Listen and learn from your fellow music therapists from around the country – some just finishing internship and others with many years of experience – who sent career status reports to

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MT-BC Speak-UP #2
Input from colleagues around the country
March 24, 2009

Depending on several different factors, some music therapists are facing sudden downsizing, cuts in income, furloughs, or even job loss. Others are experiencing an increased demand for music therapy or are exploring possibilities for music therapy services in new arenas. This segment of the Job Solutions symposium features the words of your colleagues.

An experienced music therapist in Pennsylvania writes about the advantages of being able to offer effective therapy in group settings to help cut costs for individual participants. She also commented on the fact that her agency has not yet seen a slow down in private pay clients. The therapist writes, “I wonder if this is because music therapy is not only effective, but also the most affordable therapeutic intervention right now.

Another highly qualified, experienced music therapist who has worked in hospice for many years is discouraged. He wrote, “I was recently laid off when the administration at my hospice changed. The new people only cared about cutting costs wherever possible. They didn’t understand what I did, and weren’t interested in learning. They believe they can get volunteers to replace me, or perhaps a staff member who just happens to know how to sing or play an instrument. What I did for the hospice wne far beyond just singing a few songs.”

A therapist with experience working with early recovering addicts and alcoholics wrote: “In the past, these people were given 90 days and more to recover. Now the recovery time is lowered down to seven days, leaving little money and time for music therapy.”

Michelle Westfall, a music therapy intern in Georgia, is making plans for her newly emerging music therapy career. She recognizes the challenges she will encounter given the current economic conditions. Michelle writes, “There do seem to be a number of options, but making the choices (and trusting them!) is the most challenging part. To move or not to move? To take full time job that isn’t related to MT or to work part time as a music therapist for the time being? To have health insurance or to go without for a while? Pursue self-employment or not? To get a forbearance on student loans or to reduce payments? The list of choices for anyone entering a new profession is really twisted because of the current status of the economy. As stressed and discouraged as I’ve been in the past few months looking for work, I have found it important to prioritize and creatively piece together a solution, remembering that nothing is permanent. Things will improve! The best silver lining of all is that we, as music therapists, have a wealth of training, knowledge, and personal skills in thinking objectively and positively that allow us to be present and available for others, in whatever capacity it may be. It will be interesting to see how the economy has impacted others and what ideas people have for finding a way through the maze of life’s realities. I am so grateful of the AMTA for seeking input from members because it feels good connected to others. Thank you! Sincerely, Michelle Westfall, Music Therapy Intern

A music therapist working in the psychiatric unit of an acute care community hospital writes that she initially conducted group and individual music therapy sessions until the unit was reduced from 15 beds to 10. She write, “With that change, the unit saw a reduction in nursing staff, so I am now responsible for 2 daily music therapy groups as well as 3 other education groups for patients covering relationships, assertiveness, anger management, etc. The silver lining is that the health system’s Wellness Program is taking off. I’ll be doing in-services for staff and have already had inquiries from surgeons and cardiologists about how music therapy could benefit their patients.  With the physicians support it is hopeful that music therapy could be developed throughout the system….only time and the economy will tell!”

Long-time music therapist Janice Harris states her job outlook in just two sentences. She writes, “I refuse to participate in a recession. Some clients have cut back services, but that opened up space in my schedule to work on some new opportunities or to schedule new clients.”

Granted, a positive attitude may not produce a paycheck next week, but persistently and optimistically exploring a variety of options for music therapy services seems to be paying off for some of your music therapy colleagues.

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