Mistakes happen with all of us.

Mistakes even happen in sessions. With experience mistakes may decrease in frequency and severity. Periodic supervision goes a long way towards our continuing to develop skills and to show areas for improvement. Challenging session can remind us of our humanness, of our need to improve and of our ability to make mistakes.

There is an increasing cry in several forums about lack of prep time and clean-up time. This time crunch can be a contributing issues to mistakes.

Before we rush to “blame” all mistakes to time, let’s take a moment and reflect. Some mistakes begin with the session planning. Here are 6 session planning mistakes to consider.

#1. Expecting to be perfect.

Yes, there is a level of quality you need to bring to a session. Yes, that level starts with planning, But no plan is perfect.

To the best of your ability you need to meet the clients where they are in that moment and assist them towards a goal.

Sessions happen with people giving and receiving treatment. People aren’t perfect. It is what you (and the client) do with the lack of perfection that matters.

#2. Not identifying what works and doesn’t work.

Sometimes an approach or a technique doesn’t work. You need to take the time to reflect on why that happened. Maybe it was the right approach but at the wrong time in treatment. Maybe it was one of those days for the client or for you.

Continuing to use something that doesn’t work, doesn’t meet the clients’ needs/interests/strengths is just bad – even if the intervention has been used successfully by a music therapy “goddess”. If it doesn’t work, take it off your list. You can always revisit it at another time.

#3. Being too rigid.

There are times being rigid serves a therapeutic purpose. But, there are times it doesn’t serve the client need.

  • If the fire alarms went off at 4am because a spider decided to spin a web in a sensor or a pipe burst, folks may be tired.
  • If the power has been off a couple of days thanks to a natural disaster, your well crafted music therapy session is not the top priority. Keeping people hydrated, happy and safe may be of greater importance.

Go with the flow when the situation calls for it.

#4. Not having a plan “B”.

Always have some interventions, other song or at least a willingness to wing it if needed.

  • Many the time I’ve walked into a facility only to learn a beloved staff member or resident has died. My clients are in grief mode.
  • Other times the residents might be falling asleep as soon as you turn to greet the next person.
  • You came ready to do a lyric analysis but everyone is in one word answer and shoulder shrug mode.
  • Technology fails or crashes.

Go to plan B (or H or Q).

#5. Not having all your music, instruments and supplies.

This rule WILL be broken. As a traveling contractor, I’ve left something behind or not grabbed enough jingle bells or not checked to be sure the wireless speaker is recharged. This can be good because you must fall back on that plan B mentioned above.

Minimize the opportunity for this session planning mistake to happen. Always set aside time to double-check your music, instruments and supplies. Consider having a list at the top of your session plan so you can quickly check it.

#6. Not knowing your music.

None of us can know every song our clients will know, like or request in senior living. However, if you promised to learn it, learn it.

If you’ve put a song in your session plan, know it. Know it backwards and forwards; slow and fast. Be able to start and stop. Know the words and music well enough to be able to observe your clients. And, also be aware that various versions may exist.

What do you think? Are their other items to add to the list?