Friday, July 14, 2017

L is for Life (A Day in the Life of a Music Therapist)

Can you believe I’m almost half-way through the A-Z Blogging Challenge? I started it on a whim, when I saw another blog I read doing it. I didn’t have a clear plan for the month of April, much less a plan for blogging daily (excluding Sundays).

I was once asked for a description on A Day in the Life of a Music Therapist by a high school student wishing to understand what the field is like before deciding whether to major in music therapy in college. My day looks quite different, now that I’ve closed my practice to be a full-time mom and part-time college professor, so I’ll describe Thursday, April 19, 2012, back before I was a mom, when I had just started supervising practicum students for SMU, and had a full private practice.

Back in those days, I worked 16 hours for SMU, had nine private clients, one older adult group, one adults with developmental disabilities group, one adaptive guitar student, and a bell choir for adults with developmental disabilities each week.

I spent the morning doing things around the house, probably working out, and working on the computer a little answering emails and such. At 11 am I left to supervise students at an adult outpatient cancer treatment unit at a hospital.

From 11:30-12:00, I met with the students, answered their questions, and guided them through their music choices and intervention plans. Then we spent an hour on the unit seeing patients. We assessed the unit to get a feel for how stressed the nurses were, what the overall mood was, and to identify patients to target.  Once each student identified a patient, they knocked on the door to the treatment room, explained music therapy, and asked if the patient was interested. When patients said yes, they would sing songs, usually in the style that the patient preferred, then offer relaxation, song-writing, or some other strategy. Each visit lasted 15-30 minutes and we’d continue seeing patients until about 1:00 so that we’d have 30 minutes to debrief and document.

Next, I had four private clients. For one we worked on self-expression and making choices, so I let him select songs he wanted to sing and instruments he wanted to play. The next one was working on sensory stimulation/tolerance and then communication. She required a lot of explanation before trying something and gentle, progressive exposure to new songs and instruments. This helped her to be able to tolerate being in new environments and experiencing new things. The third client was seen in her group home and was working on communication and following directions. We did a lot of improvisation where she had opportunities to direct the music-making and decide how it should sound. Finally, I had a client that was working on articulation and breath support, so we did some vocal warm ups and breathing exercises and then made up songs about things she was interested in and also repeated the sounds that she was working on.

Then, at 6:30, I saw a group of adults with developmental disabilities. They made decisions about what would happen in the group, like performing at a long-term care facility, and picked the music for the concert. They took on different responsibilities, like conducting, composing, or arranging instruments to accompany the songs they performed.

I’d then get home at 8:00 and put my instruments away and prepare items for the next day’s sessions. I did my documentation in the last 5 minutes of each session, so that I didn’t have to do it at home. Then I was ready for dinner and relaxing.

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