Farewell Caroline!

When I first met the two people who would join me in my internship in the summer of 2013, I had no idea what to expect. All I knew was that Dan, a fellow Marylhurst alum, played guitar and that Caroline, a Berklee grad, played upright bass. I figured we’d spend some time together given the circumstance, but I didn’t know how much our shared experience would bond us together. Today, three years later, Dan and Caroline count among my closest friends.

Recently, Caroline had leave Portland in order to move to Atlanta. So I want to take a minute to talk about how much I and the rest of the Earthtones family appreciate her! We are so glad that she is part of our team and we will miss her.

About Caroline

Caroline has lived in nearly every corner of our country. She grew up in Atlanta, GA and traveled to Boston, MA to complete her Bachelors of Music Therapy at Berklee College of Music. Caroline has called Portland home for the past two years and spent one of those years serving the geriatric population at Oregon State Hospital.

Caroline worked as a part of our administrative team in addition to maintaining clinical hours. She is currently working towards her Masters in Expressive Arts Therapy with a Specialization in Mental Health Counseling from Lesley University. Caroline enjoys working with many different age groups. In her down time, she likes playing and watching sports.

A Message from Caroline

Hi Earthtonians. While I am excited for what my next chapter will bring, I would be remised if I didn’t thank all of you for being a part of this one. I came to Earthtones as an intern in the summer of 2013 and was warmly welcomed into the community. After working at OSH I returned to the EMTS team as an MT and Office Administrator. I appreciate all that I have learned from each one of you as an intern and as a professional and look forward to continuing to connect in the future. Thank you for your kind words and support in this tough time.”


Words That Have Completely Different Meanings When You’re A Music Therapist

Words That Have Completely Different Meanings

Grounded – Growing up, being grounded used to be a bad thing. It was a punishment that meant you weren’t going anywhere any time soon. Now, being grounded means feeling centered, at ease, and present. If we tell you you’re grounded, take it as a compliment!

Positive*- In everyday speech, if something is positive it means it is a good thing. In therapy, “positive” just means something is added.

Negative*- On a similar note, negative does not necessarily mean bad, it just means something is taken away.

Affect- In our world, this word is a noun and not a verb. It doesn’t rhyme with effect and is pronounced “ah-ffect” (with the “ah” sounding like it does in the word “apple.”) It means someone’s outward demeanor.

Engagement- When we talk about someone’s engagement, we definitely don’t mean that they’ll be tying the knot any time soon! Instead, we mean that they are actively involved.

TBI, DD, AMTA, AAC, GIM etc etc – Part of being a music therapist is getting used to seeing and hearing acronyms everywhere. For the record, the above listed acronyms mean: Traumatic Brain Injury, Developmental Disability, American Music Therapy Association, Augmented & Alternative Communication, and Guided Imagery and Music.


*An extra note on “positive” and “negative” – In general we work to phrase things to be as objective as possible.  A smile does not always mean joy, and a frown does not always mean sadness. Unless a client tells us “I feel ___” directly, we use words to describe their actions rather than assuming we know their state of mind!

Earthtones Spotlight – Emma Hansen

Emma interview

When you meet Earthtones intern Emma Hansen, one of the first things you notice is her vibrant personality. She instantly succeeds at lighting up any room that she enters. It’s clear that Emma loves what she does, and she’s not shy about it!

What drew you to music therapy?
My discovery was kind of blurry. As a kid I always knew I wanted to do something music related. I took piano for 5 years and then afterwards I began to teach myself songwriting. My mom was a nurse and she witnessed a music therapist at the community hospital that she worked at, and she came home and went, “Emma, this is for you!”

I played the cello for 3 years, but we didn’t have an orchestra in high school so I took choir. I really started to excel at singing and did competitions. I was going to major in choir education, and then when I got to Utah State I decided to double major in music education and music therapy. I auditioned for the music therapy program and only a few of us got accepted out of a large number of applicants! From that point, I decided to focus just on music therapy.

For the first 2 years I wasn’t sure if music therapy was for me, until I saw it in action. I saw the use of music as a medium and I really synched with that. It’s almost like a tactile thing that can connect a therapist and a client– it just can really create a therapeutic relationship.

Once I witnessed it for myself and started practicing it as a student, I felt a huge sense of affirmation.  I would be overwhelmed and in [happy] tears all the time. I felt like… This is it!

What population do you work with? 

That’s the number one reason why I chose this internship, because I didn’t know what population I wanted to work with. I love everybody! I work with many populations: I work with geriatrics, I work with kids, I work with mental health, I work with adults with developmental disabilities…

Before I started this internship I had never worked with adults with developmental disabilities in a music therapy setting before. And I loved it because I felt like I had to pull out my magnifying glass and heighten my senses, and really look for the small things. I think in that population the smallest things can mean the most.

I chose this internship because I wanted a lot of different populations to work with. If I had  a well rounded internship I would be a well-rounded therapist.

Do you have one population in particular that resonates with you?

My favorite population changes every day! Now I’m on the verge of being a professional and I still don’t feel like I’m ready decide. And I don’t feel like I have to! Working with different populations helps prevent burn-out for me, because every day is a new challenge.

Tell us about a typical day for you.

Wednesday is my busiest day. I wake up at 7:30 and I leave the house by 8:50. I drive to my site where I have 3 back to back 30 minute sessions. Then I go back to the office where I eat my lunch. It’s a working lunch where I’m preparing for my next sessions. I might be putting together a lyric sheet or learning a new song. I’m usually in the office for about an hour and a half. Then I go to my next session. Often times in the time between sessions I’ll go into the studio and ground myself, either by practicing piano or improvising. After my last session of the day I come back to the office, finish my documentation, and I usually leave by about 5:30.

What has surprised you the most about your internship?

I’ve been pleasantly surprised with my internship! I’m grateful for the education that I received because I was prepared. I finished my coursework in May and started in January and was more than ready to start. Learning repertoire never stops. And I didn’t think I could love my clients as much as I do!

Who has influenced you?

Everyone. I am so grateful for all of my supervisors and the mentorship from [intern supervisors] Keeley St. Clair, Maggie Johnson, Ted Owen and Jodi Winnwalker. Even Genevieve [Layman, HTR] and Kate [Bodin, HTR], and all the other professionals I’ve been able to work with. Of course my fellow interns too. Everyone has a unique thing to contribute to my experience. I’m getting an eclectic experience, both with music and horticultural therapy.

What is your favorite genre of music?

That’s like asking a music therapist “Do you like music?”! I’m totally on board with the whole indie-alternative folk vibe that’s happening right now. I was raised on jazz and funk, and a little bit of folk in there. Gosh, I love everything.

How about your favorite song?

Right now it’s Do You Believe in Magic by Lovin’ Spoonful

Any advice for future interns?

Something I learned as a student, fairly early on–we’re here for a reason. We were selected because obviously somebody has faith that we can do what we do. In school your professors picked you because they knew you had potential. Have faith in your potential and your abilities.

It’s really hard to create a therapeutic space when you aren’t grounded in yourself, but understand that it’s a process and it’s not gonna happen overnight. As long as you have a heightened awareness of where you are, it will allow you to see where your clients are, and enable you to forget yourself and put your clients first. You’re prepared for your internship!

Springtime Fill-In-The-Blank

fill in the blank spring (1)

It’s a rainy day here in Portland, Oregon but we’re getting more and more days filled with sunshine and blooming flowers. Springtime is in full swing and summer is just around the corner! With that in mind, here are four spring/summer themed fill-in-the-blank songwriting activities that you can use in sessions:


1. Down in the Valley  – Addresses self-expression, creative musicking. Use the song “Down in the Valley” as a template. First invite clients to make the sound of the wind blowing. The way to do that can be open to interpretation, but I usually model blowing loudly or whistling. Once they are familiar with the format, invite clients to share what kind of things they hear in nature (Or present choices from a field of two), then cue them to make the sounds.
Down in the valley, the valley so low,
Hang your head over, hear ____________
Hear ________, dear, hear ______________.
Hang your head over, hear ____________.
I                                            V7
Down in the valley, the valley so low,
Hang your head over, hear the winds blow.
Hear the winds blow, dear, hear the winds blow.
Hang your head over, hear the winds blow.


2. What a Wonderful World – Addresses orientation to environment, encourages positive thinking. This song is beautiful all on its own, and it makes a lovely template for songwriting. Invite clients to share what they see around them, or to share what kinds of things they see during springtime.

I see _______, _________ too
I see _________ and ________
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world

C             Em      F
I see trees of green, red roses too
Dm                C                 E7           Am
I see them bloom, for me and you
G#                         G7                                C
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world
link to whole song here



3. When the Saints Go Marching In – addresses naming leisure activities, self-expression. This one comes to us from one of our interns. She says: “I like how it’s a familiar tune, so all populations can benefit from it.” Clients can either give spontaneous responses OR chose from a field of two (ex. fly a kite, have a picnic, grow a flower, skip a stone, go to the beach, go fishing). This song is versatile and can be adapted for any season! The lyrics, sung to the tune of “When the Saints Go Marching In” are as follows:

Oh when it’s time, to ________
Oh when it’s time to _________
I         I7                IV                                                     iv (optional)
That’s how I know it’s [spring/summer/fall/winter]
I          V               I
When it’s time to ________

Oh when the saints, go marching in
Oh when the saints go marching in
I                                 I7                              IV               iv (optional)
Oh how I want to be in that number
I                                      V               I
When the saints go marching in

4. Down by the Riverside – addresses naming leisure activities; prompts reminiscence. This is another tune that usually works across populations. I have great memories of sitting around a fire with a few friends who are music therapists and having a ridiculously good time making up lyrics for this song. The prompt I like to use for my clients is, “If you went down to the river today, what would you be doing?”

I’m gonna _________________, down by the riverside
Down by the riverside, down by the riverside
I’m gonna __________________, down by the riverside
Studyin’ war no more

I’m gonna lay down my burden, down by the riverside
V7                                         I
Down by the riverside, down by the riverside
I’m gonna lay down my burden, down by the riverside
V7                            I
Studyin’ war no more


A Day in the Life of an Earthtones Music Therapist

Music Therapy Monday


Ever wonder what it is that music therapists do all day? We serve a variety of clients, drive around town, and somehow still make time for self care! Take a glimpse into a day in the life of an Earthtones Music Therapist…

  • 8:45 – 9:15 AM – Get Ready. 
    • My first session starts at 10:00 and is 30 minutes away. I typically spend this time in the morning session-planning. That includes gathering any instruments, songs, and other materials I may need (a thermos of coffee, for example!). I like to have my car loaded and be on the road by 9:20.
  • 10:00 AM – 10:50 AM – My first session of the day!
    • One of our interns (Greta) joins me at this site and usually facilitates this session. We work with a large group (between 15-18 participants); at a day program for adults with developmental disabilities. During a session we might do anything from rocking out with maracas, moving to some dance tunes, exploring new instruments, or even writing songs from time to time.
  • 10:50 – 11:15 AM – Documentation. 
    • After the session, Greta and I take 15-20 minutes to quickly debrief. We focus on the highlights of the session and I give her any feedback I might have for next time.
  • 11:15 AM – 1:15 PM – Lunch break/Self Care Time
    •  My break is pretty long on this day, mostly to allow for time to commute to my next site, which is across town. There’s a gorgeous park near my site, and when the weather is nice I can sometimes sneak in a little picnic and a nap in the sun!
  • 1:30 – 2:20 PMMemory Care Group
    • Next I go to a memory care facility. This group is smaller (8-10 participants). All groups are different– these people in particular can often be heard scat-singing along to songs by Frank Sinatra and Louis Armstrong. They’ve also been known to let out a “Yee-haw!” after we sing tunes by Gene Autry and Hank Williams. One gentleman is a skilled ukulele player and will occasionally share songs from his native state of Hawaii.
  • 2:20 – 2:30Documentation
    • I’ve got ten minutes for documentation. Again, this time has to be really focused. I note the highlights of the session and track my clients’ progress towards their goals.
  • 2:30 – 2:55 PM – Commute time
  • 3:00 – 3:50 PM1:1 session
    • In the afternoon I work with a gentleman with developmental disabilities. He is nonverbal and highly rhythmic. He sets the beat and I follow! Lately we’ve discovered that we have a mutual love for Led Zeppelin.
  • 4:00 – 4:50 PM1:1 session
    • My last session of the day is with a woman with developmental disabilities. She communicates mostly through sign language and when I met her I could barely sign my name! Luckily for me she is gracious and patient as I learn. She expresses great joy in singing and when I asked her who her favorite singer was, she gave me a giant grin and signed her own name.


On The Road Again: Tips for Finding Your Zen While Driving

As music therapists, we work in all kinds of settings: Hospitals, preschools, memory care facilities, day programs, adult foster care, outpatient mental health facilities, day programs, just to name a few. In order to reach all of those places, Earthtones music therapists tend to spend a lot of time on the road. So how do we cope? Here are some tips from us for finding and keeping your zen when commuting between sessions:

  • Keep your car clean.  This is easier said than done, but having a decluttered environment can make a huge difference on how you feel when getting in to your car. (Check out our Pinterest for some great car organization hacks)
  • Listen to good music (or podcasts) Whatever makes you feel good, listen to it! I personally am all about podcasts. I love This American Life, RadioLab, The Moth, and for my spooky fix– Astonishing Legends.
  • Or, on the flip side: Choose silence. We spend so much time surrounded by stimuli. Try switching off your radio or podcast for a while to really ground yourself in the moment.
  • Know where you’re going and give yourself ample time to get there. Leave room for wrong turns, unexpected traffic jams, or even take the scenic route.
  • Keep a self-care emergency kit – Gum, yummy snacks, a scented candle, a pair of comfy shoes; What’s in it isn’t as important as having something to feed your soul.
  • Practice deep breathing. Check your posture, stretch out your hands, and breathe in through your nose. 1…2…3…4… Hold…2…3…4.. Now breathe out slowly through your mouth 1…2…3…4… Rinse, repeat.
  • Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Always keep a water bottle in your car.
  • Be present in the moment. Have a mantra or an affirmation to keep you in the moment
  • Look around and identify things for which you are grateful. When on the road, it’s easy to look at everything that’s wrong — Someone cut you off, or driving too slowly, or didn’t use a turn signal. Instead, try focusing on the positive.
  • Think about other drivers as members of your family which you love. Everybody makes mistakes. Viewing others with compassion and forgiveness reminds us to be kind to ourselves too!

“The life I love is making music with my friendsAnd I can't wait to get on the road again



5 Music Major Skills I Thought Were Useless for a Music Therapist… Until They Weren’t.

5 music major skills i thought were useless for a Music Therapist… Until They Weren’t
Hi everyone! For our first long-form post I thought I’d share a post that I wrote for my music therapy tumblr a while back. 
1. Memorizing Key Signatures –  Today I had a new client who sat at the piano and immediately began playing. It only took a second to figure out that G was the tonal center. “Great!” I thought, as I grabbed my guitar and filled in a blues progression. But then my client’s hand moved ever so slightly and BAM, the tonal center shifted to A. Again, great, I can do this! And then in the middle of the song, the tonal center shifted to F. And to E. And to B. In that moment, it was crucial that I was able to change keys along with my client in order to maintain the musical container.

2.  Aural Dictation – “What was that song? You know the one.” My client asked as she hummed a melody that was totally unfamiliar to me. “I don’t remember the words but it went like this…” Uh oh. Time to bust out what I knew about relative pitches so I can look it up at home.

3. Sight Singing – One of my first professional sites was a group of well elders interested in singing together. After a session, one gentleman approached me and handed me a piece of sheet music that had been his mother’s. He asked if I could sing it. Honesty Hour : I couldn’t. I took a photo and learned it for the next week, but it would have been so nice to be able to sing that in the moment.

4. Conducting – Going back to that group of well elders who wanted to sing together– Although I mostly facilitated that group from my guitar, there were many times that we practiced without accompaniment and I needed to conduct. In my internship I was assigned to a choir for early onset Alzheimer’s. Luckily I had a great mentor who knew what she was doing, but I was assigned 3 songs to conduct. Already being comfortable with my conducting patters made my life so much easier.

5. Roman Numeral Analysis – This comes up in a less direct way for me. I think all those years of analyzing pieces helped me visualize which chords fit together and in what way. Knowing that E major is the secondary dominant of D major means I can use it to make my chord progressions that much more interesting, not just for me but for my clients too!


Hello and welcome to the official blog of Earthtones Music Therapy Services, LLC! We are a music therapy agency based out of Portland, Oregon. Our team includes music therapists, horticultural therapists, and art therapists. We serve populations in the Portland metro area, Vancouver WA, Salem, and Wilsonville. Stay tuned for weekly blog posts!