Getting Unstuck – How to Overcome Creative Blocks for Music Therapists
Do you feel like you’re running out of new ideas for your sessions? Or are you finding yourself using the same interventions over and over again?
Music therapists are known for their creativity. On a daily basis we are creating and implementing interventions using pre-composed music, piggy-backing music, rewriting lyrics, composing music, and improvising. Each of those activities take a lot of brain power and creative juices, and on top of that we have to adapt them and make sure they meet the needs and strengths of our clients. Talk about multi-tasking! But let’s face it, many of us have times when it may be difficult to access that creativity.
What’s Getting You Stuck?
There are many reasons why you might feel “stuck” in your creativity or growth. Here are just a few:
Burnout is a common condition experienced by healthcare professionals. It occurs when you are emotionally, physically, and mentally drained. When people begin to experience burnout symptoms such as feeling drained and tired, getting headaches or stomach aches, increased irritability, and reduced creativity, it can become increasingly difficult to continue the day to day responsibilities of your job. All of these symptoms would greatly impact the effectiveness of a music therapist and having some help with ideas for sessions to take a bit of the load off could definitely help. Of course, there is no replacement for good self-care and taking breaks when needed.
Everyone experiences writer’s block at some point. Most people think of it mainly when they are writing as the name implies; however, the same phenomenon is applicable to any creative task. As this is a common challenge for people especially in creative fields, many articles have delved into ways to push past the block. However, most of these require time, and time is a scarce commodity.
Music therapists are likely to work in more than one place in the lifetime of their career. If you change jobs to a different site, different population, or you decide to start your own private practice, many challenges accompany that change. You start with brand new clients and, especially if you start your own private practice, you have many new responsibilities and stresses. Especially when changing to a new population, your previous “back pocket” interventions may not be as applicable or may need to be adapted quite a bit. During this time of change, it may be difficult to continue creating new interventions.
Whether you’re feeling burnt out, have writer’s block, or have a change in your career, sometimes you need some extra help. Multiple clinical and non-clinical resources exist to find ideas and inspiration when you encounter one of the aforementioned challenges.
Ways To Get “Unstuck”
Connect with Community
Multiple Facebook groups exist that form communities of music therapists. Through these groups, music therapists ask each other for advice and ideas. For example, the Music Therapy and Wellness Hub Community Facebook group is a great way to connect with other therapists who are lifelong learners. Within some of these groups, a common theme to many of the questions is describing a client and asking for intervention suggestions. Although this is a great space to crowdsource ideas and get direct suggestions on a specific situation quickly, many people have expressed concerns over these client
descriptions toeing the line of HIPPA laws.
Journal articles such as those found in the Journal of Music Therapy and Music Therapy Perspectives sometimes outline specific procedures for the interventions, but they are not always very specific and take a lot of digging. A music therapy specific online magazine called Imagine exists as an early childhood music therapy resource. In each edition they have fantastic resources and intervention ideas for early childhood. Other journals with different focuses include Voices: A World Forum of Music Therapy and Approaches: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Music. More resources whether journals or magazines exist, but they tend to focus on one particular population. Therefore, if your population does not have a magazine or journal article dedicated to it, it may be difficult to find intervention ideas. But of course, it is always important to stay up to date on the latest research in your area.
Professional Development (CMTE)
All MT-BCs need to acquire 100 recertification credits every 5 years. One of the ways to do this is by taking CMTE courses to further your professional development. There are a plethora of music therapists and private practices who offer CMTE courses. The Hub is continuing to provide CMTE courses, webinars, and podcast episodes to give you some inspiration and ideas. CMTEs are wonderful if you are looking to get credit, but they are very focused and may be expensive if you are just trying to get some quick ideas. The Certification Board for Music Therapists website provides many ideas on how to earn credits for FREE.
Music Therapy Exchange
Recently a website was created to fill the gap of there being no one stop shop to easily share and search intervention ideas for many different populations. This website is Music Therapy Exchange. It is primarily an intervention database where music therapists, interns, and students can share and search for interventions based on population, goal, type of music, and more. The website launched on November 21st, 2019 and is just beginning. As a mainly crowdsourced site, it could use all the expertise and ideas from each reader to build a resource to bring music therapists together and advance the field of music therapy. If you would like to contribute, go to www.musictherapyexchange.com, make an account, and start creating interventions! It should only take 5-10 minutes of your time but will help create a really useful resource for all current and future music therapists!
Samantha Hassold is currently a music therapy intern. She completed her undergraduate coursework at the University of Miami and will conclude her internship at The Center for Discovery working with students with complex disorders in April 2020. She has worked with children with special needs, hospitalized children, and veterans with PTSD. At the University of Miami, she was trained in Neurologic Music Therapy, and is now exploring the world of improvisational music therapy. Her primary instrument is my voice and she hopes to continue performing. She is also an avid musical theater fan and enjoy the great outdoors.
Originally posted at https://musictherapyandwellnesshub.com/ on April 1, 2020.