in marching band, concert band, choir, the spring musicals, jazz band, even going to music camp for a week in the summer. I didn’t want to let that go. I knew I didn’t want to go into music education or performance, so I thought that a career in music just wasn’t possible for me.

As senior year rolled around and I was trying to get excited about a future in occupational therapy, that little voice grew louder. The college I had chosen didn’t have a band, orchestra, or choir and that just didn’t feel right to me.

At some point that fall, someone (perhaps my mom, a friend, or my band director) mentioned music therapy to me. I had no idea what that was but immediately knew that I had to do it. After looking it up, my heart was set!

After touring some colleges, I settled on Molloy College in New York and after applying, auditioning, an interviewing I was accepted as part of the Class of 2019. Four years later, I know I made the right choice. Music therapy is the perfect combination of my two passions: helping people and music.

As always, thank you for reading! I look forward to seeing you around MTC!

What I’ve Learned About Myself After Moving Halfway Across The Country

I’ll be honest: moving halfway across the country was not easy. As many of you may know from my introduction post, I grew up in Connecticut and went to college right outside of Manhattan. While I was away from home at college, I was still close enough to go home on the weekends.

Moving to Springfield to work here at MTC has turned out to be one of the best decisions I could have ever made, but definitely one of the hardest. I miss my family, friends, and pets back on the East Coast daily, and I know they miss me too.

However, this has been an amazing learning experience for me in so many ways. Here are a few things I’ve learned about myself in my short time out here:

  • I’m a lot more independent than I thought I was! Going places alone used to be a little scary for me, but since I’ve been living on my own in a new place, I’ve found the joy in it. Taking myself out to dinner, seeing a movie by myself, or even going to a museum alone have been weekend activities I enjoy doing with me, myself, and I.
  • The importance of self care. In the past few months, I’ve really learned what self care is and is not for me. It’s made a big difference both with dealing with the emotional toll my work can take on me at times, and the emotional toll being so far away from my support system can take.
  • Although I’m far away from my support system, FaceTime, social media, and phone calls are wonderful things! I talk to my parents on the phone a few nights a week, and sometimes we FaceTime and they hold the phone up to each of the dogs and cats so I can see them. Although it’s not the same as being there, it really does help a lot to be able to so easily connect with my family and friends.

I’m enjoying figuring my new life in Illinois out, and not a second goes by where I regret my decision. I’m super grateful to the team at MTC for being so amazing and making my transition so smooth, as well as the wonderful families I serve at MTC. And not to leave out my incredible parents, who supported me through this journey — you guys are the best!

Thanks for reading, and I look forward to seeing you around MTC!

Learning The Importance Of Self Care

Learning The Importance Of Self Care | Music Therapy Connections

Hi again! I wanted to take a few minutes to talk about something near and dear to my heart: the importance of self care when working in a helping profession.

I knew when I decided to become a music therapy major that it wouldn’t always be easy for so many reasons, but I don’t think I really came to fully understand that until now, as a professional. I knew I would be having difficult discussions with clients and helping them through difficult times in their lives, but the emotional toll of what that would be like didn’t hit me until I began working in the field.

One of my main contract locations is a pediatric behavioral health facility. I work with people ages from 5 to 18 with a broad range of psychiatric and behavioral disorders. I love working with this population, but it can be very emotionally challenging at times.

Coupled with the fact that I have other contracts and a caseload of clients and students at MTC, I can feel pretty exhausted — physically and emotionally — at the end of the week. This is where self care comes in.

When I first began working, and even when I first began internship, I thought I understood the importance of self care. I made sure to do things to take care of myself and treat myself with kindness. Quickly, though, I realized that the things I thought were self care just weren’t working for me. Watching Netflix is great, but doing it for an entire weekend because you think it’s ‘what you need for self care’ isn’t always the answer.

For me, self care has become taking a long walk in the evening and stopping to pet dogs. It’s become cooking a good, healthy, nourishing meal for myself to power my body and brain. It’s forgiving myself when I make a mistake. It’s become minimizing electronic use at night to get a good, solid night’s sleep. It’s making sure I drink enough water.

It’s even become throughly cleaning my apartment or my car out on a Sunday afternoon to have a fresh start for the week. It’s also become finding a creative outlet outside of work — I’m really looking forward to joining the Capitol Area Concert Band when they resume rehearsals in August!

Self care looks different for everyone, and for some, a weekend of laying on the couch watching Netflix might be exactly what you need. I encourage you to take a closer look at your current self care routine and examine what’s working and what might not be. Self care isn’t selfish, and it’s an important part of being a human in today’s fast paced world.

As always, thanks for reading, and I hope you do something nice for yourself this week!




Hi everyone! My name is Molly Robitaille and I am so excited to join the wonderful team here at Music Therapy Connections as a new music therapist. For this post, I wanted to share a little about myself. 

  • I am fresh out of college and my music therapy internship. I attended Molloy College on Long Island, New York and completed my music therapy internship during senior year in a local school district.
  • I just moved to Springfield from Connecticut! Although I went to college in New York, I grew up in Northwest Connecticut. This was a big change for me, but I am very excited  to be doing what I love and surrounded by such awesome people. 
  • I am primarily an oboist, though I also play the piano, guitar, saxophone, and ukulele in addition to singing.
  • I am thrilled to be here! This job is a dream come true for me, and I am so excited to help my students and clients reach their full potential through the power of music.

Thanks for taking the time to get to know a little bit about me! I look forward to contributing to the MTC blog more in the future, as well as getting to know all of the families that MTC serves.

All the best, and happy Wednesday!

Molly Robitaille

{Application of the Week} “If I Had a Hammer”

If I Had a Hammer | Music Therapy Application

This application is a great way for adults with special needs or older adults to work on sequencing, and/or cognitive and memory skills. The song’s natural flow and built in verse structure is an effective way to prompt clients to remember the order of objects sung about, and the fun melody keeps everyone anticipating what they are about to sing about next!

Possible Goals Addressed:

  • Sequencing
  • Maintaining memory skills

Music Used:

Seeger, P. & Hays, L. (1950). If I had a hammer. [recorded by The Weavers] On Banks of Marble [LP]. Hootenanny Records.

Materials needed:

The music therapist will sing the song “If I Had a Hammer” by Peter, Paul and Mary. The music therapist will sing the song once more and will prompt the clients to fill in the blanks for ‘hammer’, ‘bell’ and ‘song’. “If I had a___”.  The therapist can also introduce hand motions to provide additional cognitive/motor integration during the application.


If I had a hammer,
I’d hammer in the morning
I’d hammer in the evening,
All over this land.

I’d hammer out danger,
I’d hammer out a warning,
I’d hammer out love between my brothers and my sisters,
All over this land.

If I had a bell,
I’d ring it in the morning,
I’d ring it in the evening,
All over this land.

I’d ring out danger,
I’d ring out a warning
I’d ring out love between my brothers and my sisters,
All over this land.

If I had a song,
I’d sing it in the morning,
I’d sing it in the evening,
All over this land.

I’d sing out danger,
I’d sing out a warning
I’d sing out love between my brothers and my sisters,
All over this land.

Well I got a hammer,
And I got a bell,
And I got a song to sing, all over this land.

It’s the hammer of Justice,
It’s the bell of Freedom,
It’s the song about Love between my brothers and my sisters,
All over this land.

It’s the hammer of Justice,
It’s the bell of Freedom,
It’s the song about Love between my brothers and my sisters,
All over this land.