Parkinson's

Allied Team Training for Parkinson's-Day 2...I'm NOT the Kum Bah Ya guy!

What an amazing and inspirational day! Connie Tomaino, the music therapist that's worked with Dr. Oliver Sacks for 30 years, is a phenomenal resource! This woman helped develop the study of the neurological effects of music and she gladly shares her wealth of experience. I felt so energized and excited to begin working with Parkinson's patients! There are SO many ways music therapy and neurologic music therapy can help!

She wowed the training group as she explained the vital role music therapists play in the treatment of Parkinson's. The unfortunate thing is that there are only two music therapists at this training. This team training is a wonderful experience and I wish more people could benefit from the training itself and specifically Connie's expertise.

I'm meeting people from all over the country and across disciplines and taking the opportunity to educate them about music therapy. But you know, Connie made an excellent point today: the number of music therapists in this country has plateaued. When I started in the profession 8 years ago, there were approximately 5000 music therapists. Today, there are approximately 5000 music therapists. Connie mentioned that number has remained steady for years. She wonders if it has something to do with the struggle and lack of reimbursement. I think that's a very plausible reason, unfortunately. She commented to me that we should have 100,000 MTs in this country.

Being a music therapist is somewhat like being a Jedi.

In Episode 1, Qui Gon tells Anakin that being a Jedi is a hard life. We know that being a Jedi means a life of service. That's typical of music therapists as well.

Music therapists are not in it for the money...my MT prof in college said, "Music therapists are the happiest poor people in the world, because we love what we do, but we're not well paid for it."

Music therapists, like Jedi, must have some natural talent for what they do and be willing to constantly hone their existing skills while developing new ones. I tell people that being a music therapist takes a very unique set of skills. Pete Meyer, who led the guitar skills workshop I attended a few weeks ago, said that music therapists are always the best musicians.

We might not always be the best performers, but we're the best musicians.

That's just part of the equation though.

I know some wonderful musicians, most of them music teachers, who would not cut it as a music therapist. They certainly have the music skills, but they don't have the rest of the puzzle. One of my friends is a great musician and is completely uncomfortable with people expressing raw emotion. Sorry buddy! No MT career in your future!

It's not about just having music and rhythm skills, but about people skills and being emotionally intelligent enough to help people process their emotions while protecting and processing your own. It's about using music skillfully to achieve goals that have nothing to do with music.

The life of a music therapist, like the life of a Jedi, is often not an easy one. So many times we have to fight to get ourselves a job, then after we get it, we have to fight to keep it.  Many states right now have MT task forces working at the state level to get music therapy recognized by the government. We continually battle to get our services reimbursed, recognized and valued by "official" entities. It's hard enough to stay afloat, let alone develop our skills to ever higher levels and work to advance the practice of our discipline. It's a hard life to be sure...but if I had to guess, I'd say 99.5% of us are lifers.

It's a hard life and yet one that inspires passion in each of us that do this vital work. The intrinsic rewards are beyond measure...

and we love it.

We were asked to tell other disciplines what we wish doctors knew about our profession...my first answer was "I'm not the Kum Bah Ya guy!"

Most people, even in my own hospital, think I'm there primarily to help people feel better. The psycho-social applications of music therapy are the most understood, most appreciated and yet is just a small fraction of what I can offer.

Take the part of our Parkinson's team here at ATTP: With our social worker I can help patients and families give voice to emotions that may be held back, voice to frustrations that otherwise might not be expressed. With our occupational therapist I can provide Patterned Sensory Enhancement to support range of motion exercises. With our speech therapist I can assist in teaching patients to project their voices. With our physical therapist I can facilitate Rhythmic Auditory Stimulation to improve how patients walk.

I have so much to offer our patients and my team! Maybe I should say "I'm more than just the Kum Bah Ya guy."

I learn more about my team every day and they learn more about me. I think we will become a wonderful resource for information and treatment of Parkinson's disease. What an amazing opportunity to be here at the beginning!

I should also note that I had dinner with the Speech faculty member and the Coordinator of the training. What an awesome exchange of ideas and information! Plus, it sounds like I'll get a quick lesson to improve the resonance of my voice tomorrow!

As I am so fond of saying to another OT friend of mine, "It's not easy being us, but it's oh, so good!"

A final note...an amazing quote came from a panel member today who's had Parkinson's for 30 years. He was speaking of the uncontrollable movements that he deals with on a daily basis. In regards to the shaking he said, "Sometimes I do it, sometimes I don't, but it's all me."

Allied Team Training for Parkinson's-Day 1

Here I am for my first trip to North Carolina. Chapel Hill is beautiful! I haven't seen much of it, but it definitely has a good vibe! I'm here with part of our newly formed Parkinson's Rehab team. We have an occupational therapist, physical therapist, speech language pathologist, social worker and me representing music therapy/neurologic music therapy.

There is only one other music therapist here, so our training with Connie Tomaino tomorrow will be VERY individualized! Woo hoo! It is a true rarity to be able to learn from such an innovator in a field, and in such an intimate setting!

I actually met her before dinner tonight...only long enough to introduce myself, shake hands and hear her say, "I was glad to hear there was going to be another music therapist here."

I'll take it!

I've been making notes to myself all day about how our team can be effective in delivering services and communicating information to other healthcare professionals and the general public. Inspiration that will lead to an amazing resource of information and care for patients with Parkinson's and their families. I have the best job ever!

Had a great dinner conversation in the hotel bar with my team and a PT from Montana. After our new friend from Montana excused himself to watch his alma mater's game on TV, we discussed as a team what our educational backgrounds are and how we came to be in our respective disciplines. It was a good bonding experience and helped lay the foundations for our team to develop trust in working as a group.

My beloveds often talk about my amazing networking skills...today I met a nurse from Ontario, got a lot of appreciation from the desk clerk for understanding her inability to answer questions about a shuttle service the National Parkinson's Foundation arranged for the hotel and chatted a bit with our Iranian born bartender who appreciated my live and let live attitude toward people that don't look just like me. One of the best part of my passion (some call it a job) is that I connect with people everyday. Humanizing our interactions with people is something most of us could benefit from.

As a species, we spend far too much dehumanizing others instead of humanizing them. We develop the classic "us" vs. "them" mentality. The "us" is always the more proper or correct way of thinking or doing and the "them" side is heinous and unthinkable in their actions.

What we fail to acknowledge is that there is no "us" and "them"...there's only "us."

We are building a global culture where finally it seems that the differences we have become our greatest strength...like the old Star Trek adage: infinite diversity in infinite combinations.

There is the potential for conflict between the American and Iranian governments currently. If I took the "us" vs. "them" stance, I would make some cultural slur about how all those Middle Easterners are the same...they just want to kill Americans and they should be grateful because we buy their oil...

Instead, I learned that Rasool came to American in 1982 and has lived different places in the country, which affected his accent when speaking English although he's never picked up a bit of a Southern accent. I have no issue with Rasool because he used to live in Iran. I have no issue because I choose to humanize people instead of dehumanizing them. To me, he's not a "towel head", he's a person. A person with hopes and dreams and fears and frustrations. He's also good at schmoozing with the bar patrons!

I think I will remember Rasool for a long time. The look of joy and acceptance he had on his face when we were talking had an impact on me. He seemed glad that someone understood that he was a person even though he and I had cultural and ethnic differences. We all want to be happy. We all want to be accepted.

My team was idly curious about where he was from originally because of his accent, so I asked. That simple question may have brought just a sliver more peace and acceptance into the world tonight.

So humanize your interactions with people you meet every day! Comment on their beautiful children. Express your appreciation for the outfit someone is wearing or the way they style their hair. Even brief conversations can affect how those people (and you) interact with others that day. Pay it forward with small bits of kindness and genuine interest!

Wow! What a first day! I'm eager to see what inspiration tomorrow brings!

Part of me really wants to get some riq practice in...but I'm so wiped out from a busy day that I'll probably read for a while before turning in. Not sure how far the sound of a riq would travel in a place like this and it's 2230 already. No need to wake the neighbors :)