Reflections of A Retired Music Therapist
Nina Galerstein , MME , MT-BC
Last year I retired from the facility where I ’ ve worked since 1979 . I am not exactly the voice of music therapy retirement though . Technically , I left a long time ago , when I stopped having interns . I think for me it was a question of not having the energy to be creative . Music therapy is a great clinical practice ... just not for me .
I learned about music therapy by accident . I discovered Gaston ' s Music in Therapy in the stacks of a local college library while looking for ideas for a high school paper . Fascinated , I went out and bought the book ( I still cannot part with it ).
I ended up getting a degree in music therapy from the University of Kansas in 1977 when few people had heard of this profession , and we were constantly trying to explain what it was . I completed my internship at Stockley Center in Delaware in 1979 , where I ended up working for the next 35 years !
My job title when I started at Stockley was Case Manager , one of the many at our facility . The only job requirement related to music therapy was supervising an intern , and that was largely because I was a Registered Music Therapist ( although I wasn ’ t yet the Clinical Training Director ). So I have to confess : I wasn ' t actually practicing as a clinical music therapist , and yet I was supervising an intern . In fact , I started supervising my first intern just a few months after I finished my own internship . Surprisingly , this never fazed me . I think I knew , even then , my calling was to mentor music therapy students . I felt equally at ease planning for an intern as planning for a client …. and much more excited about supervising the intern .
From 1979-1990 I continued to supervise interns and to work as a case manager , but I was becoming conflicted in my feelings about being a music therapist . On the one hand , I thought ( and still think ) it is a great treatment modality . I could easily get teary-eyed hearing the success stories of fellow music therapists . I loved going to conferences , learning new things , being with “ my people ,” and even presenting . I loved conference planning work and served on my regional board . On the other hand , I never really enjoyed the prospect of sitting in sessions hour after hour . I maintained a small clinical practice outside my facility , and I believe I did good work , but I never loved it . I never looked forward to going to those sessions , although I enjoyed the work once I was there .
At the time I avoided delving into what this meant . It seemed to me my music therapy friends all loved their work and couldn ’ t get enough time with their patients / clients . What was wrong with me that I didn ’ t feel this way ? I now realize part of it was feeling as if I didn ’ t have good enough skills as a musician . The best music therapists seemed to me to be great musicians and could bring those skills into their clinical work . My instrument was flute , and it did not work as a clinical instrument at all . So how could I ever be a great music therapist if I wasn ’ t a great musician ? And yet I was very devoted to the field of music therapy . This , as I said , was a great source of conflict .
The other truth is for some people making music is a passion . My father pushed me in the direction of music in general and even a little toward music therapy . My real passion , though , has always been the theater , but I never felt I could be an actor . If I had known then what I know now I ’ d have been a professional stage manager . This
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