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Top 10 Worst Things About Being a Music Therapist

by Kimberly on July 26, 2012 · 4 comments

Last week, prompted by a question from a Maven reader, I shared with you my list of the top 10 best things about being a music therapist. This week, it’s time for that “other” list. Strangely enough (or maybe luckily enough?), this one took a little more thought and time to figure out…

Top 10 Worst Things About Being a Music Therapist

  1. All the documentation involved.
  2. Feeling like a jack of all trades (“I sing and can play the guitar, piano, hand percussion, autoharp, AND flute”)…but master of none.
  3. Being referred to as “the entertainment.”
  4. Feeling surprised when someone actually “knows” what music therapy is…and having to gently correct them anyway.
  5. Bookkeeping—my least favorite part about being in private practice.
  6. That to many people, our sessions just look like “fun.” This means there is an almost constant need to explain the “therapy work” that is happening.
  7. Feeling like I never know enough songs.
  8. At times feeling like I don’t know the “right” thing to do or say to a client.
  9. Not having many opportunities to work with someone who really understands what I’m doing and why (i.e. another music therapist)
  10. Constant pressure to justify what I am doing and why.

Luckily, I’m not alone! Here’s what others have to say about the worst part about being a music therapist:

  • Worst thing – working with people who devalue the work we do. – Sheri
  • Worst is working alone most of the time. – Valerie
  • The worst thing is realizing that your client isn’t really responding to an experience and totally blanking on what to do in the moment to alter it. – Freddy
  • Worst is explain why listening is no more music therapy than showing exercise is PT (physical therapy). – JoAnn
  • Worst thing-not having enough financial resources to work with the kids that need music therapy to be able to work through their trauma. – Lauren
  • Worst thing-trying to make (enough money) at it so I can pay my bills. – Stacey
  • Worst thing: Having to argue what we practice is a legitimate, research based field and we are highly trained, knowledgeable professionals. – Amanda
  • Worst thing: others thinking it’s a lark and all we do is create frivolity. – Linda


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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

JoAnn Jordan July 26, 2012 at 8:15 am

Amen! Thanks for these top 10 list of good and bad. In my book, the positives outweigh the negatives.

Kimberly July 31, 2012 at 2:38 pm

I agree, JoAnn! For me as well! What’s funny is that it took me a LOT longer to come up with a list of the top worst things than it did the top best things 🙂 ~Kimberly

Dr. Jim Gardiner August 3, 2012 at 2:15 pm

Kimberly, I love reading your blogs, and feel blessed when you share your experiences. Also, I am in awe of your energy, dedication, and wonderful contributions in the music therapy trenches. Whenever I leave a nursing home, assisted living center, or senior citizens center having had a ball for an hour leading those wonderful neglected souls into the musical world they love and enjoy, I settle into the driver’s seat of my van, exhausted but satisfied, thinking “Now, if I were a music therapist, I would be headed to another site to do the same thing, and then possibly to several more after that.” Exhausted further from that thought, I take a short nap, then drive on home. My hat is off to you and to other music therapists like you, who tirelessly deliver your love in the form of music. You are deeply appreciated by those you serve. Keep it up!

Kimberly August 6, 2012 at 10:08 am

Thank you, Jim, for your support, comments, and kind words. I think I can speak for the community at large when I say that we cannot do it without the support of people and professionals like you. So thank YOU for all you offer not only to your clients, not only to me, but to the countless other music therapists who have met you and learned from you at NMT trainings, conferences, and the like. And don’t worry–I for one will definitely keep it up! 🙂 ~Kimberly

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