Last Friday, I had the privilege of presenting at University of Miami’s music therapy forum.

I have presented there a few times, and this time the topic was Private Practice and Social Media: The Business of Music Therapy.

Every time I present it is exciting and also….very surreal! I remember not-so-long ago I was the student sitting in the audience, wide-eyed and taking in as much as I could from the presenters.

When I present now, I always end each presentation with some recommendations for the students – things I wish I had known when I was a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed student. Here are some of the suggestions I’ve shared…

1. Save everything related to music therapy. Save everything related to music therapy. SAVE EVERYTHING related to music therapy!

Do I need to say it again? Save all your class notes, music therapy books, practicum session plans, and practicum music!

Case in point: I misplaced my Intro to Music Therapy binder (including class notes, quizzes, tests, and assignments). Little did I know that eight years later I would be teaching that class as part of my TA requirements. Oops.

2. Organize everything. I am already planning an upcoming video/blog on how I organize my music therapy materials.

Here are the basics: I have a folder for each “population/setting” (color-coded, of course). So, I have a folder for Music Therapy with Children, a folder for Music Therapy with Teens, a folder for Music Therapy in the Hospital Setting, a folder for NMT materials, etc, etc. In each folder goes all the ideas, articles, practicum session plans, forum presentation notes, and resources that are related to that topic. This has helped me out TREMENDOUSLY because all this information used to be lumped together in one very large storage bin. Now if I have a contract with a nursing home or hospital for example, I can pull out that folder and all my materials and ideas are inside. :)

3. Examine your focus. For me, one of the biggest differences between being an undergraduate student and a graduate student was my area of focus. As an undergrad I was very grade-focused. I would study/practice/research to get an A at all costs. However, as a grad student I became more profession-focused. I studied/practiced/researched to become a better therapist for my clients.

So if you are a student, I would encourage you to think about…what is your focus on?

4. Develop your musical skills! I am SO lucky that I have a wonderful group of Miami Music Therapists. We get together to jam and perform at Open Mic Night pretty regularly. Not only is jamming fun, but we have the opportunity to learn new repertoire and practice harmonizing; we can practice arranging song material; and it encourages us to play our non-primary (or maybe non-preferred!) instrument. I believe when we were are better musicians, we become better therapists. So get out your guitar (learn some groovy new guitar strums here), dust off your ukulele, or start tickling the ivories!

I hope some of these tips and suggestions have been helpful! MTs out there…what have I left out? What things do you wish YOU had known when you were a student?

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