What does an aspiring music therapist study?!

I know this question keeps you up at night and is still lingering when you wake up in the morning. So, in anticipation of your very important and often overlooked question, I wrote a blog post about it!! Huzzah! (please note the sarcasm in this paragraph.) (Not that I don’t have a geeky love for my future profession, but I know where it stands in great cosmos of life.)

First let me preface with what my classes have been like. Last semester I took three classes that were specifically for music therapy.

1. Applications of Music Therapy (pretty much an intro course)

2. Standards of Clinical Practice (in-depth study of the AMTA official document and applications of it)

3. Psychology of Music (totally fascinating class on how music affects the brain)

These classes were pretty much similar to many textbook based classes that most of you have probably taken. Theory based, lots of reading, lots of papers. Not too much hands-on, although we did watch a lot of videos as illustrations. But really, think of any gen eds you took beyond 101 classes and that’s what class was like. The other two classes I took were an introduction to special ed course (which I talked about here), and I audited a guitar class (to work on my still-not-badass guitar skills, but good enough for music therapy).

And just so you know what else was on my plate during all that – I played piano in the orchestra for two months, accompanied an acting class for 6 weeks, and accompanied about 8 people consistently during the semester. Add to that accompanying two clarinets for a competition, half a bassoon recital, and 12 juries.

SO- now we’re in semester duex of music therapy adventureland. It’s totally different this time. These are my books:

I have three more music therapy classes:

Music in Therapy/Music Therapy Methods – these two are pretty much a combined class. I’m still wrapping my head around what exactly the purpose of these classes are (we have yet to receive the syllabus). But for anyone who has a teaching degree, Methods is just like any other methods class. Music in Therapy I think will be about learning practical uses of all of the techniques, strategies, and methods we will be learning. This is a very hands-on class. We spent three class periods playing drums (think African drums) and learning how to conduct drum circles.

The third class is Influence of Music on Behavior. This class is totally different from the other two. This class is about how to research a topic, how to conduct a study, and how to write a report. So far it’s proven to be extremely helpful and I’m learning things about searching and research journals and articles that I never knew before. Our big project for the class is to either conduct our own study or write a giant literature review on a certain topic. I’ve decided I’m going to do the latter and I think my topic will be about music therapy affecting spirituality/emotional well-being in a Hospice context.

And that’s it!

Just kidding!!! I’m just getting started! NOW – I have two field placements. A field placement is where they actually let us go and attempt to do this music therapy thing with REAL PEOPLE. And not, like, a volunteer group of people that have nothing wrong with them. Real people with real problems that we’re supposed to use our music therapy “skills” to fix. Mind you, I’ve never done a music therapy session in my life. I’ve never watched one live. And I will be doing one in FOUR DAYS. Whatev. No big.

There are four field placements, we do three of them (you can opt out of one). They are in the four fields where music therapy is used: Gerontology, Mental Health, Medicine/Rehab, Developmental Disabilities. I am not doing the last one. This semester I am doing Gerontology and Mental Health. I can’t speak too much on these because of confidentiality. But I can explain a little.

For Gerontology (look it up if you don’t know this word) I will be working one-on-one with a woman at a retirement home who lives in assisted living. And for Mental Health I will be in a group of three working with the patients in the out-patient mental health ward at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Martinsburg, WV. Pretty heavy huh?

For both of these field placements I will be doing weekly sessions (30-60 minutes) and writing sessions plans, collecting data, getting materials ready, and turning in a ginormous binder for each class at the end of the semester with all of my work. Oh, and we have class once a week for each of these placements.

THEN – I have my accompanying, which has turned into my therapy. I am accompanying a senior acting class where the seniors get to showcase any of their audition-ready rep in front of the professors for feedback. That class is fun. And then I’m accompanying individuals – that hasn’t completely panned out yet. However, I am already committed to accompanying two participants in the concerto competition next week, a horn recital, and two clarinet recitals. And I’m helping with accompanying for music theater auditions during Shenandoah’s audition days (which I will be doing for approximately 5 hours today).

So, that’s it. For real this time. If you’ve read all the way down to here, THANK YOU! I know this stuff can seem boring, but I actually love it. These are the things that are on my mind and on my plate. Feel free to ask me any questions or leave any comments!

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