Being a Therapist & Becoming a Mom

Being a Therapist & Becoming a Mom

I know what you’re thinking right now after reading the headline…so I’ll tell you right now that I am not expecting!  Rather, this is a guest post by Rachelle Norman, MA, MT-BC.  Rachelle is a fellow music therapist who owns a private practice in Kansas.  Be sure to check out her blog for more thought-provoking articles like this one:

I’ve been pondering something of a chicken and egg scenario. Six and a half years ago, I became a board-certified music therapist. Three months ago, I became a mother. I know that becoming a parent has changed me as a therapist, but I also know that being a therapist has formed who I am as a parent. Things have changed in my life, but what prompted the changes? Being a therapist or becoming a parent?

One major change in my life has been an increased focus on self-care. As an enthusiastic new therapist, I worked myself pretty hard in a full-time job while building a new private practice, and I was on a path to burnout for sure. I started getting better about drawing boundaries between work and home when I got married, but it was becoming pregnant that really forced me to re-examine how I was using my time and energy. All of a sudden, my body no longer allowed me to haul around a bunch of extra equipment or drive so many miles to see clients. I needed to be deliberate about self-care to stay healthy so I could serve my clients effectively. Now that our daughter is here, I am more deliberate than ever about making sure I’m getting enough sleep, exercise, and healthy food and that I’m spending plenty of quality time with my daughter and my husband. Making time for myself and my family frees me to be focused on my clients and their needs during the workday. At the same time, knowing that I’m putting forth my best effort at work enables me to enjoy the time at home even more.

Another change in my life over the last several years has been dealing with my perfectionist streak. Perfectionism worked for me as a student, but it is not usually compatible with being an effective therapist. Music therapy sessions never go exactly as planned, and clients are not entirely predictable – we are bound to make mistakes, and we have to be flexible, ready to make in-the-moment changes as circumstances demand. Of course, parenting can’t go entirely according to plan, either. Becoming a parent means giving up some measure of control. So does being a therapist. Maybe it was being a therapist that has prepared me to deal with the less glorious moments of parenting. In turn, maybe being a parent will help me to be more forgiving of myself when things do not go according to plan in music therapy sessions.

Perhaps more than anything else, though, becoming a parent has brought into sharp awareness again how grateful I am for the work that I do. Every day I get to share music with people. I get to walk with them through this part of their life’s journey. I now work mostly with older adults, and I am continuously humbled by hearing their stories and learning about their experiences. Becoming a parent has highlighted this privilege of my work as a music therapist. Being at this stage of life gives some expertise back to my clients – many of them have been there already, and even if they cannot remember today’s events clearly, many of them do remember what it was like to become a parent. My respect for my older adult clients grows every day, and I feel less pressure to be some kind of all-knowing expert therapist and more joy in being part of the community that supports its elders in the twilight of life.

So, who came first – the therapist or the parent? Of course, in the long run, it doesn’t really matter. I just know that I am grateful for my family and for the work that allows me to share life with so many amazing people everyday. Being a parent and being a therapist – both are great blessings in my life.

Sunday Singalong: Winter All Around Us

I know what you’re thinking…not another song about winter!  Trust me, I don’t like winter any more than you do, but my students (and yours as well, most likely) need to hear about and understand it as it’s happening.

As I mentioned in the video, this is an older song that I don’t use very often these days.  (Here’s my latest song about winter.)  But it’s still fun to sing, and I like that it’s so short.  It’s also a great one for use during songwriting activities — it’s easy to come up with additional verses.

Who else is counting the days until spring is here?  As the midwest prepares for yet another winter storm, I’m assuming I’m not alone in my countdown.  Stay warm, stay safe, and I’ll see you back here tomorrow.

A Starbucks Kind of Saturday


Some days just cry out for a cup of Starbucks coffee, don’t you think?  Today is one of them: a cold, cloudy Saturday with a long to-do list awaiting my attention.  Luckily, I received over $100 in Starbucks gift cards from my lovely students for Christmas, so each cup of coffee is like a little present.

Most mornings, I chug down my Cuisinart-brewed cup of Dunkin’ Donuts Hazelnut coffee (heavenly) while getting ready for work.  But on Saturdays, I can actually take my time and enjoy every sip while I read the paper and catch up on my favorite blogs.

Maybe I’ll make today’s order a double, because here’s what I’m planning to accomplish over the next few hours:

  • Record vocals for 6 new songs for Songs For Teaching
  • Plan, record, and edit tomorrow’s Sunday Singalong video
  • Record a Q&A video for Andrew Knight’s UND music therapy class
  • Create my February session plans for school & private practice
  • Burn countless supplemental music therapy CDs
  • Finally tackle my December bookkeeping
  • Answer reader emails

All of this by 5 pm, at which time I’ll need to get ready for date night (!) with my husband.  Ambitious?  Yes.  Impossible?  No…especially since I’ll have a little help from my grande skinny hazelnut latte.  Which begs the question: what is your drink (Starbucks or otherwise) of choice?

Friday Fave: Building an Empire

Empire Building Kit

A little over a year ago, the lovely and talented Kat Fulton introduced me to a guy by the name of Chris Guillebeau.  I can’t thank Kat enough, because Chris has been a huge influence on the way I live my life and build my business.

Chris’ blog is called The Art of Non-Conformity, and there he writes about how to change the world by achieving significant, personal goals while helping others at the same time.  His articles never fail to inspire me, especially since he practices what he preaches.  Talk about goal-setting: Chris plans to visit every country in the world during a five-year time period; so far he’s been to 149 out of 192 with two years remaining in which to complete his mission.

So when he debuted his Empire Building Kit last spring, I didn’t hesitate for a minute before taking the plunge.  Case studies, video interviews, transcripts, and a 365-day email series (the longest in history) designed to help me build my business in one year by doing one thing every day?  Yes, please.

That was in May.  Today marks day #255, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve hit “reply” to thank Chris for another valuable idea or nugget of information.  And you know what?  He’s responded every single time.  Amidst his world-traveling, writing a bestselling book, and generally just being awesome, he’s found the time to personally cheer me on.

I love working on my business (which is comprised of my private music therapy practice/teaching studio and Listen & Learn, of course), but what I love even more is seeing positive results.  And although I may not have achieved empire status just yet, I’m on my way.

Any other emperors out there?  I’d love to hear your thoughts on the kit.  And if you want to join us, read on.

Why Playing Music is Like Housecleaning

Why Playing Music is Like Housecleaning

I made this unexpected connection in the middle of teaching a piano lesson last week, and my nine-year-old student looked at me like I was nuts.

Honestly, though, I couldn’t blame him. I was surprised to hear the comparison come out of my mouth, but as I started to explain what I meant, it made perfect sense to both him and myself.

When you learn a song on the piano, or any instrument for that matter, the first order of business is getting the notes right. But so many of my students think that once they’ve got the notes down, their work is done. Really, though, that is just the beginning. Kind of like how picking up the clutter on the floor, counters, and tables is just the beginning of cleaning a house.

Next comes tempo and dynamics. That means going through the piece and looking for markings like crescendos, diminuendos, ritardandos, and other directions (not just playing it however you feel like playing it, another common misconception among my students). The housecleaning equivalent? Looking at which major areas need attention, like the kitchen floor or the bathroom. Of course, you want your whole house to be clean, but you’ll need to spend some extra time working on these particular areas.

Now the piece is really starting to come together, and our house is starting to look presentable, too. But we’re not quite ready for the recital or Superbowl party yet. It’s time to go through with a fine-tooth comb: that measure is being played legato but need to be stacatto, the pedal should be held down one measure earlier, play those sixteenth notes more evenly, and so on. As for the house, the end tables need to be dusted, the baseboards need to be wiped down, and the mirror could use some Windex.

But once we’ve addressed all of those issues, we’re left with a beautiful piece of music and a beautiful home. Attending not just to the big picture, but also to the small details, have made both shine. Had we stopped with learning the notes and picking up the clutter, our final product wouldn’t have been nearly as impressive.

So as my students prepare to play in the Illinois Federation of Music Clubs’ Junior Festival next month, I think I’ll share this comparison with all of them. And it doesn’t hurt to hear it a few times myself…especially when I’m having guests over to my house :)

Pin It on Pinterest