Amanda Bryant, MT-BC, NMT has been a self-employed music therapist since 1996, longer than most. As such, there are questions she is repeatedly asked by music therapists just dipping their toes into the world of private practice and self-employment. It’s a daunting prospect. Here are some of Amanda’s musings, what she considers to be essential for any therapist thinking about private practice:
- Business Structure. Assess your strengths and capitalize on those in creating your practice. Do you want to serve schools, agencies, non-profits, or individual consumers? Where? How often? What is your justification for your fee structure? How are you going to negotiate for a profit-making business? Do you possess the negotiating skills now to get you what you ultimately want? Do you want to be an administrator and “boss” taking on employees? How will that affect your clinical work? Your business’ reputation? What is your practice’s mission statement? Are you delivering on it?
- Clinical Populations. Think about how thinly you want to spread you clinical expertise and areas of specialization; most music therapists think they should take on all populations into their practice. This can limit your ability to focus on your most talented areas as well as limit your abilities to network with population specific colleagues that will ultimately help you grow as a clinician with the populations most compelling to you.
- Time Management and Planning. Consider your time—time you want to spend commuting, doing paperwork, and billing. Adjust your practice so that you are designing the appropriate work setting for the way you work best! Time in the car does not turn into a profitable business model. Design your schedule around your community. Design your private practice with the vision of what you want it to look like for the future- design for the future, not for today. This way you are ensuring progress toward your ultimate goals!
- Clinical Specialization. Educate yourself about best practices and techniques within your clinical specialization. Early on in my career I became trained in sensory integration, Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA), Verbal Behavior Intervention (VB), tangible communication systems for children with multi-sensory impairments, augmentative communication tools and technology, positioning and appropriate use of adaptive equipment that physical therapists use. I still make it a priority to educate myself outside of the arena of music therapy, in order to best serve my clients and colleagues from other disciplines.
- Treatment Philosophy. Music therapy can work with many other therapeutic and educational philosophies. Once trained in other strategies, talk intelligently about how music therapy can partner with other teaching and therapeutic strategies that your colleagues understand. This will make music therapy even more important in their eyes.
- Self-Employment. Read what you need to become a better businessperson. For me a pivotal book that I always recommend to therapists going into self-employment is Stanley and Danko’s “The Millionaire Next Door” It is over ten years old now and the statistics may be different now, but it helped me think much more strategically about money and time, and the importance of seeing yourself as the most important person determining your worth! There are many great books out there now that can help build strategic thinking into your practice.
Thank you for the opportunity to share some thoughts that I am repeatedly asked about. I am so proud of having been a successfully self-employed music therapist since 1996 and a practicing clinician since 1993.