July 2007 was a good month. I got engaged to my now-husband, and then just a few days later, passed the board certification exam to become an official board-certified music therapist. This photo was taken the following month — the earliest one I have in a work setting with those four letters (MT-BC) behind my name.
These past 10 years have been full of learning, growing, and stretching myself in ways I never though possible. I thought it would be fun to take a little trip down memory lane, highlighting my music therapy journey from the beginning to where I am now.
Recently I was having a FaceTime conversation with my friend Jocelyn, when she mentioned this audiobook to which she had been listening. “It’s called The 5 Second Rule,” she said, which immediately brought to mind the rule that dropped food is acceptable for consumption as long as you pick it up within 5 seconds. #momlife
But then Jocelyn went on to explain the basic premise of the book: that you can get yourself to take action on any task by counting backwards from 5. I liked the concept, but I was confused as to how it warranted an entire book. Despite my skepticism, I used one of my Audible credits to download the audiobook version, and stated listening after we hung up the phone.
In the summer of 2007, I started a little side hustle called Music Therapy Connections. That side hustle grew into an actual business that took up all the hours I wasn’t working at my full-time job, and it eventually replaced my full-time job. In time, it grew into a partnership with another music therapist and didn’t stop there.
10 years in, Music Therapy Connections is a full-fledged brick and mortar business with a team of 10 that serves hundreds of families within our walls and hundreds of people in the community each week. What a wild ride it’s been.
And through it all, I’ve not only run the business, but also provided music therapy, led early childhood music classes, and taught piano, voice and guitar lessons. I’ve taken two summer maternity leaves and extended summer breaks to be with my kids, but always returned to my students in the fall.
Earlier this week, I came across a blog post I wrote almost three years ago detailing a typical day in my life as a music therapist. I got a little nostalgic as I read it, thinking back to a time when I only had one baby and he still spent his days at home. It’s amazing how much life can change in just a short time.
That blog post was actually based on my original “day in the life” post written in 2011, when I had NO kids and still worked full-time at The Hope Institute, with a private practice on the side. Talk about a blast from the past! I remember that time well, but it seems so, so long ago after everything I’ve been through since.
I really wish I had written this kind of post last year, when I was in the thick of having a baby still at home and a business undergoing huge growth and changes. I think back on it and wonder how I managed to do everything, but somehow I did.
Life is nowhere near as challenging these days, since both of my kids are in daycare and preschool all day (except Fridays) and I have plenty of time devoted to work. But having all that time creates a different kind of challenge — figuring out how to manage it in the best possible way with my priorities in mind.
I still have a long way to go with this, but I’m making progress. I’ve learned that the best way to combat misuse of time is to plan out my day the night before (I use and absolutely could not live without Trello, the online tool that keeps my entire life organized), so that when I sit down to work the next morning, I know exactly where to begin.
The day I found out that Beyoncé has an alter ego for performing on stage is the day I got over my insecurities about being an introvert. If she needs a little boost to go out in front of thousands of people, then it’s okay for me to need one in my daily life, right?
Performing has never caused me much anxiety, because I’ve always taken a page from Beyoncé’s book and slipped into character as “Rachel the performer” (or if it’s a musical, whomever I’m playing) before going on stage. But leading groups and classes, constantly interacting with people, and thinking/singing on my feet — that’s a whole different ballgame.
Music therapy is an extroverted profession, as I learned on day 1. I think the social aspect of being a music therapist was my biggest challenge from the very beginning, and it took awhile for me to get comfortable. Becoming a business owner brought along an entirely new set of social challenges. There are still days when it feels really hard to be “on” (especially before my kids became good sleepers and I was perpetually exhausted), but I’ve developed strategies that make being an extroverted introvert possible.
Did you know that January is Social Media Advocacy Month for the field of music therapy? As we wrap up this first month of 2017, I’d like to share an introduction to advocacy for music therapists, provided by the Certification Board for Music Therapists.
Advocacy can help open doors, produce opportunities for growth, expand your horizons, and grow your personal and professional network.
That said, advocacy is also not without its challenges. Over the course of the past decade, music therapists have been faced with responding to misinformed, potentially damaging comments that can serve to undermine the profession and services we provide, all while striving to continue moving forward with advocacy efforts that make a positive difference. These negative exchanges can lead to feelings of frustration, anger, and stress, and serve to potentially distract us from focusing on our clients and our work.
In light of the contentiousness that seems to surround legislative and policy issues, we propose incorporating a spirit of mindfulness to advocacy efforts. Mindfulness is defined as a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. This requires an awareness of our attitudes, feelings, thoughts, and actions; an understanding of how they impact our experiences and behaviors; and a willingness to take responsibility for our mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical well-being.
To that end, we offer the following guide to assist you in your search of an advocacy zen space and ask…when have you been REACTIVE or PROACTIVE in your advocacy efforts?