Professional Business Woman

73 Things I Wish I’d Known as a New Therapist

by Kimberly on March 2, 2011 · 7 comments

You’ve finally made it. You’re wearing that graduation cap and gown, have the diploma in one hand (or at least the diploma cover since the actual diploma won’t be shipped for another 6-8 weeks), and are taking your zillionth picture with elated family and friends. You’ve done all your coursework, you’ve finished your internship, and now…?

Now it’s time to get professional.

The transition from clinical intern to professional therapist can be a difficult one to navigate. Below are listed 100 tips to help the new therapist maneuver from student/intern to professional. I originally intended to create this list on my own, but decided last night about 9:00pm to ask my friends and readers on Facebook and Twitter to share their tips. The response was truly overwhelming and I think you’ll appreciate what they have to share below.

Some of these things I’ve done, some are things I wish I’d done, some are bits of wisdom from other professional therapists. All are intended to serve as nuggets of gold to keep in mind as you maneuver these new waters.

73 Things I Wish I’d Known as a New Therapist

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
  2. Join your professional association (for music therapists, that’s the American Music Therapy Association).
  3. Invest in professional development (e.g. seminars, conferences, trainings, workshops).
  4. Seek out a mentor.
  5. Know yourself: who you are, your strengths, your areas for improvement, what you can do.
  6. Keep learning about yourself: who you are, your strengths, your areas for improvement, what you can do.
  7. Set aside time for play.
  8. Exercise regularly.
  9. Eat well. Drink lots of water.
  10. Relish in your relationships with friends and family.
  11. Take time off.
  12. Criticize/complain in private. Praise in public.
  13. Read (or listen to) professional books.
  14. Read journal articles.
  15. Understand your state registry/licensure requirements.
  16. Understand your national certification requirements.
  17. Take music lessons.
  18. Attend at least one conference a year.
  19. Join local business and/or professional organizations.
  20. If possible, start recording your therapy sessions.
  21. Create systems and procedures (e.g. for checking email, documentation, session planning, etc.)
  22. Seek online colleagues and mentors.
  23. Expect mistakes.
  24. Learn from mistakes.
  25. Stay current with local and state politics. They do affect you.
  26. Remember that it’s about the clients.
  27. Relish the opportunity to talk about what you do.
  28. Take a break if you need to.
  29. Develop good relationships with your professional peers and colleagues.
  30. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
  31. Reach for opportunities.
  32. Dress professionally. Watch “What NOT To Wear” for some tips.
  33. Keep learning. Be open to new populations, new approaches, new experiences.
  34. Become a mentor. (Seriously. It’s the fast track for learning.)
  35. Read about your continuing education requirements.
  36. Start a folder to keep all continuing ed certificates and paperwork in one place.
  37. Seek out peer supervision.
  38. Spend time visualizing what you want to create for yourself.
  39. Expect change–both short-term and long-term.
  40. Speak up during team meetings.
  41. Read the newsletters sent out by your associations/organizations.
  42. Strive for personal balance.
  43. Seek ways to nurture yourself in areas outside music.
  44. Always have music that’s just for you that you don’t use in sessions.
  45. Don’t be afraid to ask for supervision.
  46. Trust yourself. You have more wisdom and knowledge than you know!
  47. Remember to not make a client do, play, or create something you wouldn’t want to do yourself.
  48. It’s okay to “wing it.” The unplanned can make for great improvisation…and sometimes the best sessions.
  49. Show up. Be present.
  50. Know what you need to do to de-compress.
  51. Develop and continue to grow your “go-to” repertoire.
  52. Change out your “go-to” pieces on a regular basis.
  53. Realize that your job is as much to teach the parent/caregiver as it is to work with the client.
  54. Remember: your 1 hour a week won’t create nearly as much change as teaching the parent/caregiver and having them practice 10 times a day!
  55. If possible, find a job where you have a music therapist for a supervisor.
  56. Own your success.
  57. Don’t get stuck in the “what population am I going to work with” mode. You’re working with the person, not the “disability.”
  58. Remember to take care of your body. Stretch. Exercise. Musicians can sustain injuries, too.
  59. Warm-up your voice every morning.
  60. Remember to make time for documentation. It’s a harsh reality 🙂
  61. Network, network, network.
  62. Always have business cards handy. Distribute them freely.
  63. Strive to be a resource for people on music therapy.
  64. Speak to every group that invites you, no matter how big or how small.
  65. Remember that first impressions never die.
  66. Take baby steps with the big picture in mind.
  67. Remember the importance of monitoring your own needs.
  68. Be aware of when you need to “fill the emotional/physical tank,” so to speak.
  69. Talk to–and learn from–other professionals.
  70. Listen to the parents/caregivers. They are the true experts.
  71. Remember that every person has valuable input. Even you.
  72. You know more than you think you do. Trust yourself.
  73. Enjoy your passion. Enjoy the ride.

I again want to thank all those who responded on Facebook and Twitter. This would not have been nearly as good a list without you!

Music Therapy in the Mainstream

I’d like to take a minute to share with you a book and a movie that has us music therapists giddy with excitement! On March 1st, Jodi Picoult (you may remember her as the author of My Sister’s Keeper) published a book called Sing You Home. The main character of her new book is a music therapist!

I’m currently on chapter 3 and, I must say, I’m quite impressed! If you’re interested in checking it out yourself, please follow the link on the lefthand sidebar (check out the book cover). There’s also an audio version available on Audible if you–like me–prefer the audio version (and, if I did this right, if you sign up for Audible by click the link below, you can get a free book. Why not make it Sing You Home?)

Try Audible Now and Get A Free Audiobook Download with a 14 Day Trial. Choose from over 85,000 Titles.

Finally, a movie premiered at the Sundance Film Festival last month called The Music Never Stopped. And…guess what?…one of the main characters is a music therapist! Screenings of the movie are showing in select cities and I believe they’re still accepting RSVPs. I’ll be checking it out in Kansas City next week and will be sure to share with you my thoughts!


{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Tara McConnell, MT-BC March 2, 2011 at 12:00 pm

Awesome list! I’ll be sharing with Univ of Pacific students this afternoon! Thanks for posting this.

Kathleen Esbensen March 2, 2011 at 1:10 pm

So helpful, Thank you!!

CJ Diachenko March 2, 2011 at 4:24 pm

thanks again! Considering that I’m in a Masters Equivalence program, with many years experience as a music educator, #60 is the big toughy for me! And of course, I’m lovin’ #61. 😉 30 days until I do my blog launch! I will make sure to jump back on this page and share the link! :o)

Caylyn Krizan March 2, 2011 at 7:40 pm

Great list, thanks Kimberly! Which showing of The Music Never Stopped are you going to?

Kimberly March 3, 2011 at 10:15 am

I’m thrilled you all like it! The response and insight from those on FB and Twitter was truly overwhelming. @Caylyn I’m going to Independence MO on 3/10 @CJ Can’t wait to see you new blog! @Tara Thank you for sharing this with your students 🙂

Join Clinical Trials August 11, 2011 at 9:17 pm

Great list. This is very helpful! Thank you for sharing!

hospital for special surgery March 21, 2013 at 4:28 am

It’s hard to come by knowledgeable people for this subject, however, you seem like you know what you’re talking about!
hospital for special surgery´s last blog post for special surgery

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