Guest Post: Private Practice – Music Therapy Thoughts for Consideration by Clinicians Starting Out.

by Kimberly on April 20, 2009 · 11 comments

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.


{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Nikki April 20, 2009 at 9:11 pm

This is just what I needed to read tonight! Thanks Kimberly and Amanda!

Kimberly April 21, 2009 at 8:11 pm

Great to hear! And good luck. Feel free to contact either of us if you have any questions (or better yet, want to share your successes *smile*)

Maria Battista Hancock. LCAT, MT-BC June 11, 2009 at 9:19 pm

thanks for sharing – this is very helpful information!

Kimberly June 16, 2009 at 8:16 pm

I am so glad it helps. But, please, make sure to thank Amanda Bryant. Her ideas, her writing!

Alberto Altamiranda June 8, 2010 at 11:50 am

I taught music for ten years in Miami, Fl , I changed career after obtaining my MBA, I now am managing the operations of the fourth largest cemetery in the country. Just recently two of my children were diagnosed with Autism. I have found that they love music and I use songs to communicate or teach phrases to my daughter. I know music hepls special needs children. Hence my interest in Music Therapy. I have a higher value and perspective on this profession. I am in the planning stages of starting a Music Therapy Practice in the Houston, TX area. If there is anyone that wants to collaborate with me please contact me. There is a huge need for this service in the Houston area.

Kimberly June 15, 2010 at 11:08 am

Alberto–I can’t think of music therapists in Houston off the top of my head, but you can look for board-certified music therapists by visitng and clicking on the “Find a Music Therapist” link. Good luck!!! ~Kimberly

Amy Kalas October 2, 2011 at 7:58 am

I have never read a blog post more JAM PACKED with good information – I had to read this one through a few times! I love Amanda’s tips on clinical specializations outside the field of music therapy (in particular sensory integration because of the large number of individuals on the autism spectrum with whom I work). Thank you Amanda for the excellent tips and thank you Kimberly for sharing!
Amy Kalas´s last blog post ..Miami Music Therapists Unite…to Jam

Kimberly October 3, 2011 at 3:14 pm

Amanda really knows that she’s talking about, doesn’t she? 🙂 SO glad you found this post helpful! ~Kimberly

Titus Olusegun Stephen January 8, 2016 at 7:48 am

I want to say thank you for the information. I am currently a lecturer with Music Department Obafemi Awolowo University, here in Nigeria, Africa. and really interested in establishing a music therapy Centre. Though I have been collaborating with some medical Doctors on HIV awareness campaign musical concerts. Please how do I go about it. Thank you.

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