How to Survive Your First Year as a New Professional Music Therapist | Listen & Learn Music

Being a new professional isn’t easy. I remember those days vaguely…mostly because I wasn’t sleeping very much and working super hard for my new clients and students.

Right now, many music therapists and music teachers are getting into the swing of their first school year, so I felt inspired to pass on some of the wisdom I learned while in their shoes, braving the world as a new professional.

1.    Be brave! You’ve been preparing for this for years, so take all of your knowledge and get to work! You know more than you think, so don’t let others intimidate you because you are new to your profession.

2.    Be open to learning! Although you are a knowledgeable music therapist or music educator, there is still a lot you may not know. You might learn from others in your field, professionals in related fields such as a speech-language pathologist or classroom teacher, your clients and students, their families, and so on. Demonstrating a willingness to learn is also a great way to earn respect, and encourages others to learn from you! In my opinion, it’s a win-win!

3.    Use your resources! There are so many resources online (such as this very website), within your community of professionals, in your textbooks, really everywhere, that you can utilize. It’s tempting to do things your own way, but I can assure you, someone else has done it, and you do not have endless hours in the day to reinvent the wheel. Not all “shortcuts” are worth it, but many totally are! 

4.    Ask for help! I’ll say it again: ask for help! This is something I did not do, but wish I had done much more of. There is no shame in asking for help, and I’ve come to believe that there is a special kind of strength and confidence in asking for help. I think it demonstrates a level of understanding about yourself and your skills to recognize your limitations or when you’re having difficulty. 

5.    Practice self-care! Do it! Right now!! (And if you want more info on this topic, read this blog post all about how Rachel is making self-care a priority this month.)

6.    Look around you! You are making a difference, and that is the most important part of your job! Just by being you, you are making an impact on the children that you work with, and that is amazing! We are so lucky to make music with kiddos all day long. Life is hard, and being a new music therapist or music teacher is hard, but as I always sing, “When we’re playing in music, everything is okay!”

I hope these tips will help new music therapists or music teachers master their first year as a professional! It’s a rollercoaster ride full of amazing and inspiring moments, along with challenges you never thought you’d encounter. You will learn and grow from each challenge, even the ones that have you doubting your place in the field (we’ve all been there). 

As you navigate this new path, don’t forget to celebrate the successes, big and small! Every achievement your students make is a reflection on the good work you are doing, and should serve as a reminder that you’re in the right place. 

Tell me in the comments below: What advice would you give to a new professional music therapist or music teacher? And if you’re in that boat yourself, what questions might you ask more seasoned professionals in your field?