Music Therapy: Unlimited Potential for Learning
As a junior in high school, I learned about music therapy as a career option. I wrote a research paper on music therapy in Honors English, declared my major and applied to only one school. After an incredible (although mostly sleepless) 4 1/2 years, I graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and passed my board certification exam on the first try. I never wavered in my decision to pursue this career path.
A career as a music therapist has offered me a lot of flexibility and extreme variety in experiences. I was able to work very part-time while raising my three kids and have now grown my private practice back to full-time status.
My Experiences & What I Have Learned
I think a bulleted list might be the easiest way to summarize the experiences I have had and things I have learned:
- Worked with one client privately in Eau Claire before moving to Milwaukee
- Worked briefly as a full-time music therapist in an adult day program. More about that here.
- Started working in private practice in 1997
- Traveled to 19 schools in Lake County, IL and saw clients in-home after school
- Taught adapted piano lessons
- Worked to get MT on several IEPs so that kids could receive one-on-one MT services in school
- Served on the executive board for the Wisconsin Chapter for Music Therapy
- Researched phonological awareness, a foundation for literacy and communication
- Presented regionally and nationally on the topic of phonological awareness
- Learned how to build a website
- Worked to develop a "passive" income stream by selling digital products
- Learned how to provide services virtually through TeleHealth
- Recorded a view-on-demand course titled "Literacy for Littles: Using Music to Develop Reading and Communication Skills" and collaborated with Music for Kiddos to share the information with the world.
- Completed training in Brain Gym and started learning about retained primitive reflexes
- Realized that I often learn more from my clients than they learn from me
A big part of my work is a continuous cycle of trying to learn more about the brain and how to use music to optimize learning and development. My journey of learning about phonological awareness and retained primitive reflexes has helped me use music to build a foundation for learning rather than targeting specific higher level deficits.
Currently, I spend the majority of my time seeing clients for one-on-one music therapy sessions. Some come to my clinic space in Oshkosh, Wisconsin but the majority are seen in-home. I work with a variety of ages and it is not uncommon for me to work with a client for 5 or more years.
I also enjoy teaching early childhood music classes. It is easy to incorporate my music therapy skills into this setting. My ability to improvise and adapt on the spot makes it possible for children with multiple levels of functioning be successful at the same time. I often say that it is fun to watch the kids learn and develop and great for me because I don't have to document any of it!
A recurring theme in my work is incorporating literacy skills and books whenever possible. I am able to write goals for working memory or sustained attention using developmentally appropriate literacy experiences when a funding source is not willing to pay for literacy based goals.
In recent years, I have started to focus more on providing resources for other therapists and teachers through recording YouTube videos and through my online store. Becoming involved with social media and collaborating with my sister at Bear Paw Creek has also been an ongoing source of joy and connection.
The career possibilities that a degree in music therapy has offered me have been a tremendous blessing in my life. And the icing on the cake? My skills benefit the kids and families I work with in ways I will never fully comprehend.