Thoughtful Thursday: The Infectious Attitude of Young Music Therapists

For many years, I have had the privilege of being an internship director. I do not get any recognition or recompense at work for this. I do not get any benefits from AMTA or CBMT (other than a couple of CMTEs every year) for this. I rarely get an acknowledgement from the university programs that I work with, and this part of the job complicates my job pretty significantly. Yet, I continue to offer internship positions at my facility. Why? Because I love this part of being a music therapist!

I think that, if you asked Internship Directors out there why we are IDs, most of us would say that being a supervisor at this level of a person's education is just plain old inspiring. Every intern I have ever worked with has taught me so much about the field of music therapy - things that are good and things that I will change in the future! Interns are so very ready to be doing music therapy, that they are eager, inspired, and so enthusiastic that you just cannot avoid the feeling.

I spent the last three years without an intern. There are many reasons for that, but the first was a lack of space for myself and an intern in the room that was assigned to me. I then moved to a new location that has more than enough space, and I started my program up again. An entire year went by without any attention or applications to my program AT ALL! Now, however, I do have interns - one is here already, one is coming in September, and I hope to close the January position in the next couple of months.

I enjoyed some of my time as a solo therapist. Being stuck in the old, little room did not do much for my attitude about music therapy or my general disposition, but the new, bigger, lighter room refreshed me and my attitude about being a music therapist. From the get go, I identified where the interns would have their office space. I was able to incorporate that space as an intern office from the beginning - it just needed an intern or two to make it an office.

When interns arrive, they are always interested in everything. Why do I sing an opening song to my clients? Why do I use recorded music? How do the clients communicate? How do I know what to do with clients? How do I find ideas for TMEs? How do I... the questions go on and on.

I love that - constant questioning - because it makes me think more deeply about why I do what I do with my clients. When it is just me, I tend to just go about my routine, and I never really have to think about why I do what I do. Can't take anything granted when you are working with an intern! They deserve answers to their questions. (Sometimes, the answer is "I have no idea that I was doing that!" But, it is an answer!!) Right now, I am coming up with answers all the time.

I find myself thinking about what I do in music therapy sessions a bit more deeply than I did even last month. What a gift! I don't think that interns realize how much they affect their supervisors, but every single one of them does.

****Now, not every intern/supervisor relationship is a good one. (I've been fortunate - I only had one that really challenged me in my history of intern training.) Some intern/supervisor relationships are difficult for many different reasons. If that is the case for your internship (whether you are an intern or an internship director), you can get help from your Association Internship Approval Committee representatives - you should know who that person is for your region. None of us deserve to be in situations where we have no option but to be miserable. It breaks my heart to hear stories from interns or from internship directors about bad experiences that could have been avoided through clearer policies, better communication with the academic director, and/or termination of the relationship! If you are not happy with your situation, then change it!****

Today I will go to a music therapy setting without an intern. My intern will be off-grounds for the last big training of this orientation period. I will spend most of my time doing the administrative tasks that I need to do (and can do a bit faster solo), and then I am taking an early dismissal day. I have worked significantly more than my 40 hours per week since our extended school year started, so I am going to leave when my documentation is finished. I will also take some time to reflect on how I am thinking about this profession as I start to experience it with this particular intern. All of my other interns will cross my mind as well as I am reflecting for my journaling time.

Thank you, former, current, and future interns, for the things you offer to me.


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