In the past couple of weeks I have received many emails from students and professionals who are interested in entering the music therapy field. They have asked if I would be willing to answer questions and share any advice and experiences that might be helpful to them at the beginning of their music therapy journey!
I have really enjoyed speaking and meeting with these individuals. It's exciting to share my passion for the field and watch as it ignites passion in others.
If you are someone who is considering becoming a music therapist, but aren't too sure where to begin - here are 6 steps I have for you based on my personal experience.
1. READ & REFLECT
When I was first considering music therapy as a profession, I knew that I needed to get a better handle on exactly what music therapy is and how it works. I searched and ordered various books to help me do this. I most enjoyed reading Case Studies in Music Therapy as it helped me to grasp the wide diversity of client populations and approaches within music therapy.
Each time I became inspired by a new concept I had read about, I would write about it in a blog I had called Melodic Magic! Through writing, I was able to reflect on the content I was learning and identify areas that excited me. You can also do this simply by sharing what you are learning with a friend or family member or journaling, drawing, and of course reflecting through making music.
2. OBSERVE A MUSIC THERAPIST!
If you have done your initial reading and reflecting and are still super pumped about music therapy, it's time to move onto the next step - observing a music therapist in action. Reach out to local music therapists in your area who may be willing (upon consent from clients) to have you observe some of their sessions. If possible, observe more than one music therapist who each focus on different populations.
The very first time I observed a music therapist, I was in absolute awe and had no doubt in my mind that music therapy was a very effective and powerful way to reach the non-verbal clients the therapist was working with . I was also convinced that I wanted to make this my future career. Observing should help you solidify whether or not you feel this is the right career for you.
3. RESEARCH YOUR OPTIONS
So, you have read, reflected, and observed, and you have never been more sure that you want to be a music therapist? It's time to do your research and decide where to go to school!
There are five options in Canada, and plenty in the United States. The options in Canada listed below range from bachelor's degrees, graduate diplomas, to masters degrees. Depending on what schooling you have already completed, you can determine which route is best for you. When I decided to pursue music therapy, I was already mid-way through a Bachelor of Arts degree in Cultural Studies. The best route for me was to make sure I had taken enough music and psychology courses to be able to apply to the graduate diploma. I later continued on to complete my Masters degree as well, as I felt that more training, supervision, and research experience would be beneficial. Another factor in choosing a university is researching what approach they take to the study of music therapy and making sure it aligns with your philosophy. Further, if you are interested in doing research within a particular population or framework, you will want to take a further look into the professors at each University and what experience they have in your areas of interest. Through your university programming you will learn the steps to then becoming a credentialed music therapist, which include completing a certain amount of internship and supervision hours, as well as passing a board certifying exam.
4. CONSIDER LIFESTYLE
When considering any career, it is important to weigh the pros and cons of the lifestyle associated with the profession. If you love nothing more than being outdoors all day, you likely won't enjoy a career that requires sitting at a desk in front of the computer most of the time. The good thing about a music therapist's lifestyle is that there are quite a few options. Some music therapists choose to become entrepreneurs and build their own practice. Other music therapists work in hospital settings full-time or part-time. Others are contractors for various companies and sites, giving them a lot of diversity in their work environments. There is also such a variety in the types of populations you can work with - giving each music therapist a very unique work-day. I truly believe that as a music therapist you can sculpt the type of work-life balance that you desire!
However, usually at some point in a music therapists' career, you will find yourself on the go - heading from client to client. For me, this has meant spending a lot of time in the car (my office)! You will also likely find yourself at any given point, carrying a lot of instruments and having people ask you how on earth you carry that much at once!
One thing I have loved about my music therapy career thus far, is that it has allowed me to have so many different roles that I find exciting and creative such as entrepreneur, marketer, writer, researcher, advocate, and lots more!
If this appeals to you - you are on the right track!
5. GET TO KNOW YOURSELF
As someone who will be working with people in therapy, it is important that you are willing to undergo personal transformation and have an overall awareness of yourself. Consider your willingness at this time to take a deeper look inward as you will be confronted with your own triggers in the process of learning, interning, and working in the field.
6. GO FOR IT!
Have you read through steps 1 through 5 and are brimming with excitement about becoming a music therapist? It's time to go for it!! Don't let fears and inhibitions hold you back. Do you feel you need to improve your musical skills? Start working on it! Do you need to take more courses first? You can do it! If you know that you can help make a difference in others lives by becoming a music therapist - work hard to achieve your goals and get ready to enter a rewarding, stimulating, and growing profession!
If you have any more questions, please feel free to comment below and I will be happy to get back to you!