Six months ago, I walked out of an H&R Block testing center with a piece of paper that said “Congratulations. You have passed the Certification Board for Music Therapists Examination.” Here’s what I’ve learned so far…

  1. Hydrate

Duh. I did not realize the importance of hydrating until I had to sing for 7 straight hours a day. Your voice is one of your most precious instruments because it cannot be replaced!

A sip before your session is not enough. Start your day, experience your day, and end your day with water!

  1. You are a human. You are working with humans. Why expect perfection?

Bad sessions exist. I will have one when I am 23 years old, 33 years old, 43, 53, etc. Working with people (as opposed to a computer, or other technology) means that they will make mistakes, have bad days, and be downright difficult. Does that make them any less valuable as a client? If you answered no, then you’re right! Expecting perfection hurts my clients and me. I have learned to enter my sessions with the mantra of “how can I use my knowledge and expertise to create an environment for success?”

  1. It’s okay to admit when something is too much.

Boundaries and limits are a good thing. There have been times in the past six months when I could have ended a session, when I could have not persevered, not held back tears for 30 minutes, because of one incident or another. I won’t go into too much detail, but setting boundaries allows you to take care of yourself, not only in the music therapy environment, but also as a friend, a partner, and a person. 

  1. You have more clinical judgment than you think you do. There is no one right answer.

When I walked into my first solo music therapy session as an “MT-BC”, I thought “Wait, do I know anything about music? Or therapy?”

“What’s a piano? What’s autism? Where’s my supervisor? Do people seriously trust me, a fresh 23-year-old music therapist, to provide services to their children?” Trusting in yourself opens the door to have others trust you. Relying on my training, my boss’s faith in me, and my intuition has guided me to many meaningful therapeutic moments. I’m not going to have all the answers at 24, but why would I want to? I am making valuable decisions with my clients and learning every day.

  1. Self-care is not a luxury. 

It’s actually necessary. Taking time to unwind, disconnect, and NOT think about work is actually essential to your well being as a therapist and as a human. As a student, I worked under the assumption that self-care was something I did if I was selfish or had the time between homework assignments. Make yourself a cup of tea. Sit in silence for 5 minutes. Binge watch Gilmore Girls on Netflix. Cook yourself a delicious meal. Schedule an appointment with a mental health counselor. Self-care has many forms because we are all unique selves. Making it part of your work routine is will make you a better therapist and help you better serve clients.

  1. I am lucky to do something that I love.

And for people in their early 20s, that’s not always the case.

It’s amazing how many people I know who are working in a less than ideal situation. Who have chosen a career based on something other than their passion.  It’s something I was ignorant to, but has allowed me to love my job even more.

I may not know a lot, and I may not be the best music therapist in the world, but I am learning.

I am growing.

I am doing something I love.

I am helping others.

Cherish the experience, no matter how challenging the day may be. Because at the end of it, I am using music to help people reach their fullest potential, and that is pretty special.