Posted: April 11, 2011 in Related Issues

As I add more clients to my caseload, something that is coming up is the issue of portability.  I am extremely grateful to be working in a clinic.  It’s wonderful to have a central place to keep my stuff, and to have clients come to me for sessions.  However, not everyone can come to the clinic, making home visits necessary.  And that means that I need to cart my stuff from house to house.  Not only that, I need to carry everything I’ll need until the next time I come into the office.

During my internship, I got my first experience with this as I carted instruments from school to school (no in-clinic sessions).  Not only that, but I was using the department’s instruments for the most part, so I had to bring them back and put them away every once in a while.  When I started working in Arizona, I was using all of my own stuff, and my trunk became my storage closet.  I learned the hard way that Phoenix is a bad place to keep lots of stuff in your car for extended periods of time, but that’s beside the point.

Now I’m dividing my time between in-home and clinical sessions.  I currently have six home visits that I do during the week (five different homes), with another coming soon.  I have to load up my instruments, drive to the house, cart all of my instruments inside, set up, do the session, pack up, load up, drive to the next house, etc.  When I get back to the office, I have to cart all of my instruments back inside, put them away, and get ready for my clinical sessions.  As of now, I’m only doing in-home sessions on Monday evening, Tuesday morning, and Wednesday morning.  So it’s not like I’m doing it every day.  But it’s still kind of a hassle.

Let me break it down a little.  Most of my instruments are portable – tambourines, bells, sticks, shakers, etc.  That’s good – toss ’em in a bag or a box, and you can carry those.  However, with multiple clients, you need to bring a wide variety of these auxiliary percussion instruments since not everything works with everyone.  Plus, I’m still figuring out a few of these clients, so I need to be flexible.

My guitar – I have a backpack case, which is a godsend.  I would be in huge trouble if I had a hard case that I had to carry around by its handle.

Drums – gotta have drums.  Drums are portable, but can be pretty awkward.  I have a couple of djembes that have straps, but that doesn’t keep them in place when I try to carry them.  I have bongos that are not huge, but they’re clunky and have to go in the bag/box when I take them.  That takes up space.  I can fill the hollow side with some smaller auxiliary percussion, but still.  I also have a big tubano that I’ve been carrying around recently.  It stands on the floor and only requires someone to hit it, rather than the holding that is needed for the djembes or bongos.  Unfortunately, it’s huge.  There’s a bag, which helps with transportation.  However, it’s so large that I usually have to back up a couple of times before I can squeeze through a door when you add that to everything else.

Piano – I have an electric keyboard, but you can forget about me carrying that.  Again, there’s a gig bag, but the added bulk would make it almost impossible.  I’d have to not take my guitar, and I much prefer the guitar anyway.  It makes assessment tough, especially with keyboard type interventions.

I also sometimes have other stuff that doesn’t pack well – a Q-Chord, a glockenspiel, a CD player, song binders.  Overall, it makes for a really awkward trip from the car to the house, or the house to the car.  I’m not the kind of guy who wants to make several trips, I want to get it all done at once.  So I’m looking for a transportation solution.  Maybe I need to find some cheap rolling luggage.  Maybe I need to invent some kind of compacting technology – I could really use a bag like the one Hermione has in Harry Potter 7.

I really believe in music therapy, and that we have so much to offer that you just can’t get from other therapies.  But I look around at the behavioral therapists I work with, and I envy them.  What I wouldn’t give to be able to fit everything I need into a large tote bag.

Oh well.  Thanks for reading.


  1. JoelK says:

    Thanks for writing about this; it’s always good to hear there are others fighting (lugging?) the good fight.
    I travel to about a dozen different long-term care facilities in my job, and I long ago chose to limit myself to just my guitar and whatever I could fit into one rolling suitcase. I wore out one suitcase in about 3 years, and I’m on to my second. For special improv groups or drum circles I bite the bullet and make a few trips from the car. I know what you mean about those awkward pieces; a large tubano makes quite a wrestling partner, taking up an entire arm’s worth all by itself.
    Keep it up. It’s all worth it.

    • themtguy says:

      I also tend to take MORE than I need, just in case I need it. It doesn’t make things any easier, and I often am grumpy about the extra stuff. However, there are those times when things come up in session and I’m glad I have the extras.

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