Several dozen music therapists sent e-mail messages to in response to a call in the AMTA eNews for input about the impact of the economy on their jobs. Let’s check in to see what some of our colleagues around the country have to say.

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MT-BC Speak-UP #1
Input from colleagues around the country
March 21, 2009

From Kevin Krivanec, MT-BC in Massachusetts

Hi everyone. Patient care staff positions at the hospital seem secure for now. But I am a bit nervous even with 22 years seniority. We have ridden out some hard times in the past, but this is unprecedented. In my private practice I have lost 3 clients directly due to the economy. They were private pay clients whose parents worked in the financial services industry, an industry that has been devastated. One person I know was driving the Domino’s delivery car last week.

So, under the circumstances, what do we do? I have been looking at creative ways to revive my private work including discounts and more flexibility in the fee schedule and payment options. I’m also looking to find where the money is to fund services. In Massachusetts right now, there is certainly no funding in the school systems. Whatever we do, we probably need to get ready for a long rough ride. Hang in there! Kevin

From Alie Chandler, MM, MT-BC, LCAT in New York

Hello AMTA. Thank you for doing this. My business was starting to take off this past year, but now everyone is scared to spend money. However, I am currently negotiating with an assisted living facility in a way that might be helpful to other music therapists. The director is attempting to get funds for my services through the rehabilitation department (rather than activities department) since I’ll be co-treating with others therapists. He may be able to bill for other therapies and use that money to pay me. Thank you for your time, Alie Chandler, Director, Ossia Music Services

Gloria McDaniel, MT-BC from Klein ISD in Texas

I guess my situation may be rather unique in the grand scheme of all that’s going on in the economy. Angela Carbonell, MT-BC, and I are full-time employees at Klein ISD in Texas. The school district is currently in the process of adding a part-time contract music therapy position to help with our service delivery. We are interviewing several folks next week! In Klein, our services are provided primarily through a program consult format, and we deliver services to students in the district’s PPCD, PreK inclusion, and developmentally delayed programs on a weekly basis. We also serve several IEP students on campuses and in homebound services.

Last year there were some budget issues that halted our progress in getting a third full-time music therapy position, but with this part-time contract position, our administrator is hoping that it can eventually become another full-time position.

I have worked in the district since 1982, starting very slowly as a para-professiona in self-contained classes for our ED students for three years. I moved up to “long-term sub” assignments in classrooms for several years before finally earning the respect and confidence of the school district to make me a full-time, salaried music therapist. That was over twenty years ago! Conversations with our Executive Director of Student Services, Assistant Director of Special Education, program coordinators, classroom teachers, and other related services personnel are always very positive and supportive of music therapy. I know things could always change, but currently I have no fear of our jobs going away….Gloria McDaniel

From a board certified music therapist and owner of a clinic in Florida

Our experience has been that contracts we’ve had since the beginning of the school year have suddenly decided that they cannot afford our services. Much of our group programming is funded through grants for after-school and program services. We’ve lost over $500 of weekly income in the past few months. As you can imagine, this hits us hard. As a result of these funding changes, we have moved from employing full-time music therapists to contracting their services instead. While there is less ‘security’ for the therapist, it is the best way to use limited funds.

We are being expected to ‘prove’ ourselves to our clients and clearly articulate what we are doing to improve client functioning and the necessity for ongoing services on an almost daily basis.  Since we specialize in treating autism and related disorders, progress is slow and therapy is very long. This is a time of showing that we offer a valuable and effective treatment – regardless of the service being provided.

From Justine Hancock-Marsh in Stockton, CA

I work for a small private music therapy practice in California. Like many small communities, our area has been hard hit by the recent economic downturn. Our town has experienced massive losses in the job areas of construction, retail, and general business which once fueled our local economy. Many of the clients we serve are children of those who work in these areas, and their families have felt the pinch. I have lost two private-pay clients since October for economic reasons, and our regional center has asked families receiving music therapy services through respite exchange to pay for part of their services. Depending on the family income, they may be required to pay as much as 50% of the music therapy fee.  On top of this, California has experienced a massive budget deficit, so many questions remain as to how much funding government agencies and services will get in the next year.

However, I remain optimistic.  Our company has made it a point to diversify services and spread out rather than “putting all of our eggs in one basket.” I spend most of my week working with cancer patients in a local hospital, and the program is looking to expand in the next five years. Healthcare appears to be one area where job growth is expected, which is good news for music therapists, particularly those working in geriatric, medical, or hospice settings.

My advice is to diversify, diversify, diversify, and to really stay on top of your game. I make it a point to read whatever I can on current advances in cancer treatment, and try to attend seminars and symposiums on cancer, palliative care, death/dying, bereavement, and pediatrics. I have also sought out info on the medical side of autism, investigated music resources in our community, helped put together job standards for all music therapists entering the hospital where I work most days, learned new songs, kept up on technology – iPods, computer programs, internet resources -and pestered my husband to teach me everything from creating spreadsheets to negotiating sales to changing a flat tire on my car! So, I encourage my fellow music therapists to eat right, get plenty of sleep and exercise, diversify, learn, think positive, and don’t panic!

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