Music therapists have only recently begun to talk about the fact that we burn out. A lot. So many music therapists end up getting advanced degrees outside of the field- or they simply move into other, completely unrelated fields.
I've thought about some of the reasons for this, and here are some of my ideas:
- Music therapists often work in isolation. We're usually the only creative arts therapist in our facility. Or, if we have a private practice, we may be one of the very few music therapists we know.
- There is a frequent lack of awareness, respect for, or understanding of the education and training it takes to do the work we do. I can't even begin to tell you how many times I've had musicians or therapists say to me that they do "music therapy" in this facility or the other, and "no, of course, I don't need a degree in music therapy."
- Music therapy training is comprehensive, but no matter how much one learns in school, there's only so much an academic program can do to prepare someone to be a therapist.
- Most music therapists aren't aware of what clinical supervision is, let alone that it exists. When I present my work I often share the fact that, in the first six years of being a music therapist, I went to work with a knot in my stomach every single day. I felt like I didn't know what I was doing, that I was somehow not doing a very good job, that I should always know what to do and how to intervene, but I didn't, and on and on. Deciding to get clinical supervision from a more experienced music therapist saved my music therapy life! I think if more music therapists knew about clinical supervision, they'd make use of it and be more likely to stay in the field.
- Music therapy isn't exactly lucrative. Economic realities sometimes force clinicians out of the field. Back in 1987, when I was initially searching for a job, I found myself applying for a full-time job that paid $13,000 for a music therapist with a bachelor's degree and $15,000 for someone with a master's degree. Yikes!
- It's also sometimes rather difficult, depending on one's location, to find music therapy jobs. There's an awful lot of educating and demonstrating that needs to go on in order to create job opportunities in this field.
- I know some music therapists who've gotten advanced degrees outside of the field have told me they wanted more knowledge in a particular area specific to the populations they served (i.e., they became speech therapists or occupational therapists, or they got a master's degree in social work or special education). More often than not, though, I think it's because there are better job prospects in those fields. I had thought about the same thing, but, again, because of clinical supervision, I decided to get my master's degree in music therapy.
None of this, of course, is meant to be judgmental. I just find it sad that our field often seems to be shrinking almost as fast as it grows.