“ A Music Therapist? What do you do all day? I bet you just sing and play songs on Pandora!”
If there was a nickel for every time a form of this question is given to me…. Honestly, no two days are ever the same but this is closest I can give to a typical day working as a Music Therapist.
5:45a: Oh, there’s the alarm, ever ready to wake me up. Trying to not go ahead and plan my sessions for the day but instead take at least an hour for myself, I start with meditation, a quick workout, and complete anything else needed to be ready for the day.
8a: this is my chance to check any emails, phone calls, and check in with the other 3 music therapists on site about any happenings i may have missed while off site. I also pick up an intern, if I have one, and gather several bags of instruments and visual aids that I will need throughout the day, including my guitar. I run through my checklist, make sure my session plans are gathered, and out the door by 8:30.
9:15: My first stop- the NICU at the local hospital! I enjoy working with premature babies, providing the sound of my voice and meticulous touch pattern in the form of multimodal stimulation as a way to not only help soothe babies from the stresses of such a loud environment, but to also help them build tolerance to this new and energetic world. I have washed up, gowned up, and checked in with nurses/physical therapists about which babies to work with that morning. I may even work with parents of the babies on my referral list or take some extra time to advocate for music therapy to nurses and staff on the unit.
11:30a: I’m squeezing in a quick lunch and running back through emails before leaving for my next sessions at school, taking notes on who to call once I get back to the office. If I have an intern, we’ll talk about sessions we had in the NICU or upcoming sessions and plans. If I’m on my own.
12:15p: I’m at my first school, after traveling in the care and setting up! There may be several classrooms that I see, in which I’ve previously communicated with each teacher about specific goals and academic lessons that classroom is working on. The plan I’ve previously worked out will be implemented through music interventions, and as part of a reward for working hard, out come the bag of instruments! Included often are kid sized maracas, tambourines, drums, rhythm sticks, puppets, flashcards, stretchy band and my guitar! I may spend several minutes at the end of each session talking with teachers and assistants about what they noticed and what they’ll be working on during the next week. I’d love to stay and observe, but I must keep moving to make it back on site for other sessions.
3p: I’m running back through STAR’s doors, ready to see two more individuals for sessions, in which a range of goals can be worked on depending on their IEP or referred goals. I sometimes work with adults, sometimes with kids, maybe even adolescents. Each session is tailored to what that individual person wants to work on, and a range of instruments not limited to piano, guitar, marimbas, the sensory room, or gongs (haha!) to continue striving towards their fullest potential! I primarily use live music so that it may be adjusted in the moment to what the client needs, but I’m no stranger to turning on one quick song through Pandora or Spotify if both of my hands are needed to assist someone!
4:15p: after a 5-10 minute break, I sit at my computer to jot down notes of each session, documenting the progress clients have made. I may return a few emails if I have time, continue session planning by looking up interventions and music techniques, bouncing ideas off the other music therapists, or maybe practicing a couple of songs that were requested during the last week. Sometimes interns may join me in music making, or request additional supervision time so that they are well prepared for the next day’s work. I always aim to leave the office by 5, but in reality it’s more like 5:15 or 5:30.
6:30p: I’ve finished dinner and need some time to decompress from the day. My day can be filled to the max and I don’t’ have a lot of time to go back over what happened or if needed be, to take my mind off of the events that occurred that day. This is my chance to find other creative outlets for myself, since I spend so much of my day caring for others- the only way a therapist can “pour” into others is to have something to “pour” in the first place. I feel my creative need with either crocheting, cooking, reading up on blogs, or actively making music that I want to make! It helps my brain relax and get ready for the next busy day.
10p: I may have broken my cardinal rule of “leave work at work” and jotted down a few session ideas or recorded songs that have come to me at home, but I am turning in for the night. I generally go to sleep reflecting back on the awesome moments of the day and looking forward to the challenges and excitement the next day will bring!
Of course, this schedule changes every day, some days being more session heavy with no time to plan, and other days allowing more flexibility in documentation or consulting with other therapy services about techniques used with a shared client. Each and every single day brings new and interesting situations, but I love to tackle them every time! What does your typical work day look like?
Want more information about music therapy as a career? Contact Rayma Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org.