Advocating to Staff

Music Therapy Staff Members In my experience, there are three main components of successful advocacy: educate by demonstrating, know your audience, and make personal connections.  I’ve found that presentations can be a great tool for advocating, but the best way to really help people understand your work is through 1:1 interactions.  In the next three posts, I’ll focus on how I advocate to different types of people.  This post describes my advocacy approach to staff members and colleagues.

Educate by demonstrating

I’ve found that simply demonstrating what music therapy can do can be much more effective than giving lengthy explanations.  For example, before any music therapy session in the hospital, I approach the patient’s nurse (let’s call her Ashley)  to get her permission to enter the room.  I could walk up to Ashley and say, “Hi!  I’m a board-certified music therapist.  I was referred to see your patient because of pain.  Music therapy can help with pain in a variety of ways, such as providing alternative engagement to decrease perception of pain and promoting relaxation.  Is Continue reading

Session Story: Promoting Development Through Music Therapy

Music Therapy Joyful Melodies Development

Many of my clients and patients have developmental delays.  In the Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU), I often get referrals for patients who have been born very prematurely, but have grown up and reached or passed their due date.  These patients often are already delayed or are at least at great risk for developmental delays, because the typical course of development that occurs when babies are born near their due dates is altered when they are born early.

I once received a referral for a baby boy who had been born about 3 months early, but was now 5 months old – 2 months past his due date.  He had a feeding tube, but didn’t need to be on any respiratory support, and was able to be held. His mother wasn’t able to be at bedside, and the nurses knew that letting him lay alone in his crib day after day would certainly slow his development even further, so they referred him to music therapy, physical therapy, and occupational therapy.

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Session Story: Music Therapy to Promote Emotional Expression and Social Connection

Emotional Expression Joyful Melodies Music Therapy

I once received a referral for a 12 year old girl with cerebral palsy and developmental delay who was hospitalized but had no family at bedside. She was nonverbal, and I was told that she did not communicate. The nurse thought she “would enjoy some music.”

When I went into the room, I spoke to her the way I would to any other person. “Hi! My name is Lauren. I’m a music therapist. I brought my guitar. I’d love to play a song for you!”

Her eyes were open, and she looked at me. I played a simple hello song, using her name. “Hello, Kate! It’s nice to see you today!” I continued to talk to her as I transitioned to the next song. “It’s so nice to be spending time with you! Let’s do another song!”

She lay still and seemed attentive as I sang. I decided to offer her the chance to make music with me, and brought out some small percussion instruments. I showed her a colorful maraca, playing it for her and touching it gently to her arm so that she could feel it. I helped her open her contracted fingers to grasp the handle. Suddenly, she reached her arm up and shook the maraca. Continue reading

Session Story: Music Therapy with Children Experiencing Grief and Loss

Music Therapy Grief Work

Working in a children’s hospital has its joys and its sorrows.

(Please note that in order to protect patient confidentiality, names and various other details will be changed, but the stories I share on this blog are based on true events.)

I’ve worked in a pediatric hospital since 2009.  Part of my job at the hospital is to provide emotional support to families when a child passes away.  Sometimes, I provide support by singing the child’s favorite songs as the ventilator is withdrawn. Sometimes, I play soft guitar music in the corner of the room as the parents spend those last moments with their child, so that the room isn’t so horribly silent when the sound of the child’s breathing ceases.

sometimes, I provide support by coloring and singing “Frozen” songs with the patient’s siblings.

I once got a referral to help support a group of sisters whose brother was actively dying.  They Continue reading

Intervention Spotlight: Counting Songs

Joyful Melodies Music TherapyHello!  Thanks for stopping by to read this post!

Since writing this post about the importance of repetition in early childhood music experiences, I’ve been even more aware of repetition in my music therapy work with young children.  Many of the children I work with are hospitalized for extended periods of time.  Being hospitalized at a young age can often slow or stop typical child development.  It makes sense – kids at home would be having tummy time on the floor, rolling around, practicing pulling up on things, being held often, playing with toys and meeting friends for play dates.  In the hospital, depending on what the child is going through, many of these things don’t happen.  Enter an amazing team of child life specialists and creative arts therapists, who make it part of our job to give kids opportunities to grow and develop despite their medical challenges.

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Busy September

Hi everyone!  It has been a while between blog posts, but Joyful Melodies has been busier than ever.

Joyful Melodies Music TherapyOne of my bucket list items was checked off recently when I was interviewed for the Guitars & Granola Bars podcast.  The podcast is hosted by Rachel Rambach, a music therapist in Illinois, and is about music therapy and motherhood.  Find out more and take a listen here. 





Joyful Melodies has begun contracting with a mortuary to provide music therapy groups to older adults in assisted living and other senior facilities.   It may sound strange, but it has been a fantastic partnership!  It’s such fun to sing oldies and play instruments with these wonderful seniors.Joyful Melodies Music Therapy

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Intervention Spotlight: Heart Beat Recording

Music Therapy

I HAVE to tell you about this new music therapy intervention I’ve been using.  I learned about it about a year ago from a music therapist who works for a hospice company.  He and I both were guest lecturers for a college music therapy class, and he demonstrated this intervention during his lecture.

He recorded my unborn baby’s heart beat into his iPad, recorded the class and I singing “You Are My Sunshine,” and layered the music on top of the heart beat.


I finally got one of these fetal dopplers and figured out how to connect it to my iPad, and now Continue reading

Self Care

These past few months have been very busy.  I continue to work my full-time music therapy job at the children’s hospital while growing Joyful Melodies and raising my daughter, who turned 1 on May first.  I love all of these things dearly.  However, after months of almost nonstop attention to my full-time job, my business, or my family, I realized that I needed to be more mindful about caring for myself.

Nurturing yourself is the key to having a healthy, happy life.

No matter what our life circumstances, we all need and deserve to spend some time taking care of ourselves.  This is especially important if you take care of other people in your personal life or as part of your job.  Here are some things I have done to care for myself: Continue reading

“How did you get into music therapy?”

Hello everyone!  Today I want to tell you the answer to the question I get asked all the time:

“How did you get into music therapy?”

I have always loved music.  I sang in church children’s choir, began taking piano lessons in 2nd grade and started playing the flute in 4th grade band.  I joined marching band and show choir in high school, and picked up the alto saxophone to play in the back up band for the other show choirs.  I also played keyboard in some back up bands and pit orchestras.

That's me on the podium!

That’s me on the podium!  I was the drum major for the Carroll Charger Pride in 2003

Although I loved music, I knew I didn’t want to be a teacher or performer.  I wanted to work with Continue reading

Make Joyful Melodies

Welcome to the Joyful Melodies blog!

IMG_9314 (1)I was taking a walk with my daughter and my dog yesterday and found myself struggling to decide what to write in this post. What do I want this blog to become? Who do I want to read it? What do I want to share, and what do people want to read?

I have been a music therapist since 2008.  Since then I have worked with well children and families in the community, on a pediatric cancer unit, in a pediatric emergency department, in various other inpatient and outpatient hospital areas, and in pediatric intensive care units. I have helped parents bond with their medically fragile children, played Taylor Swift songs on my guitar with children recovering from serious injuries, written lullabies with parents whose babies are critic Continue reading