Music Therapy Clinician: Supporting reflective clinical practice 2 - Page 4

Editors ’ Reflections

Why do so many music therapists leave music therapy ? Roia Rafieyan , MA , MT-BC , Editor-in-Chief Sometimes , walking around our large residential facility with its many buildings and large grassy areas , I watch the grounds workers . They sit on top of their tractors , wearing earphones , mowing the fields in the sunshine . And I think to myself how peaceful it must be to have a job like that , one where you can go home at the end of the day and not have to keep thinking through and reliving the workday . It would be so much more straightforward than what I do . I mean , sure you can mess up lawn mowing , but there aren ’ t that many ways to do it . Pretty much everyone gets what you ’ re doing , and there aren ’ t legions of people asking you to explain or justify your work . They ’ d just take for granted you know what you ’ re doing and let you do it in peace . At least that ’ s my fantasy ( a fantasy , granted , which would fade pretty quickly once the snow and ice came along and shoveling and salting the sidewalks was involved ).
I suspect part of the reason I harbor this fantasy is I ’ ve worked at the same facility for almost three decades . While I ’ m pretty sure I haven ’ t lost my passion for music therapy , working in an institution is difficult , and exhausting . Everything Judy Belland points out in her piece , “ Why did you leave music therapy ?” One music therapist ’ s answer , is just as true for me . Every word of it ! Some days more painfully so than others .
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Occasionally I wonder what the heck it means about me that I can still go to work every day and do this . I suppose I could have gone and worked somewhere else . There ’ s no law that says I have to stay in a difficult job . And maybe this speaks less of my passion for music therapy and a lot more about my pathological need for familiarity , my tendency to guilt , my lack of objectivity , and maybe about needing my clients more than I should . After so many years , it gets complicated .
But these are the musings of a 50- year old music therapist .
I often share about being an anxious mess for the first six years at my job . And that was back at a time when I actually had a music therapist supervising me at work and there were two other music therapists in our unit ! I felt awkward coming up with activities , and mostly they didn ’ t seem to work . I thought about all the wonderful Nordoff-Robbins videos I ’ d seen and wondered why none of my sessions seemed to work the way theirs did . Granted , I worked with adults , but music therapy was supposed to work with everyone ! Especially for people with disabilities . Why wasn ’ t it ?
I began to worry I wasn ’ t very good at being a music therapist .
I read Edith Boxill ’ s book , Music therapy for the developmentally disabled , over and over . I was inspired by it , and , yet I still didn ’ t see much change in my clients ’ responses . So I started to look outside music therapy for the answers , thinking if I learned about special education or social work I ’ d somehow become a better music therapist . I started considering graduate school , and , because I made the ( insanely inaccurate ) assumption I ’ d learned everything there was to learn about music therapy ( and still wasn ’ t doing it well ), I looked into social work and special education programs .
That ’ s how close I came to giving up on music therapy .
I was at the end of my music therapy rope , and I was about to try the one thing I had yet to try and knew nothing about : clinical supervision . As it happened ( and as I have said on numerous occasions and to anyone who will listen ), it saved my music therapy life ! I stayed in the profession , remained at the facility , and I went on to finish graduate studies in music therapy .
And here I still am .
Even though I continued to be a music therapist , it didn ’ t mean there weren ’ t times when I needed to stop for a while . I took a break from work for three months in the Summer of 2008 . I remember it taking at least a month of not being at work to finally feel as if I could