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What I've Learned in the Past Five Years as a Music Therapist
By Katey, MT-BC
8/6/2012 12:56:00 PM

Over the past five years, I have learned a lot and grown a lot as a hospice music therapist. These past couple weeks I have been using less music, and trying to haul less things around. I have started to feel that while the sheet music does serve as a good focal point for you as well as the patient, most of the times it just gets in the way. I’m shuffling through music and not spending as much time as I could be with giving them attention. Here are some things I have changed about my style/practice in the last five years.

  1. Attempt any song they request. I used to fear playing anything that I didn’t know 100% perfectly. If I sort of knew the tune but didn’t have music and barely knew the words, I would never try to attempt. I have learned that most of the time they really don’t care if its perfect, and usually you end up doing a better job than you would expect.
  2. Don’t be timid. If you walk into the room and tiptoe around and introduce yourself quietly, I feel like you come across that you really don’t know what you’re doing. Now I introduce myself and show my personality right away. It shows you are comfortable, and I have found they are a lot more comfortable with you.
  3. Don’t run away when you see a large group or family. All they are doing is waiting for something to do! Unless of course they specifically say they don’t want any music, but most of the time they are pleased to have a distraction.
  4. The nurse is your sidekick, and I feel like they are my cheerleaders. I have learned to say “well the nurse mentioned you have some anxiety, and thought music would help”- this is usually a better selling point to them than me quoting music therapy journal facts. Always communicate with your nurses so they know what’s going on with you and your patients.
  5. Lose the drawn-out introduction. I used to hate making phone calls to new patients. While it’s still not my favorite thing to do, I don’t find it nearly as hard. Simply state who you are and ask if it’d be ok if you stop over to play some music. This generally skips the confusion of “what exactly are you going to do?”. Same as when you enter a room with a patient, I now say “Hi, I’m Katey and I came to play some music for you!” You can say more later if they ponder.
  6. Accept that you can not know every song. Its impossible- but of course, we keep trying.

These are my reflections from the past five years. Nothing really shattering, but definitely some things I wish I would have thought about when I was first starting. 

Learn more about Music Therapy.

Tags: Music Therapy, Music Therapy Career, Being a Music Therapist, Music Therapist
Categories: Music Therapy
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