Stress and anxiety impact music therapy students daily. Not only freshmen, but also upperclass and graduate students often struggle with schedules, new surroundings, finances, grades, expectations by self and others, over commitment, and other pressures. In this AMTA-Pro podcast, Dr. Jennifer Fiore shares her work with music therapy students in learning to recognize the need for self-care and to develop their own self-care toolbox with personalized strategies addressing their unique situation and needs. Dr. Fiore provides many helpful tips and resources for music therapy professors and music therapy students, including suggestions for coping with particular stresses related to COVID-19.



Self-Care Toolbox for Music Therapy Students

AMTA-Pro Podcast ~ August, 2020

Jennifer Fiore, PhD, MT-BC

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Because they often experience elevated levels of stress, college students often benefit from purposefully addressing self-care. Developing a self-care toolbox can not only help music therapy students be successful given the demands of college/university life, but can also prepare them to be better equipped for providing  care to others as professional music therapists in the future.

Discussion Outline

1. Risk Factors

• Transition to university
• Finances
• Parental/personal expectations
• Outside work/responsibilities
• Desire for perfection
• Workload
• Over commitment
• Perceived mental health status
• Negative self talk

2. Responses to Stress

• Emotional—anger, guilt, worry, anxiety, grief, depression
• Cognitive—perception of situation, stress management
• Behavioral—cry, abuse of self/others, smoking
• Physiological—sweat, tremble, headaches, stutter

3. Coping

• Flexible mindset
• Change perspective
• Stop for a minute
• Find a strategy
• Focus on the positive
• Breathe
• Set goals for yourself

4. Tips for Coping with Stress

• Eat a balanced diet.
• Establish a sleep pattern.
• Establish healthy boundaries.
• Connect with people.
• Listen to your body.
• Plan study time.
• Reserve time away from technology.
• Exercise.
• Take time to be with friends and family.
• Shift from reactive to creative.

5. Dealing with Stress During COVID-19

• Adjust expectations.
• Seek out social interaction while maintaining social distance and masking requirements.
• Educate yourself about COVID-19 beyond the media.
• Develop a plan for if you or someone you live with gets infected.
• Consider what you can change and work on letting go of things you cannot control.
• Explore new activities or re-start an activity you used to do for pleasure and diversion.
• Be patient with yourself and others.


The Relaxation & Stress Reduction Workbook by Davis, Eschelman & McKay (2008) is a proven resource providing information and scripts for relaxation strategies and other coping skills. A  version for kids is also available.

• provides sample relaxation scripts and recorded imagery audio scripts. It also includes visualization, autogenic relaxation, progressive muscle relaxation, and more

Managing Stress Associated with the COVID-19 Virus Outbreak
from the National Center for PTSD

Coronavirus Disease 2019 Coping with Stress
from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

About the Speaker

Jennifer Fiore, PhD, MT-BC joined the faculty at Western Michigan University as an Assistant Professor of Music Therapy in 2015. She holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Music Education with an emphasis in Music Therapy, and a Doctorate of Philosophy from the University of Kansas. Jennifer has over 10 years of clinical experience in hospice working with both pediatric and adult patients and their families during the final moments of life, pediatrics, oncology, and elderly. While working in hospice, Jennifer started a clinical training site for music therapy practicum students and a university-affiliated internship.

During both her Masters and Doctoral studies, Jennifer worked as a Graduate Assistant, teaching music therapy courses and providing weekly supervision to students in a variety of clinical practicum placements (medical, hospice, developmental disabilities, early childhood, elderly, and mental health).

Jennifer currently represents the Great Lakes region of the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) on the Standards of Clinical Practice Committee. Before moving to Michigan Jennifer served in the Midwest Region of AMTA as 1st Vice President, 2nd Vice President, and Secretary on the Board of Directors. She also served as a regional delegate or alternate delegate to the AMTA Assembly of Delegates. Jennifer is a consistent presenter at the local, regional, and national level. Her research interests include hospice, bereavement, stress and coping, and oncology. She has published research in the Journal of Music Therapy and OMEGA: Journal of Death and Dying.