For Interns, By Interns
Part One: Learning From 123 of My Peers
By Allison Nocita, MusicWorx Intern
My vision for this project is to provide resources that will support students and help them make the most of their internship experience.
Music therapy internship is a whirlwind transition from student to professional. Internship experiences vary significantly, but many of the challenges we face during this time are consistent across the board. These challenges might include moving somewhere new, a dramatically different caseload, or feeling unprepared for the many demands of internship. As I reflect back on the months leading up to my start date, I remember clearly how anxious and insecure I felt about coming to MusicWorx. Right now, I’m just past the halfway point (‘in the eye of the hurricane,’ some might say), and I want to support students who are preparing for or currently going through clinical internship.
As part of the MusicWorx internship, we complete a special project on a topic that we are passionate about. I spent three months thinking about a project that would provide resources for future interns, but I was stuck. The deadline for choosing a project suddenly arrived. I desperately reached out to staff members for help; then the perfect opportunity fell into my lap. MusicWorx is currently developing an online platform called the Music Therapy and Wellness Hub, which will function as a resource center for professionals, students, and the general public. I have the opportunity to create a featured course for the site: “For Interns, By Interns.”
I know what I’ve found difficult during internship, and although I have heard from some of my peers about their experiences, I did not want to base my course off of this limited perspective. I needed a larger and more diverse sample of students and interns to find out where and how additional support could be beneficial. My solution was to create a short online survey to gather information, and the results turned out to be much more significant than I imagined.
Creating the “Internship Preparation Course Survey – For Interns, By Interns!”
My goal was to make this survey as informative, user-friendly, and short as possible. I used Google Forms and had a combination of multiple choice, checkboxes, linear scale, and short answer responses. I added optional short answer prompts so that respondents could go into more detail or include information about topics that I was missing.
I broke the survey down into three sections. Demographic questions gathered information about the respondents’ schooling, current level of training, and where they are in regards to internship (i.e. haven’t applied, in application process, already completing an internship).
Second, I asked respondents how prepared they feel in different areas regarding internship (right). This section also included the two optional short answer prompts, which asked what respondents felt excited/confident about as well as unprepared/worried about regarding internship.
Last, I included several questions about how an online preparation course could be structured, such as the length and the format. I also asked respondents to choose which topics would be most beneficial to cover in an online course (left).
I emailed hundreds of music therapy professors and internship directors through MusicWorx’s list of contacts to share the link to my survey. As Dr. Barbara Reuer (MusicWorx internship director) says, “If you keep throwing mud against the wall, some of it will stick.” I also shared the survey on social media platforms and asked my co-interns to advertise it on their school’s student pages. Sure enough, students/interns started responding immediately.
Who responded to the survey?
Over the course of six days, I received a total of 123 responses from music therapy students and interns, which greatly surpassed my expectations. When I told Dr. Barbara Reuer (MusicWorx internship director) that my survey had over 90 responses in less than 48 hours, she was so excited that she jumped out of her seat and gave me a hug! Survey respondents represented a total of 34 different universities and colleges, which is about half of the number of AMTA-approved programs in the country. Of the 123 respondents, 96% fit the criteria I was looking for (starting the application process or completing internship within the next year), and 75% were either undergraduate seniors or current interns. I am excited that the survey results incorporate many different perspectives other than my own and those whom I have shared music therapy experiences. After learning about who responded to the survey, I was ready to dive into their thoughts on internship preparation.
“How prepared do you feel in the following areas regarding music therapy internship?”
Overall, respondents felt most prepared for:
- Session planning
- Intervention strategies
- Knowledge of relevant populations/settings
Overall, respondents felt least prepared for:
- Grief & secondary trauma
- Counseling skills
- CBMT exam
To my surprise, 79% of respondents answered the optional questions. I read through each response, and several themes emerged. I coded each response based on the themes that it addressed. Here are the most common themes that respondents wrote about:
“What are you feeling confident about or excited for regarding music therapy internship?”
- Working with preferred populations or in preferred settings
- Working full-time//getting to do music therapy every day//gaining so much clinical experience
- More opportunities for independence
- Learning about the field, seeing the “real world” of day-to-day practice
- Musicianship in general
- Learning from mentors and/or supervisors
“What are you feeling unprepared for or worried about regarding music therapy internship?”
- Counseling skills
- Questioning overall knowledge and capabilities (i.e. “Am I good enough?”)
- Documentation/paperwork requirements
- Financial implications
- Self-care/mental health (especially in the beginning of internship)
- The application process
Specifics for Online Resources
As shown in the chart, a majority of respondents feel they would benefit or potentially benefit from an online internship preparation course.
Over 2/3 of respondents answered that they would spend between 16-30 minutes in one sitting working on an online course. About 64% would prefer some type of video resource, and 73% selected a combination of different formats (i.e. videos, worksheets, PowerPoint presentations).
“Which topics would be most useful to cover in an online internship preparation course?”
- 85% of respondents selected CBMT exam, followed by grief & secondary trauma and counseling skills.
- Only 31% of respondents selected advocacy, and time management was also less of a concern.
The fact that the least popular answer was still chosen by nearly 1/3 of respondents shows that I correctly anticipated common and relevant areas of need. This question included an “other” option, and I received several helpful comments that expressed a desire for resources in different areas as well (i.e. financial aspects of internship, interview preparation).
Taking the time to create, promote, and analyze this survey was well worth it for my education. I felt validated when I saw that so many other students and interns have felt the way I do and face similar struggles, both internal and external. The commonalities and patterns stood out, but I still observed a significant amount of variance in responses, which informs me of individuals’ experiences and perceptions that differ from my own.
In the grand scheme of things, 123 responses may not seem like much. The number of responses is just a fraction of my target music therapy student population (AMTA had over 1,500 student members according to the 2016 Workforce Analysis). The survey was only open for a short period of time and I did not utilize every possible avenue for reaching music therapy students. However, despite sending this survey out of the blue and knowing its limitations, I received more responses than expected and ended up with a strong sample to inform my course. Most importantly, the number of responses represents 123 people who invested in supporting their peers and paving the way for future generations of music therapy students.
My next step is to focus on a few areas of need to research and incorporate into my course. I would love to be able to provide resources for at least three topics (Based on the results, likely candidates are: grief & secondary trauma, building musicianship/repertoire, counseling, self-care/mental health, or CBMT exam prep). According to the data, multimedia resources that are broken into 16-30 minute segments will be most effective. Be on the lookout in a few months for my last blog, where I will summarize my project and discuss the online resources that I was able to create.
In the meantime, if you are interested in receiving updates about the project, feel free to get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are headed to the AMTA National Conference in Dallas, TX- be sure to stop by the MusicWorx booth (#310) to learn more and take a look at the Music Therapy and Wellness Hub!
To any students/interns who read this blog AND responded to the survey—thank you, thank you, thank you!