The Cranberry Limeade Effect: The Role of Routine in Music Therapy

A strange thing happened last week…


Last Wednesday, I didn’t get my cranberry limeade from “America’s Favorite Drive-In” before my back-to-back clients for the afternoon. Now, why in the world should that matter?


I always get a medium cranberry limeade on Wednesdays. I see a lot of clients on Wednesday afternoons and I need to be at my best to serve each and every one of them. My medium cranberry limeade is a way that I can mentally prepare and gear up for the afternoon. I have instilled a certain sense of structure that helps me know what’s coming next and mentally prepare to be the best music therapist that I can be for the kids that I serve. When I didn’t get my cranberry limeade, I felt a little rushed and thought I might be forgetting something. (Thankfully, I didn’t forget anything.)


I recently had a parent ask me why I start and end every session with the same songs. (An excellent question from a very astute parent, I might add…) I would like to propose to you the “cranberry limeade” effect – typical structure helps us prepare for what’s to come.


Therapy of any kind, including music therapy, offers opportunities to grow in areas that are challenging. To get the ball rolling and build up some momentum with my younger clients, we sing a hello song, a song about the days of the week, and a song about the weather. My clients know their parts by heart. They join in quickly and are usually eager to help me with these “starter” songs. This starting structure helps my clients transition into the session and prepare for the harder activities and tasks that I will inevitably ask them to do for the next 45-50 minutes. As the end of the session nears, I might give my clients a choice about what type of activity (dancing, singing, drumming, etc.) they want to do before we sing the goodbye song. Just like the hello song helped them get started, this closing structure gives my clients a way to ease out of the session and begin the transition from music either back to their parents or to their next therapy.


For all you visual learners:


So the next time you start your day with a cup of coffee or tuck your child into bed at night with a favorite bedtime story or song, remember the cranberry limeade effect and that in each of our own ways, we all need a little structure in our lives.