It’s Music Therapy Social Media Advocacy Month. So, I was exploring some issues today in regards to Music Therapy Advocacy and my thoughts went on a “train ride”. Music Therapists carry the letters “MT-BC” in the USA as a credential. Now, many states are moving towards licensure or recognition, which I think is a wonderful progression in the field. Music Therapy stands alone as a treatment modality. MT’s (music therapists) are qualified professionals who are valuable members of any treatment team. The foundation of knowledge in the field and the body of research grows daily. Since the first day I decided to become a music therapist, I have answered the questions “what is music therapy and what is a music therapist?” Some concise answers can be found on the American Music Therapy website. I still find myself wanting to bring the conversation back to more of a “who is a music therapist?”
Along that train of thought, I’ll address the “who”. It’s a bit of a ramble, but that is what I intended by blogging, just to find a place to share my thoughts based on these years “in the trenches” or “on the front lines” of doing music therapy. It’s a complex choice to make, to be a music therapist. The choice to pursue music at a professional level of competency and to pursue health care at a professional level of competency requires a wide variety of skill sets. Music Therapy (MT) is a combination of both professions, seamlessly sewn together in best practice. To me, it made sense because I wanted to find a way to have a career in music but I felt inexplicably drawn to helping others. How to marry those two “likes”….. It was, in a word, “Beautiful” , to think that there is a way to bring healing through music. I remember a brilliant man once said to me, “You became a music therapist for the deepest reasons.” It was an eloquent statement that summed up the whole art and science of the profession in a single sentence.
After being in the profession all these years I am reminded of a very helpful chaplain who was stationed at a hospice facility that I was contracting for many years ago. At the time I was contracting for a psychiatric facility, a hospice facility, and on staff part time at a mental health facility. I was just out of my internship and entering the field. I went to him after a particularly hard day. At that time, my weeks consisted of 2 days working MT at the state hospital facility, 2 days working MT at a short term psychiatric facility, and one day seeing hospice clients for MT. I had just completed a day which included: working with a young boy using familiar children’s songs and improvised lullabies on my guitar to help him communicate with his mother and separately addressing grief issues with his mother, addressing losses for a middle aged woman suffering from cancer using singing and songwriting to enhance the intervention, and assisting an elderly woman and her husband with life review as I took song requests while they sang with me, talked about memories and danced around the room doing the fox trot, while I sang the golden oldies with my guitar. It was a good day, but a difficult day and a day similar to so many other days as a music therapist. Making sense of the death and illness I witnessed in those days was humbling. Further, finding music and joy with my clients was amazing and thrilling but I was certainly feeling the affects of the dynamics of dealing with hospice related issues. After hearing me process my feelings, the chaplain said, “well Tania, when you find this work to be “routine” then that will be the point when it is time to stop”. All these years later, I still don’t find this work (music therapy) “routine” and it still makes an impact on me. Although I don’t work in the hospice population anymore, my work is just as challenging. Most of the impact is positive in that it is exciting and thrilling to see healing happen with music. There are days when the emotional toll of working in the trauma and abuse field is difficult and the vicarious trauma must be dealt with. I am vigilant to stay balanced in life so that I can continue the work. I can honestly say that the learning never stops. Every day is new. Every client is new. Every musical improvisation is new. When I have the chance to sit down and talk with fellow music therapists, this is the unspoken understanding that we have with one another. That is “who” we are. So now I’m speaking for me and for “us” –I hope that is ok. I feel a collective sense of “we” with other music therapists. We share a journey to get to be MT’s. And then there is the continual journey of practicing music therapy. Music never gets old for us because there is always a new composition to explore, a new song to listen to, a new genre of music to hear, a new artist shredding on their instrument, or new music or music therapy interventions to write. There is always a technique that we may feel we need to woodshed from time to time (hello scales and arpeggios!). It continues to challenge the musician throughout our lives. In music therapy, the same. I love it! #lovemusictherapy #MTadvocacy