#SWAMTA16 Recap: The Music in My Heart is for You

Hi all! I had the pleasure of attending the Southwestern Region of the American Music Therapy Association (SWAMTA)’s regional conference last weekend in Austin, Texas! As is the case with many other professions, conferences are a wonderful way to catch up  with colleagues that are old friends, make new connections, and learn from the amazing work others are doing locally.  This conference was no different – I had a wonderful, affirming experience this year!


Coffee mug with SWAMTA logo(My new favorite coffee mug!)

In no particular order, here were some of my take-away moments from #SWAMTA16:

  1. Although we call our trade “music therapy”, that doesn’t mean music must be playing 100% of the time.  There is something to be said for being a silent, peaceful presence for a client when the moment calls for such, especially in the midst of a chaotic environment such as the hospital.
  2. Children with ADHD and other neurological differences such as autism have strengths that are often overlooked when the focus of treatment is on eliminating “problem behaviors”.  Many of these strengths (creativity, curiosity, compassion, emotional sensitivity) can be explored and even highlighted in music therapy!
  3. As a music therapist, I often find myself in the position of advocating for the profession of music therapy and for its recognition. While this is important, I was reminded that “we need [state] recognition only so far as it will protect our clients” (quote from music therapist on the Texas State Task Force).  While the panel I attended specifically discussed music therapy state recognition in Texas, music therapists in Louisiana face similar challenges!
  4. The “song cycle” is a process of making a musical timeline of one’s life – picking life experiences that shaped you into the person you are today, and capturing the emotions in those moments with a specific song.  When used thoughtfully in music therapy in the right situation, it can help clients identify patterns in their life with the goal of creating lasting change.
  5. There is fascinating research being done on the use of music therapy to address emotion regulation in children.  There is evidence that use of a high/low arousal pattern to structure music therapy sessions (for example, high-energy instrument play while standing, followed by reading a musical book while seated) gives children valuable practice in regulating their body states and their feelings.

By the way, in case you were wondering, the title of this post (“The Music in My Heart is for You”) comes from the lyrics of SWAMTA’s official song, the first verse of which goes:

The music in my heart is for you

It’s the reason for everything I do

Our common ground of sound is forever fresh and new

The music in my heart is for you

I hope you have the music in your heart as you go through your week this week!

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