My Teaching Toolkit

There is more to teaching than what many of us have experienced or were led to believe. Keeping in mind learning transfer when teaching to specific learning objectives require more than just the lecture and note-taking format you may have experienced in the past. To be an effective educator to adults who want to develop their professional or clinical skills requires an awareness of what needs to be learned and how that learning can be best facilitated, all while also being aware of and sensitive to the unique backgrounds and experiences of the people they teach.

How I Teach Music Therapists and Mental Health Providers

An image of Faith Halverson-Ramos, a woman wearing glasses, who is standing in front of a screen that says "What about music?," while presenting to a group of music therapists

As an educator working with people who want to become music therapists and mental health providers, as well as with those who have already completed their clinical training and are either early-career professionals or experienced professionals wanting to deepen their skills, I employ a variety of techniques to help facilitate learning, which are listed below. Above all, I take a collaborative approach in how I work with learners and a holistic approach to how I support learners. If you’d like to know who I am as an educator, you can read my teaching philosophy here.

Ways of Learning That I Use in Teaching

Becoming a therapist involves learning a variety of different skills. While being a therapist requires utilizing a variety of different skills and learning or deepening these skills as necessary. Therefore, depending on where learners are in their educational journey and what they need to learn during our time working together, the way I approach teaching that information varies.

Cognitive Learning

A light purple square with an image of a light bulb on top of book contained within a blue square

I use cognitive learning when the learning objective is for learners to acquire new knowledge about topics relevant to the practice of psychotherapy and/or music therapy. However, I strive to go beyond a pure lecture format, as I recognize the importance of engaging the senses to most effectively take in new information. After all, how we take in information is through our sensory system. By using visual, auditory, and kinesthetic approaches, I hope to support all learners in being able to understand, synthesize, and apply new information in their lives.

Methods and Techniques Used To Do This:

  • Multisensory Approach to Presentations: In order for learning transfer to occur, learners need multiple opportunities and ways to take in, process, and integrate new information. I do this by including videos, audio recordings, and movement whenever possible. Another benefit of taking a multisensory approach to presentations, I’m also making the learning material and content accessible to students who take in and process information differently, whether due to disability or neurodivergence.
  • Music and Rhythm: Music and rhythm can serve as vehicles for transmitting information, as well as used as a mnemonic device.
  • Humor: Humor is another way to transfer information, provide a different perspective, while also serving to help create a sense of inclusive community, and keep learners engaged. Humor is a big part of my personality. Therefore as an educator and supervisor who values respectful authenticity, I frequently incorporate humor into my teaching and presentation style.


Multisensory Approach to Presentations
I created this video to help educate teens and the parents of teens about brain development during adolescence.
Music and Rhythm
In “A Neuroscience Love Song,” NPR’s Skunk Bear uses music to educate about what happens in our brains and bodies when we experience love.

I find memes to be a light-hearted way to acknowledge and normalize the absurdities of life that we all encounter. Below are two memes that I might incorporate in lessons.

This meme is an image of a woman who appears to be middle-aged. She has a pondering look on her face. Above her is the caption, "Sometimes I wonder if the rhythm is ever going to get me."
I might use this meme in a presentation or lesson about mental health and music or music therapy (while also familiarizing learners with Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine).
A meme in the image of an old painting of two men, with the following dialogue: Man 1: "How have you been coping with everything?" Man 2: "With sarcasm mostly..." Man 1: "How's that been working?" Man 2: "Yeah it's been super great."
I might use this meme from @artmemescentral in a presentation or lesson about coping skills. This meme light-heartedly illustrates how some people may use sarcasm as a coping skill.

Learning With Mental Models

A graphic of a head drawn in profile, with two people adjusting light bulbs inside the brain area of the head and three people offering tools to help

I use mental models when the learning objective is for learners to develop their problem-solving and decision-making abilities within the context of their work as therapists or training as student therapists. This is because being a therapist requires the ability to make clinical decisions in the moment. Some topics that we might explore through mental models include assessment, clinical decision-making (both “in-session” and pre- or post-session), and ethics. In this way, learners are preparing for the situations they may encounter in the field.

Methods Used To Do This:

  • Problem Based Learning: With problem based learning, learners are presented with a problem that they have to solve. In solving this problem, they are able to further develop their problem-solving and decision-making skills.
  • Cooperative Learning: Cooperative learning involves small groups working together to answer questions or solve a problem. In doing this, each person in the group contributes to the collective learning experience of the group — the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. I, however, am providing structure to the learning experience by presenting to learners with specific questions to answer or a problem to solve.
  • Visualization: In using visualization to address learning with mental models, learners are able to develop their problem-solving and decision-making abilities by conceptualizing a situation in a visual way.


Problem based learning
An image of a person with long hair looking at a laptop with a perplexed look on their face
Photo by Yan Krukau

An example of how I might use problem based learning is by presenting learners with a case study, or a made-up, yet realistic scenario that they may encounter in their work, and have them answer questions on what they think is going on and how they’d approach resolving the issue.

Cooperative learning
Photo by

Having learners work cooperatively on developing their case conceptualization skills is one example of a way that I utilize cooperative learning when addressing objectives related to the development of learners’ problem-solving and decision-making abilities.

An image of a Black person standing next to a chart drawn on a whiteboard
Photo by RDNE Stock project

Examples of how I might have learners engage in visualization include diagraming the systems they may be working within, such as the hierarchy of healthcare or educational organizations. For those working with families, creating a genogram can be helpful to see family relationships.

Learning Through Groups and Teams

A graphic of three individuals sitting around a table studying together

I use groups and teams when learners need to explore their attitudes, feelings, and perspectives as it pertains to their work as therapists or training as student therapists. Learning in this way provides learners with the opportunity to better understand their point of view and others’ points of view, which supports client care. We live in a complex society in which we’re becoming increasingly aware of our interdependence with each other, so it’s important that we find ways to work together for the well-being of us all.

Methods Used To Do This:

  • Cooperative and Collaborative Learning: Working cooperatively and collaboratively not only serves as a way to learn about a particular topic or solve a specific problem, but it also helps learners to gain new perspectives by learning from others. This helps them to develop their ability to have more effective interpersonal interactions with others. This is important for therapists and therapists-in-training to develop, given the myriad of systems we work with and within as therapists, and the complexity of people in general.

    While similar, a primary difference between cooperative and collaborative learning is that cooperative learning is more structured by me as the faciliator and there is a certain amount of personal accountability built into it. Whereas collaborative learning is less structured and more learner-led and guided. Any personal accountability on how the work is done is with and through each other.
  • Problem Based Learning: In using problem based learning in this way, learners are presented with a problem that they have to solve together, and through solving this problem, learners can gain new insights about issues relevant to their clients and to them as professionals.


Cooperative learning
An image of a diverse group of people holding their arms out to show that they're working cooperatively as a team
Photo by Kindel Media

One way that I might have students engage in coopeartive learning in this context is by having learners research a specific culture or group of people and have them identify what some of the challenges they may encounter in the healthcare or educational settings due to health disparities and social determinents of health.

collaborative learning
An image of four individuals looking at laptop with interested looks on their faces, and one of them taking notes
Photo by Ivan Samkov

An example of a collaborative learning experience that I might have learners do is to have them work together to create a therapeutic music experience (TME) to address a specific therapeutic goal, but they would get to create the TME based on who they would choose to use the TME with.

problem based learning
A group of four people sitting in a circle and discussing
Photo by SHVETS production

In this context, an example of problem based learning that I may present to learners is one that has them look at the health disparities that clients may face and have learners identify ways that they can address these disparities in their therapeutic work with clients. By doing this, learners can see where they can facilitate change.

Learning Through Virtual Realities

A graphic set on a blue circle that shows an mp4 icon, a video game controller, a picture of the outdoors, and eye, and a circle with the number 360 appearing to be revolving around an image of an iPad

I use this approach as a way to provide learners with low-risk opportunities to practice professional judgment. By learning through virtual realities, learners can take chances by taking new and different approaches in ways that don’t put clients at any type of risk. This is especially important for those working in the healthcare system. As therapists, we can work with a variety of people in a variety of settings. Incorporating learning through virtual realities, learners are able to develop some sort of familiarity with working in these different settings.

Methods Used To Do This:

  • Visualization: Using visualization in this context supports learners in being able to visualize themselves in a situation and see themselves navigating through it.
  • Simulations: By this point, learners have a more solid familiarity with important concepts necessary for working with others therapeutically. However, they may still need some more practice before they are ready to go out and work with live people. This is where simulations can be helpful. By working through a simulated event, learners can increase their confidence with their professional judgement.
  • Dramatic Scenarios: Similar to simulations, dramatic scenarios can be helpful for playing out possible challenging situations that can arise in the therapy setting. By working through a dramatic scenario, learners can have opportunities to practice situations that may be rare, but are important to know how to navigate should they arise in the learners’ experience.


An image of a white person with long hair in front of a dark blue wall looking as though they're imagining something in their mind
Photo by Anete Lusina

A way that I may use visualization in this context is to have learners imagine a challenging situation they may encounter in their work and have them picture themselves successfully navigating it. Following this, I’d have them verbally share with myself or the rest of the class what they saw themselves doing, or I’d have them write down for themselves what they did and then have them share that with me so that I could provide them with feedback.

An image of two people - one Black and one white - wearing VR googles
Photo by Darlene Alderson

While I don’t necessarily see myself utilizing VR systems in the classroom, I do have learners engage in simulated events that reflect what may come up in therapy, or what they may encounter in the healthcare or educational systems they might find themselves working in. An example of this includes having learners work together to create a simulated therapeutic or work environment that they can practice working within.

Dramatic Scenarios
An image of a person of Asian descent with their arms and hands extended in a questioning way, seated next to a person with dark hair holding their head with both of their hands. They appear distressed.
Photo by Timur Weber

An example of how I use dramatic scenarios is by having learners role play situations that reflect the real world. This could look like replaying a therapy session, or part of a therapy session, but it could also look like recreating an interaction with a boss, co-worker, or someone associated with a client, such as a family member. By doing this, learners can take on new perspectives and practice ways to effectively respond before going out into the real world.

Experiential Learning

Two lilac-colored heads in silhouette with a white line connecting them. In one head, the line appears tangled, and in the other head, it is in an ordered spiral shape. Behind these images is a line of musical notation in front of a heart that is light blue, light aqua, and white.

I use this approach as a way to support learners in being able to effectively reflect on their experiences providing therapy in professional and practicum settings. As an educator, therapist, and supervisor who greatly values the concept of “the self as therapist,” I strive learners in better understanding who they are as therapists. In this capacity, I serve as a supervisor and mentor to student therapists completing practicum or internship, and early-career or more experienced professionals.

Methods Used To Do This:

  • Writing and Reflection: Reflection helps us to gain a greater understanding of our thoughts, feelings, and experiences, which can help us recognize areas for further growth and development. For learners who are working in the field in some way, whether as a practicum student, intern, or early-career professional working toward licensure, engaging in honest reflection of their work is necessary for becoming the best therapist they can be. This reflection can be done through writing, audio or video recording, or process oriented art.
  • Music and Rhythm: While music and rhythm can be used to support cognitive learning, I also use music as a means for reflection in experiential learning. Much like in music therapy, both live or recorded music can be used to support self-reflection through music. For example, I may ask learners to select songs or create playlists that reflect encounters or situations relevant to their clinical experiences and share them with me for us to examine and process. Likewise, as you’ll see below, I may encourage live music-making as a means for learners to reflect on relevant aspects of their clinical experiences.


Image of a faceless person with short black hair, wearing a black shirt, with various words related to one's identity and self-questioning written in pink and while letters, filling in the face, neck, and background of the image.

Some examples of reflection prompts I may ask are:

  • What stood out to you in the session?
  • What was your experience like in the session?
  • How did you feel during the session? Were there parts that felt better than others? What were they, and why do you think they felt differently?
  • What’s something that didn’t go as well as you wanted it to? Why do you think that is? What could you have changed or done differently?
  • What’s something that went well? Why do you think that is?
Music and Rhythm

In this video, I offer an explanation with examples of improvising feelings on the keyboard as a way to develop greater personal awareness.

In a supervision setting, I may have supervisees improvise their feelings or responses towards a client, interpersonal dynamics that come up in the therapeutic setting, or a specific interaction or situation that happened within the therapeutic setting. In this case, we’re engaging in a dramatic scenario, that is based on their real-world experience.