All month, I’ve been sharing some thoughts and information with all you folks about music therapy and the work I do. March is Music Therapy Month, and it’s still a fairly small field, so I figured this was the best time to share this. And who knows, maybe you’ve learned something from these posts. Even if the only thing you’ve learned is that music therapy exists.
This is the last week of Music Therapy Month, and I wanted to share some final thoughts on maintaining a balance in a field such as this, and how I fit my blogging life into my work life into my real life.
My job can be absolutely insane. Somedays I work 12 hour days, others I work two hours. Some days I only run a session or two, but spend ten hours on paperwork and prep. Sometimes I leave my house in the morning prepared for one sort of day, and have to completely re-plan everything by noon. These are some extreme examples, but none of them are that uncommon.
I suppose these are going to come out more as facts or confessions or whatever you want to call them than anything else, but we’ll make this work.
I have to be insanely organized to make this work.
I have two calendars. One is long term, and contains all my sessions and appointments for the coming months. One in short term and contains the current month, my to do lists, and anything related to day to day work, as well as my blogging stuff. It confuses everyone I try to explain it to, but it works for me.
If I don’t have my work planned out incredibly well, I can’t deal with changes. And changes happen a lot. I’ve had four schedule changes this week alone. But as long as I stay on top of what’s happening and where I need to be, I can generally rearrange things without too much effort.
I’ve sacrificed a lot of music I love for the people I work with.
A lot of parents sing the same songs to their kids, so there are some songs that a lot of people have connections to and want to hear. You Are My Sunshine for example. Use a song at work enough times, and that song loses any personal meaning you have connected to it, because it’s now a tool. Sometimes, you also use a song so much that you begin to hate it.
On the other hand, though, you also gain meaning for a lot of songs. You learn to associate them with people or events or stories, and you think of them every time you hear the song.
To manage this a little, I have songs that I will not use in session. Even if asked for them, though my tastes mean that it’s not generally an issue. I want to keep those songs for me, and not share them with the world.
I’ve stopped listening to music for fun as much as I used to.
I still do sometimes, but it’s something I need to actively think about doing. It doesn’t just happen the way it used to when I was younger. I don’t just turn on music when I’m home, and I tend to not pay as much attention to music playing in the background. I’m surrounded by it so much that I tend to go for silence rather than noise when possible.
I’ve been working on this though. Having signed up for Apple Music helps, because it suggests songs rather than me having to hunt through lots of songs.
I’ve gotten used to working some weird hours, and spending a lot of time hanging out in my car.
Sometimes I work 9-12 in the morning, and then my next session is 4:45 in the afternoon, but it’s too far for me to drive home. I usually hang out in coffee shops for a while, but I feel bad sitting there for four hours, so I end up reading in my car a lot.
On the other hand, sometimes I work 8:30 in the morning until 8:30 in the evening. Breaks in between but those days are pretty straight through usually. Some days I work for an hour in the afternoon.
All these breaks are great for getting my blogging and reading done, though. This post was written during a ‘nap time’ break on one of my daycare days.
I know some of the weirdest songs.
Like all the words to Achy Breaky Heart. And the entire Frozen soundtrack. And some old school country. And a lot of dirty versions of World War One and Two songs. To name a few.
On that note, as well, I can turn most songs into children’s music.
So far, this has included She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain, Sound of Silence, Somewhere Over the Rainbow, Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree, numerous Beatles songs, among many more. Between simple actions and sign language, you can do it with most songs with simple lyrics.
The best thing in the world is seeing someone take a step towards their goals.
Seeing a woman with very limited grasping skills hold onto a mallet a full verse of a song for the first time after a year of trying is really incredible. So is seeing a kid with autism intentionally show affection to his mum for the first time. And seeing a man with dementia recognize and reminisce with his wife, though he usually doesn’t remember her at all.
Those are the moments that you work for, and the ones that make all the work and weird scheduling and driving worth every second of it.
Looks can sometimes be deceiving. Sessions often look like fun and messing around, but all my clients are working really hard.
We don’t just jam and mess around in music therapy. Each client has specific goals they’re working on. We’re using the music and games to work on communication, behaviour, memory, fine and gross motor skills, anxiety and depression, social skills, among many other things.
Music therapists are fussy about their name and title.
Most of us will tolerate you calling us a teacher, music lady/man, musical therapist, performer, and so on, but that’s not our name and we don’t appreciate being called that. We have to fight hard enough to be acknowledged as it is, calling us something we aren’t doesn’t help. I try to correct people when they mix up my job, but people don’t always listen.
There are great things about running a private practice, and there are things that suck.
I don’t have a boss, so I make my own choices about what I do for work. I get to choose which clients I take and which I don’t, so I don’t need to worry about being assigned a client I can’t handle. I make a lot more money this way too than I would if I worked for a company. I make my own hours and schedule, and I can take as much or as little time as I want for vacation. I can learn what I want and choose the populations I want to work with the most. I can teach music if I want as well, to keep things interesting.
On the other hand, I don’t get paid for my vacations, and I don’t get paid sick days. I can’t delegate work, and I don’t have someone I work with to help me when things get hard. I sometimes have to work crazy hours to make sure I have enough money to pay bills. There’s a definite feast or famine way to things to private practice, either I’ve got too much to deal with, or not enough to get by.
The hardest part of private practice is that it’s insanely hard to make friends.
I moved from the east coast to Alberta when I graduated university. I luckily had a couple friends and jobs that allowed me to make friends when I first started. But it’s hard to make friends when you only see people once a week or less, and are running session the entire time.
Music therapy private practice makes it easier to run this blog.
I generally don’t spent more than 4-6 hours a day actually in session. I have other work to do, but paperwork is pretty easy to get through. So I can use any additional time I have through the day to work on posts and read books and read other people’s blogs. It would be way harder if I had a normal, 9-to-5 job.
Reading and this blog are parts of my self-care plan.
Self-care is super important when you work with people, because anything that weighs on your mind will affect your sessions and your clients. And counter-transference is really bad and something to be avoided. So I have a plan for things I can do to take care of myself, between relaxation, eating well and exercising, social stuff, things I love that don’t involve work. Obviously, books and this blog fall into the latter.
My career is the reason that you won’t find pictures of me or my surname around the online book world.
I get a lot of work from advertising on the internet, and my name, company, and face is plastered on all of it. I find that weird enough, so I balance it by keeping my personal information and appearance off of book and writing stuff.
I like the idea of writing a book one day, and I have lots of ideas of what I could write. But I don’t know if I’ll ever do it.
I wrote a lot as a kid, and I still do play-by-post RPG. Books are a lot of commitment though.
I have all my best ideas for work and for my blog in one of two places.
While riding my bike, or in the shower. Always one of the two.