A Week in the Life of a Music Therapist: Macayla Statler, MT-BC
Working telehealth from home leaves a lot of open time for research and content creation, so I asked my friends and family, “What would you like to read about regarding music therapy?” I was surprised to hear multiple people simply ask, “What does a typical day look like?”
Whew. A typical day pre or post COVID-19? A typical day for me? My co-workers? A typical day for a hospice music therapist? How about one in a medical setting? School setting? Private practice? Academia? Neuro? Rehab? Psych? Forensics? Full time? Contract?
The list goes on.
Because music therapy can be used to reach so many people in so many different walks of life with such different strength and need areas, I propose that there IS no “typical” day in the life of a music therapist!
But, for the sake of fun and education, this is what my week looked like in a private practice, pre-COVID-19.
- 7:45 arrive at the office to plan and pack an instrument bag for classroom music therapy at a location in Kalamazoo. It’s about an hour drive, so either jam out to some tunes on the way, or use the time to flush out some interventions for the day / write new music.
- 9:15 four 45 minute sessions back to back in various classrooms and the shelter (infant, toddler, preschool, prek, GSRP) focusing on developmental goals and behavioral and emotional support. Each classroom gets music once a month.
- 12:15 Taco Bell and podcasts or silence on the way back. I’m musiced out!
- 1:30 Arrive back at the office. Clean instruments. Work on projects, planning, prep, etc.
- 3:00 Voices United Class at a community location (more of an educational session with therapeutic themes throughout, including a focus on expression and confidence versus “perfect performance”)
- 3:45 Pack up, return props to the office, and head home!
- 8:45 arrive at the office to plan and pack an instrument bag for classroom music therapy at a local school. Today a student is coming to observe! Pull out all the supervisor stops and help them see the fabulousness that is music therapy!
- 9:15 (same as Monday, but a different location. Each classroom gets music once a month — it’s not an ideal frequency. More would be more effective.)
- 12:00 An inclusive Day Program in the office for adults with special needs. One hour of music therapy, one hour for crafts, and one hour for music based games and activities
- 3:00 Clean instruments, reset the room, eat food, stare at a wall. In silence. 😉
- 3:30 Individual client in the office
- 4:15 Individual client in the office
- 5:00 Individual client in the office
- 5:30 Clean the growing pile of dirty instruments. Document
- 6:20 Individual client in the office
- 7:00 Lead worship music for a Special Needs Adult Program at a local church. Get treated like an absolute Rock Star. 🙂
- 8:00 Individual session in a client’s home (Because the client also requires round-the-clock nursing, insurance will not cover therapy while a nurse is present due to “double dipping.” When the nurse and mom trade off in the evening, the therapist is allowed to come, despite the fact that the patient needs nursing care that a music therapist is not qualified to provide as well as therapy which a nurse is not qualified to provide. Sigh, insurance.
- 9:00 Collapse into bed. Leave the insurance battle for another day … as well as cleaning the instruments … that can wait until tomorrow.
- 9:00 arrive at the office and clean the instruments from the previous evening. Pack a new bag. Document from the night before.
- 10:00 Intergenerational music therapy group at a local medical care facility (“Grandfriends” from the facility gather in a large room. Parents with young children come in from the community to participate in a group which targets developmental goals for the children as well as socio-emotional goals for the “Grandfriends” as well as community and bonding for the adults.
- 11:15 Staff meeting (projects, song shares, learning new styles of music and improvisation, receiving and giving supervision, definitely food … )
- 1:15 Another intergenerational group at a different facility
- 2:30 Two or three groups at a residential facility for children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. One for adults, and one or two for the kids depending on who comes and what the needs are. These target goal areas of socialization, expression, movement, coping, developmental goals, and positive bonding with staff
- 4:30 Back at the office to clean instruments. Again
- 5:30 Sprouts class in the office. A mommy and me style class for ages 0-5 to promote developmental goals and bonding
- 6:15 Clean and head home
- 8:30 leave the house and head toward Lansing for hospice work.
- 9:00 First session. Patients are organized by location. I may have just one … or maybe six patients in one facility. I have patients in more than a dozen facilities around the city. Session times vary based on need and could last anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour or more. Usually sessions last approximately 45 minutes. Each patient has a frequency (ie. weekly, 2x/month, etc.) and I see as many patients as I can in a day to make sure I meet their monthly frequencies. Goal areas include symptom management (pain, anxiety, depression), expression, reminiscence, sense of self, elevation of mood, comfort care.
- 2:00 Once a month, I come back early to conduct a singing group at an assisted living facility. It’s privately paid by the family of one of the residents although the family encourages all the residents to attend regardless. This group targets active music making, elevation of mood, decrease in depression, isolation, and anxiety, and promotes reminiscence and sense of self
- 3:00 … or 5:00 … or 6:00 … depending on the need and schedule, I document for all of my hospice patients and call it a day
- Depending on how many hours I’ve already reached for the week and how many hospice patients I need to see, I may go to Lansing again or not. Clean instruments, document, and crash! Happy weekend!
That’s a week in my life as a pre-COVID-19 private practice music therapist in Jackson, MI!