Intern’s Corner – Week Nineteen

Hello everyone!

I hope you stayed safe during the extreme winter weather, and are enjoying the warmer temperatures.

Today, I want to share with you one of the challenges I have being a music therapist. I am very much an introvert. I love having time for myself and feel the most energized after a night in. I much prefer my bed and Netflix compared to small talk at the store or going to a Superbowl party. Although I am an introvert, I chose an extroverted career.

There are many aspects of this profession that can take use up most or all of an introvert’s social energy. This can include talking to care teams, leading group sessions, networking, and advocating for the profession. If you are an introvert like me, these aspects can be very draining. However, there are ways to work around this obstacle and thrive in this profession!

Understand Your Needs

What makes you feel the most energized? What can you do throughout your day to recharge your social bar and energy level? Understanding what you need can be extremely beneficial on the days that are the most draining. For me, it is finding time to spend by myself between sessions, lessons, and meetings. If I feel especially drained after my day, I will spend my afternoon in my room and take time for myself to recharge before my next day.

Self Care, Self Care, Self Care

When we get busy, we can forget to take time for ourselves. Often, people think that self care is doing face masks, taking a bubble bath, or lighting candles. While it can look like this, it can also be small things throughout the day. Recently, I have begun sitting in my car a few minutes before and after social interactions. This allows me to prepare for my next social interaction. This is a small thing that I can do for myself to help make the day less taxing.

Find the Things You Love!

In anything you do, it is important to find what you love most! No matter what job you have, there will be tasks that you enjoy and tasks that you would love to never do again. If your days are filled with the tasks you dislike, it can take a toll on your mental health. Whether you are an extrovert or an introvert, breaking up the tasks you dislike with takes you enjoy can help make your job more enjoyable. As time goes on, you may reach a point where you can delegate some of the unpleasant tasks to someone who does enjoy them!

Don’t Let Your Introversion be a Hindrance

Being a music therapist comes with many opportunities such as giving speeches and/or presentations, giving performances, and attending conferences. If you are like me, these opportunities send a chill down my spine. However, it is important to push yourself to try new things! Giving a presentation may lead to a job opportunity. Giving a performance may open the door to further advocate for your profession! While it is okay to say no, don’t let your introversion hold you back from your own growth.

As a music therapist, I see so many beautiful people and make many connections each day. This profession is not easy and it takes a lot to be successful. It is important to remember that being an introvert or and extrovert does not make you a better therapist or person. Instead, these traits can shape how you make decisions or what opportunities you choose to pursue. Finding ways to balance your social needs and the needs of this profession is key to being successful.

No matter what profession you go into, be you and be awesome!

Thanks for reading, and stay safe and healthy!

Cicely McCain

Intern’s Corner – Week Seventeen

Hey everyone!

I hope you are having a fantastic week! This week has been wonderful for me. I have had many opportunities to grow as a therapist, a professional, and a person. Throughout the week I have pushed myself in many areas of my development.

Last week, I really thought about where I need to grow most. The biggest areas are confidence and professionalism. These are challenging areas to work on. Practicing these areas looks different from practicing guitar or piano as they are more internal changes.

To work on improving my confidence and professionalism, I have set goals for myself with my supervisors. Some of these goals include communicating with care teams, using more professional verbal and written language, and complimenting strangers. In addition to these specific goals, I have worked on three other areas.

1. Be Personable

This week, I have been working on my professional communication and being personable. One way I have been working on this is by complimenting others, especially strangers. This is a way to work on speaking to those you don’t know in a low risk way. The worst that can happen is that someone gives you a weird look or ignores you. The majority of the time, it will brighten someones day and make it easier the next time you give someone a compliment!

2. Have Confidence in Your Body

In many situations, I do not feel overly confident, especially in settings where I am in a “professional” or “leadership” position. This lack of full confidence is shown through my body posture and presence in the room. As a professional, it is important to appear confident in what you are doing. Although I may not always feel confident, I can pretend to be by standing taller and speaking louder.

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Try Something

This week, I experienced new things during my sessions that I was not 100% sure how to handle. During these situations, I pushed through my anxieties, used my training, and trusted my gut. Internship is the time for me to try things and get help to learn how to improve. I can only improve if I try things and gain experience.

There are many areas that I want and need to improve in the next few months. At the end of my internship, I will be ready for the real world and I will be placed in positions where I will be the expert in my field. These next few months will bring further growth in myself as a therapist, a professional, and a person. I cannot wait to see what the future holds for me!

Thanks for reading! Stay safe and healthy everyone!

Cicely McCain

Intern’s Corner – Week Sixteen

Hello everyone! I hope you all have had a wonderful week and are doing well.

This past week has looked quite different for me. I finished out my second week of quarantine due to family members becoming ill. As a result, I have had to work from home for the past two weeks. This has led to many challenges and a few realizations.

Going through internship during a global pandemic has certainly been different. When I began looking and applying to internship sites, I had no idea what my path would look like. I was open for new experiences and challenges. However, I was most certainly not prepared for an experience like this one.

There have been so many changes to the music therapy field, as well as many other professions. New guidelines and safety procedures have been put in place, as well as new ways of providing services. I would like to share with you three of the big changes that I was unprepared for when I first started this journey, but have become part of my weekly routine.

1. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

For our individual clients here at MTC, there are some cases where physical contact is unavoidable. As a result, we wear PPE during our individual sessions. This includes medical gloves, a communicator mask, and a face shield. This was very uncomfortable at first, and still is, but I have slowly become accustomed to it. The most challenging parts about wearing PPE is playing the guitar with gloves and making sure you sing and speak clearly through everything.

2. Tele-Health

When this pandemic became apparent back in March of 2020, all in-person services were stopped. After a bit, people began to learn how to provide virtual services through platforms such as Zoom. As a result, I have learned how to provide virtual sessions and record sessions and music therapy materials for students I have been unable to see. I am so grateful for the opportunity to learn how to continue providing services for those we are unable to see in-person.

3. Sanitation

During my undergrad, I was taught to always clean the instruments and materials after using them in a session before returning them. This is a skill that I have certainly used a LOT during my internship. With COVID, everything must be sanitized well before additional use. This includes the piano, the guitar, tables and chairs, door handles, and anything else the client may have touched. This has been a big change in my sanitation routine but I have grown accustomed to it and am not sure I’ll ever return to only cleaning the small instruments like before.

Overall, my internship looks very different from what I ever expected it to be. There have been so many challenges and opportunities that have come with working in a pandemic. While there are many opportunities I have missed out on due to COVID, I have chosen to focus on the opportunities it as given me instead. Being an intern during a global pandemic is certainly not easy, but I appreciate everything I have learned so far!

Thanks for reading! I hope you all have a wonderful week and stay healthy!

Cicely McCain

Intern’s Corner – Week Fifteen

Hey everyone! I hope you all had a fantastic week.

I have been sharing a lot about my journey throughout my internship. This week, I want to tell you about why I chose music therapy.

I would say that I have a fairly musical background. Many of my family members have played piano or trumpet. Some have even had musical careers! From a young age, I was exposed to music through my family.

My earliest memory of music is playing the piano at my great-grandparents home. I remember not knowing how to play but I do remember that one side sounded like a big truck and the other sounded like little birds.

Thankfully, I had the opportunity to begin taking piano lessons when I was older. Later, I also joined choir and played trumpet in band. I continued building these skills throughout my middle and high school career.

During my senior year, I started to really think about what I wanted to do with my life. For a while, I considered being a music teacher. I loved the idea of using my love of music in my job and having the opportunity to share that joy. However, after talking to some of my teachers, I decided to start looking for other professions.

One day, I remember opening up my email and seeing a message from my grandmother telling me about a new profession. She had sent me an article about Music Therapy! After reading the article, I became more and more intrigued about this job. It combined both my love for music and desire to help others.

A few months after receiving this email, I went to a Therapy Party at St. Johns for my little brothers. There, a music therapist was providing services for the children there. This was my first glimpse into what this profession truly looked like. Coincidentally, that same music therapist is now one of my supervisors during my internship. What are the odds?!

After this encounter, I set up a meeting with one of the music therapy professors at WIU to discuss this profession further. After this meeting, I decided that this was what I wanted to do. Soon after, I applied and auditioned at WIU and was accepted into the program and now, I am halfway through my internship!

Music has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I can’t imagine it not being a part of my life as an adult. I am so thankful that I was able to find this profession and was brave enough to pursue it.

Thanks for reading! Stay safe and healthy this week!

Cicely McCain

Intern’s Corner – Week Fourteen

Hey everyone! I hope you have had a wonderful week.

This week, I want to tell you about one of the locations I am working at. I have been spending about two days a week at the hospital. This is probably one of my favorite locations. I am learning and experiences so many different things each day.

Part of my job there is working with the clients, whether that is helping distract them during procedures, distract them from hospitalization, or working on various skills. So far, I have been able to observe a port access and de-access, a spinal tap, and an IV insertion. I have also been able to watch my supervisor work with a burn patient during their hand and arm stretches. These have been interesting to observe.

All of these things were expected when walking into the hospital. I knew I would see some minor procedures and work with patients with various diagnosis. However, there are many jobs that I did not expect to have to do. Each day in the hospital is different. I have learned that I have to prepare to be unprepared.

One of my favorite “odd jobs” is getting toys and crafts for the patients. Since Child Life has been downsized to two people, I get to help hand out items to the kiddos on the floor. It is super fun going through the closets and finding crafts or toys that the patients would like. For some patients, we will wrap the gifts up as well. Mainly around the holidays or for “going home” gifts.

Along with finding gifts from the closets, I have helped haul a few of the donations. Some of the donations have been larger which have been interesting to haul. For one of the larger donations, we used two carts and a spare wheelchair and still had to make three loads to the closets. Around Christmastime, it was a fun time finding space to put all of the Christmas donations.

During one hospital visit, we used a light-up toy to help a child during their port access. This toy ended up needing new batteries halfway through the day. What made this especially interesting was the adventure to find a screwdriver that would fit this particular toy. After searching and searching and searching, we finally found a tool that worked. When we finally got it opened, we had to find the batteries that fit. I definitely never expected to go on a screwdriver/battery hunt for a light-up toy when I was told I would be interning at the hospital.

Although I am the music therapy intern, there are many patients that we see that we don’t do music with. Sometimes what the patient needs most is just someone to talk to. For some patients, we will color or do the crafts we bring them. There was a patient that I played Uno with for 45 minutes because that’s what he requested. Although we can use music, it is not a requirement for our services.

For patients that we see more long-term, we get to see their journey and see them be able to go home. For oncology patients, we decorate their room on their last chemo treatment. So far, I have been able to decorate a “last chemo room” and help gather celebration treats and wrap a gift for the patient. This was an exciting day to be an intern.

The hospital is an ever-changing place to work. There is never a day where I know what to expect. While this was really challenging to adjust to, it has become easier to walk in with no expectations. In most situations, I like to have a plan and know what to expect. The hospital is only ever the unexpected, yet it is still one of my favorite locations I am interning.

Thanks for reading. Stay safe and healthy this week!

Cicely McCain

Intern’s Corner – Week Thirteen

Hello everyone! I hope you are having a good week.

This past week has been a bit of a challenge. Many of the things I am doing have been taken to the next level. For example, in rep check, I have been attempting to facilitate an intervention. I chose to do a song discussion but I have been struggling with this particular intervention.

In undergrad, we learned how to do song discussions in our Clinical Skills. During that assignment, we mainly did the same thing just used different songs and different questions. In class, I felt confident about my ability to plan and implement a song discussion. During my senior year practicum, I facilitated a song discussion with my practicum group. I did the same model that I had learned in class and it worked but was not anything overly memorable.

When attempting to do song discussions in my supervision, I have really been challenged to make it more interesting than “listen to the song and talk about it”. This has proved to be quite the challenge for me. After my second attempt, my supervisor discussed with me some reasons that I may be struggling with this assignment.

During this conversation, she explained the difference between a student mindset and a professional one. As a student, I mainly took information that I learned and just repeated it. I got really good at taking information I was given and adding just enough changes to make it seem different, even though it was just the same thing.

As a professional, you have to be able to take the information you know and create something new. Being creative is such an important part of this profession. When given a goal/objective, you need to be able to create ways to work on said goal/objective but make sure that it will engaged the client.

Internship is a weird in-between stage where you aren’t yet a true professional but you are more than just a student. You have the responsibilities of a professional without the credentials. One thing that I am working on is changing my mentality from “student” to “professional”

One way that I am working on this is by reminding myself that I am seen as a professional. I have students and clients that see me as their therapist or teacher. I am providing professional care and services to them. In order to do this, I must see myself as a professional.

Another way I am working on this is reminding myself that I am a professional. Although I don’t quite feel like one, I will (hopefully) be a credentialed professional in the next few months. I am already halfway through my internship which means I am almost at the finish line.

While this mindset will not change overnight, it will change in time but only if I work to change it. By simply telling myself that I am a professional and I am seen as a professional, I will eventually begin to believe it.

Thanks for reading! Stay safe and healthy this week!

Cicely McCain

Intern’s Corner – Week Twelve

Hello everyone! Welcome to 2021!

In my first blog post, I shared three goals I had made for myself during internship. I am almost to the halfway point of my internship already! Since its the time we all make new goals for ourselves, I thought I would share the progress I have made on my goals so far.

1. I will not let my anxieties and nerves get in the way of my growth.

I am proud of my progress on this particular goal. Although I still get anxious and nervous, I have not let it hinder my growth. One area this really affects me is rep checks. I get extremely anxious before each week but I have pushed through and seen growth each week, even the weeks that don’t go as planned. While this is still a struggle for me, I have pushed through it each time!

2. I will fully prepare for each day as best I can physically, mentally, and emotionally.

This goal has been challenging. I am still bad at drinking enough throughout the day and eating breakfast. However, I have been getting better sleep and eating more regularly than before. Each day, I try to pay attention to how I am feelings mentally and emotionally and make sure to take action to keep those areas as healthy as I can. Even though there are some challenging weeks, I feel like I am able to really give my all to my clients.

3. I will force myself to step outside of my comfort zone in all situations that arise.

I have made a lot of progress on this goal. I have written over ten songs so far! This was something that I was and still get nervous about. Recording these songs is even more challenging but I am proud of how well I have done with that. For some of my clients, I have begun doing a lot of improvisation throughout the sessions. While this is still an area of struggle for me, I have improved greatly from my first week.

For 2021, I am keeping these same three goals for myself. They push me to better myself in a variety of aspects. I am proud of the progress I have made so far and I can’t wait to see how much more I’ll make in the next few months!

Thanks for reading! Stay safe and healthy!

Cicely McCain

Intern’s Corner – Week Eleven

Hey everyone!

I hope you all enjoyed the holidays. The holidays can be both an exciting and stressful time. Christmas is my favorite holiday. I love being able to take time and spend it with those I care about most. This year’s celebrations certainly looked different than years past.

2020 has been a crazy year for everyone. There have been many changes that have made everyday life more stressful or overwhelming. Virtual get-togethers have become more and more common. Telehealth has slowly become a new norm.

For me, this year has had some big changes for me personally. I would have been able to walk in my college graduation but my last semester on campus was cut short. A few months later, I stated my internship in the midst of a pandemic. This has made my internship look very different from what I had expected. There are more gloves, masks, and Clorox wipes than I had planned on.

Internship has been an amazing experience so far and I have learned a lot. One of my favorite things about my internship is that I have one hour of self care blocked out in my schedule. Self care is such an important part of your health.

Some ways that I like to do self care is I like to just sit and watch TV while specifically NOT doing work. I tend to have something on in the back ground while doing other projects because I feel guilty that I could be spending time working so I try to combine them. However, I have been making a point to set aside time for me to just sit down and really enjoy watching TV (usually Star Trek).

Another way I like to treat myself is doing crafts. I like to make cards using watercolor or pens, paint canvases, and recently, hand embroidering. It is so satisfying to watch my creations come to be. I tend to combine these activities with my favorite TV show.

The last way I like to do self care is playing board games or card games. I usually play with my siblings as they also enjoy games. Sometimes it can be nice to just take a break from the world and have fun with those around you. Some of our favorites to play are Yahtzee, Phase Ten (the dice version), and Pandemic.

During my supervision this week, I was talking with my supervisors about how some days are more draining than others, especially at the hospital. I wasn’t sure how to help keep myself going throughout the day. They told me that self care can be small things throughout the day that can help give you a brief mental break.

This “short-term” self care can be as simple as taking a break to get a drink of water or a snake, sitting in your car after a meeting, or just sitting and mindlessly scrolling for a few minutes. Taking these short breaks throughout the day can help you keep going, even on the hardest days.

One of my goals for these next few weeks is to make sure that I do self care throughout the day and make sure I take care of myself. You can’t fill up someone else’s glass if yours is empty. I encourage you all to take time in your day to make sure your needs are being met.

Thanks for reading! Stay safe and healthy!

Cicely McCain

Intern’s Corner – Week Ten

Hey all!

I hope you are all enjoying the holiday season!

Like I discussed last week, I have been writing and recording a number of songs for one of our schools. When I first began recording, I told you all about some of my frustrations about writing but I said that I would tell you all some of my tips as I got better. That is what I want to share with you all today!

Have a plan

While your song may have the lyrics and chords written, that isn’t everything that goes into a recording. Before you start, thing about what sound you have in mind. What type of instrumentation do you want? Do you want heavy drums driving the beat or a simple shaker to help keep time? Do you want piano, guitar, or both? Having a plan before you start will help save time and make the whole process much smoother.

Figure out the audio recording

When I started recording, I had a lot of issues with the audio recording. The mic I was using was not connecting to my iPad which meant my “mic” was actually just my iPad. This cause a lot of static to be in my sound. I ended up using my apple headphone mic to record. While it isn’t the best option, it did the job. I spent a lot of time working on the different settings for my mic to make sure I had a quality sound, such as the noise gate and the input levels. (Adding some reverb makes the vocals sound a lot better.)

Use a “drummer”

For me, I struggle playing with just a metronome. I spent so many takes trying to just use the metronome before I figured out how to use the “drummers” that are available. Even if I didn’t keep the drum track in my final recording, I found it much easier to keep a steady tempo with a drum beat. This saved me hours of time with just this simple fix. What took 6-8 takes before now only take 1-3.

Google is a friend

When you are trying something new, use google to help you figure it out! I am still a beginner at recording so I learned a lot from watching tutorials online. There are YouTube video’s out there for almost anything it seems now a days so why not take advantage? By using google, I was able to learn so much more in a short amount of time.

Have fun and try new things!

With each week of recording, I became more and more familiar with the basics. As a result, I began trying new things. For my song “Winter”, I used the “split” feature to make the instrumentation drop out for a measure during some parts to really bring out the vocals! I also learned how to use the fade out effect at the end of a song. As I became more comfortable, I experimented with the different buttons and learned how to add some spice to my recordings!

My most important piece of advice is that it gets easier. While I may not consider myself a “pro-recorder”, I am no where near as frustrated with recording as I was during those first few weeks. In time, I hope to become more efficient with my recording and hope to continue building my own library of my own songs!

Thanks for reading! Stay safe and healthy!

Cicely McCain

Intern’s Corner – Week Nine

Hey everyone!

I hope you are all doing well.

I am already in my third month of internship! Each week, I have various assignments to complete. Over the past two months, I have been writing and recording songs for one of the schools I am working with. While I have not been able to meet them in person yet, I have been helping to create music therapy materials to send to them during this time of remote learning. These songs will serve as the materials for their third quarter.

When I first started these assignments, song writing was intimidating. I had very little experience writing and I wasn’t sure where to even start. At this point in my journey, I have written about ten songs! As I have finished writing my last song for this set of assignments, I thought I’d share with you all some of my songwriting tips!

Prepare your space

It is important to prepare before writing. When I get ready to write, I make sure to have my computer with my song template and rhyme song pulled up. Next I have my phone ready with my voice recording app to record as I write so that I can keep track of the vocal melodies that I think of. It is also best to have an instrument close by, such as a piano or a guitar. For me personally, I like to write using pen and paper so I have that in my set up as well.

Ask yourself: “what is the purpose of this song?”

Before I begin writing, I ask myself what this song will be used for and what is most important to include. I like to write down the main points of what I want in my song. For example, one of my songs was about the season winter. I knew I wanted a verse about the changes in weather, clothing we wear, and activities we might do. This gave me an outline to follow and made it much easier to stay focused on the goal.

Simple is okay!

When I first started writing, I mainly stuck to a I-IV-V chord progression. I didn’t really start adding additional chords until my last few songs. At first I felt as though my songs weren’t very good because they were so simple. However, simple can be good! Especially when you are first starting. Not every song has to be Grammy-worthy as long as it does the job you want it to do!

Just go for it!

The first few times I started writing, I would sit there staring at a blank page trying to think of the perfect melody or the perfect lyrics. I was scared to write something “bad”. As the weeks went on, I found it was easier just to start writing things down and trying it out! Just because I write it down doesn’t mean I can’t change it, but I can’t change it if I don’t write anything down.

While I still wouldn’t call myself a “professional songwriter” yet, I am proud of the growth I have made in this skill so far! I know that this is a skill I will use throughout my time as a music therapist and I am glad to be improving it so early on my journey.

Thanks for ready! Stay safe and healthy!

Cicely McCain