Friday, September 24, 2010

Friday Five: Video games & MT goals

Video games have gotten a bad rep. Are we losing our minds to the television screen and gory blood battles with friends? I don't know. Are America's butts getting big because we stare with mouths agape at overstimulating amounts of light and sound for hours on end? Maybe.

I really don't know how to answer these questions. But instead of focusing on these criticisms, I want to shine a new light on video games. Can the powers of a video game be used for good rather than evil?

Well, I would certainly say so! These days I play more video games than I ever did in my youth. I don't own a Wii, but the Adolescent Unit at BHC does! At BHC, the kids can earn points which can be spent playing video games (as well as other things like leaving the unit for meals, playing outside, etc.). But occasionally, we'll break out the Wii in MT session. Why? Just think of all the skills that can develop when playing a music-based video game: focus of attention (that's an important one), self-esteem (another biggie), appropriate socialization (sharing, good sportsmanship, team-building), cognitive stimulation and mental alertness, motor skills (fine and gross), and knowledge of music education. If you're thinking that your clients could benefit from some of these, consider the following music games:

1.Just Dance! My favorite! Players mirror the movement of a silhouette on the screen. Points are for accuracy of movement and timing. You'll be seeing a new version in stores October 12! There is a mode in the game where players are directed to start/stop dancing (think impulse control!).
2.Karaoke Revolution Players sing along to popular songs and are given points for accuracy of pitch. There are quite a few releases of this game in stores.
3.Wii Music Players can learn about various musical instruments. They can express creativity by creating a band and jamming together. They can also be tested cognitively in the Minigame mode.
4.Donkey Konga Tests rhythmic accuracy. There are a couple versions of this in stores. The game comes with a set of Wii conga drums!
5.Rock Band Doesn't everybody know about this game by now? Its cousin, Guitar Hero, is equally as popular. The game comes with Wii guitar, drum set, and microphone. Players battle for points by testing finger dexterity and rhythmic accuracy.

Yes, I am citing Wikipedia.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Visual aids in MT

Many of us have taken those personality tests at some point in our life that tells us how we learn best. Some people need to hear the information to absorb it, some need the information in visual form. The most difficult part of school is figuring out how to best study information so that it is stored long-term (or at least until the test is over).

This can be transferred to your own MT session. I find that it is so helpful to use visual aids, especially when the goal of my session is to teach coping skills, positive thinking, time management, etcetera. Having something concrete when teaching a rather abstract concept really helps to get a message across. Sometimes you just have to lay aside the music to be a therapist.

Today was a day for discussing goals, coping skills, and support. We sang songs and played instruments to begin with: "You've Got a Friend" by Carole King, "What a Wonderful World" by Louis Armstrong, and "Dreams" by the Cranberries. After these songs, the instruments and music sheets were put aside, and our real project began. The group worked together to create a mural, a "Garden of Life." Each person was told to complete one flower, one rock, and two or more seeds for the mural. Each piece had a special meaning:

The flower=goals
The rock=support
The seeds=coping skills

The song "Dreams" talks about how the singer's life is changing everyday. While these changes are often hard to accept, there is a lot to gain from them. We learn from change in our life, and so we grow. Because a healthy flower is always growing and reaching for the sky (ok, maybe not all flowers), the flowers we draw represent our goals; we always need a goal to reach and grow toward.

"You've Got a Friend" talks about how there are people and things in our life that will "take your soul if you let them." You must nurture relationships with people or places that steer you in a healthy direction. Our rocks are strong and unable to be moved. They are always there in rain or shine. Who or what can you turn to in your own life through thick or thin? This may be a friend, family member, the hospital or shelter, a counselor, the church, or something else spiritual.

Coping Skills
In "What a Wonderful World," the singer is taking time to notice all the beautiful things that exist in our lives. A healthy coping skill is something that will lighten a burden and NOT add stress in your life. We need a lot of different coping skills to choose from when life gets bumpy. Seeds are plentiful, and they are necessary to nurture growth. A coping skill may be talking with a friend, playing music, exercising, etcetera.

Each patient drew on colorful paper a flower, rock, and seeds. They identified the three things mentioned above, and wrote them on their pictures. Then they cut and pasted onto the mural.

After the project, we hung the mural on the wall. I mentioned its importance not only in inspiring them during their stay at the BHC, but that the mural will inspire patients that come after them. One of the most powerful goals we had today was a patient who wanted to write: "I want to get better so that I don't try to kill myself or overdose again." She grew tearful, and I told her that this will really mean something to other patients going through similar thoughts. It was really touching for everyone to see that mural. Rather than simply talking about all these important concepts, we put it on paper as a visual aid. There is no avoiding it once it is all on paper. Like a contract, there is a paper that binds them to their words about getting better.