Profile: Amy Kalas Buser, MM, MT-BC

Amy Kalas Buser founded Wholesome Harmonies, LLC in 2006 to, “provide high quality music therapy services to those in and around Miami, FL.” She brings extensive clinical, teaching, and writing experience to lead a large team of therapists and teachers. Amy uses all live music through a wide variety of instruments; she also composes (and publishes!) great original music for children with special needs. Presented below are a few insights Amy shared with the Rhythm & Reason Blog, but through Wholesome Harmonies’ website, she has already organized a TON of music therapy business and clinical practice resources. Check it out! Also, catch up on WH’s blog and follow Amy on Twitter!

Amy, what have you learned about clinical documentation, and are there any examples you would like to share?

 

Clinical documentation – I have learned the importance of creating professional documentation that can (and should!) be shared with the entire treatment team. Providing an integrated team approach has enormous benefits for the client. This approach ensures all team members are in communication about the client’s goals and progress.

How does this work? First, my intake paperwork contains a form entitled ‘Permission for Exchange of Information.’ Here the parent signs to give permission for me to contact the other professionals on the client’s treatment team. The parent then lists educators, physicians, SLPs, OTs, PTs, ABAs and psychologists that are working with their child and lists their contact information.

When I write up my Assessment Report and Treatment Plan, I send this to the professionals listed on the form. I also follow up with a personal email introducing myself to open the lines of communication. I share the goals I’m working on with the client in music therapy, as well as some of the techniques we’re using to address those goals. Then I invite them to share with me the goals they are working on in their sessions and see how I can incorporate those goals into my sessions, if applicable and within our scope of practice as music therapists.

I believe this integrated team approach opens the door for communication and a dialogue about the best way to approach treatment for this particular client. I’ve had some wonderful conversations where I’ve been able to share with an OT how I’ve been using the rhythm sticks to work on grasping and bilateral coordination with a client. Likewise, I’ve had a speech therapist share with me the target vocabulary words she was working on in her sessions with this client so I could incorporate them into my sessions as well.”

Advice regarding legal, financial, or other business related parts of private practice?

 

My advice is to seek professional advice from an attorney and accountant whenever possible. My accountant has saved me hundreds and sometimes even thousands of dollars by pointing out deductions I can take that I did not even realize. Not only has seeing an accountant helped save me money, it ensures my tax return is filled out accurately.

My second piece of advice is to not feel bad if you need to work another job as you’re building up your business. I worked a “9-5” music therapy job at an early intervention program and started seeing clients on the side, in the evenings and on weekends. Slowly, I built up my private practice caseload and slowly learned how to create the paperwork, documents, invoices, and everything else that comes along with running my own business. Then, when I had a big enough caseload built up, and I had subcontractors on my team, I was ready to go full time with my business. There is no shame in starting small and building slowly.”

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Profile: Kat Fulton! Part 2

KatFulton-36b_opt

Kat, you are a huge inspiration for music therapists who are trying too build their online presence. Will you share any suggestions for the aspiring clinician?

 

“Building an online presence can be very time consuming, and it may not directly produce paying clients. Remember that your time should be focused on getting that first paying client! If you’re starting to work online, your minimum entry will be a Facebook page, and don’t even think about Twitter, Instagram, or whatever. And don’t be discouraged if you only have 36 ‘likes’! Businesses do great marketing by shaking hands, by being at this race for Autism, getting a booth at the race, by going to the charter school conference, by presenting for the charter school board of decision makers whoever they are! That’s how they get their work. So if online presence isn’t your thing, don’t get discouraged, just keep on keeping on. You’re doing fine just the way you are. And again, it has to do with looking for people you admire, not just within music therapy, who have a thriving company and learning how their clinic operates, or how they make it happen. Everybody does it differently! When you are opening a website and you have an area for a blog, but if you’re not fired up with the time and ability to write a bunch of great posts, I recommend you write at least three blog posts, then figure out how to hide the publication date.

“To take things a little deeper, in online marketing, there are different levels of engagement: There are a group of people who have never heard of your business, then there’s this group who have heard of you but aren’t engaging, there’s the people who like your social media page, who signed up for your e-mail list, and those who signed up for a free consultation – you can start to see these levels of engagement leading towards paying clients! Going through these levels can be a beautiful process for your audience. Keep guiding them forward. In your e-mail newsletters, include a link to your social media page. In your automation you invite them to join your newsletter to get the latest updates and whatever value you offer. Set up your levels so that’s it’s very clear to you where these people are and where you want them to go from there.

“There is a misconception that because we’re music therapists, we’re not good at business. ‘Oh, my skill set is only in therapy,” and, ‘Well, my empathetic therapist side thinks it’s okay to charge $15 an hour for my services.” But what I love to do is to turn that on its head. Because of your therapeutic skills, you actually are a better business owner. Period. When you’re starting out, the fewer levels you have, the better, the easier to understand and manage. You have to think about sustainability. You don’t want to burn out, and you want to be more effective. Collect data and figure out what’s really working. How can I do more of what is working, and less of what isn’t working? If you’re feeling overwhelmed or inadequate, then that is a strong indicator sign that you need to stop, write out all of the things that you have to do, and cross off any of those things that you have found simply do not work. There’s a principle where we probably spend 20% of our time working on 80% of the stuff in our lives, whereas the other 80% of the time is probably just goofing around, which, if that’s what you need, is okay!”

What are the intangibles that made you a successful business owner, and how have you, as a business owner, changed over the last ten years?

 

“I am a changed person! One thing that I have really honed in on is recognizing the value of my time, and then making decisions around time allocation. I used to spend so much wasted time doing stuff that I didn’t know didn’t work until I tried it, and then I realized that I was running experiments! I used to spend long days driving from session to session, six or seven sessions a day, and filling all these post-it notes front and back with ideas about how to better market myself. I would call my aunt, hyperventilating, and she would say, ‘Just take a deep breath, type them everything out on the computer, then turn off your computer and go to sleep!’ I did that and it kind of calmed me down, but now I can take it a step further. It doesn’t work for everyone, but now when I write out those long lists of things to do, I go through and start deleting almost all of it until there’s maybe two things left that I actually, really need to do. My time allocation has changed dramatically by this point. I even have a list of things I should stop doing.

“I’ve learned a lot about relationships. I never knew that I had this fiery passion. Music therapy is the future of healthcare, and I truly believe that from the bottom of my soul. Before I went to grad school and discovered this passion, I was a shy person, and though I still see myself as an introverted, shy person, when I’m talking about music therapy, I’m ready to go! I’m a totally different person! I think in my work relationships I can even be too intense, so I’ve learned to hire a middleman. Dawn is my director of operations, and she helps me filter stuff out, tone stuff down. I’ve learned how to maintain and sustain healthy relationships not just within my team, but with my colleagues, community partners, and everyone else.

“Another thing that’s changed is the way I speak about music therapy. I’ve learned to put myself in another person’s position, to ask them more questions about who they are, what they do, what they need, and just immediately fit music therapy into their life. It doesn’t always work, maybe I can’t always fit it in, but I can still build rapport and trust because I genuinely care about them. I’ve been able to know them better, I’m able to hear their story. We’re always learning new things, so something else that I’m always playing around with is how to always be a student, while still being a leader and an expert. We need to be able to be vulnerable. If you don’t know something, it’s okay to let someone know that you don’t know that. At the same time though, if you don’t have an answer for a question about music therapy, you can say, ‘I don’t know the answer to that question, but I can let you know within three days!’ Because – man! – there are so many resources available in our field!”

As practices grow, they can keep branching out and providing new series or products. What are some of the coolest things that you or other successful music therapy business owners have done?

 

This is the great thing about having a business – there is no ceiling and there is no end to the possibilities! MusicTherapyEd.com has really turned into a great success; we inspire people to take action to do the best they can to improve their practice. People have also written books, there’s a radio show, in the ‘expert world’ people will provide their own live events outside of conferences, such as retreats, they’ve offered consulting, online mentoring, and people do incredible advocacy for the profession!”

Kat, thank you so much for your time and insight! What are some of the great things we will find if we jump over to MusicTherapyEd.com?

 

“We have a lot of opportunities for professional growth at MusicTherapyEd.com; we have a free CMTE course on professional success, and we also have all sorts of freebies. For the month of April, Autism Awareness month, we’re going to knock your socks off, you’re going to love it, it’s going to be all about presuming confidence, what that means and strategies to help you. It’s going to be about sensory processing, and connecting you with all these wonderful resources and experts in our field. In May, we’re going to release this really awesome guide that will help the parents in your life get music therapy in their IEP. Make sure you sign-up for the Tuesday Shout-Out, which is at http://www.musictherapyed.com/sign-up/. We have more than 4,000 music therapists who have opted in to receive the shout-out in their e-mail inbox every Tuesday. More than 4,000! And finally, check out our YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/user/MusicTherapyEd. You could spend a good afternoon checking out all of our videos, and we’ll be adding a lot more about Autism topics soon. Thank you!”

Read the first half of our interview with Kat Fulton here!

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Profile: Kat Fulton! Part 1

Kat, what do you wish you knew when you were first starting your clinical business Sound Health? What are some of the best resources? What advice would you give?

 

“To give you a bit of a candid answer, I’m a bit of a person who tends to have anxiety. So when I was starting my private practice, I was so overwhelmed trying to figure out what to record and how to do it, what I “should” do to be a business, and everything. Months and months later someone told me something I wish I learned earlier: The single most important thing to focus on is getting your first paying client, and then to multiply it from there. All of the details about bookkeeping, filing your taxes, setting up systems, developing a website… those can come later! It’s okay that they’re not in place before you begin. If you don’t have revenue coming in, then it’s just a hobby, not a business. You have your revenue goals, such as how much you need to live off of, but only your real work will bring any financial results. As you continue, or especially before filing taxes, you’ll want an accountant who can help you set up bookkeeping software, and I highly recommend you find a good accountant, it is so worth it to avoid the extra work, uncertainty, and headaches. Ask your accountant to help you figure out your system so that you can work smarter instead of spinning around in circles – just go the experts. You’re going to get so many other opinions and resources while saving yourself so much valuable time by just reaching out to the experts. You need to be very resourceful. Being resourceful and reaching out for available resources is part of what makes someone successful. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help! If there’s someone you look up to and admire, ask them for help! The worst that can happen is that they’re too busy and may have to say no, but who cares? Big deal! A lot of people will be there to help.

“There are so many good resources, and which resources you need depends on what kind of business you want to build! Our values in our company have to do with self-care and leadership, so that’s what I build everything around. That’s what I make every decision for the business based upon. So if you can find a mentor who shares similar values, then ask if they help you along. MusicTherapyBusiness.com is a program that I run on an annual basis; it’s called the 90-day activator and it’s really to help you get jumpstarted. It includes templates for contracts, checklists, and sorts of different things to help you with your private practice. I love the work of Rachel Rambach, just Google her because she has a couple of amazing websites, but rachelrambach.com is a good start. Jamie George might offer mentorship; I really admire her work, she’s just on fire. If you want billing to be part of your map for what you’re creating, then go to her and ask her for help. I would get to know different practices and find out what their values are, and find a mentor for supervision – which could count for CMTE credit hours, called “unapproved” CMTE hours, but you figure out how to make those supervision hours count. A final resource I want to bring up is the Therapy Business Blueprint by Kimberly Sena-Moore; It’s a nuts and bolts checklist and outline that is really helpful. It’s really well structured with all of this information about starting and growing your business. But… don’t forget to get those paying clients first!”

What are some of the most important to spend your money on when you’re first starting out?

 

“Most music therapy and other healthcare practices bootstrap; they’re not seeking outside investors, but investing their own capitol into the business. When I started out I had to sub-contract for other agencies on the side of building my own business for the first 2 or 3 years. I think by the end of year 3 I only worked 2 hours a month and the rest was directly through my own business by then. So if I had to do it all over again, I would probably do it the same way: Buy the minimum level of equipment that you’ll need. I focused my purchases on what I need for Alzheimer’s groups. I knew that I needed some sort of rattles for each individual in the group to hold on to. I wanted to work up my drum equipment, but I never got there until just a couple of years ago. I would drive up to REMO every other weekend where they have a warehouse full of used drums. I would scope out as many deals as I possibly could. There are people who buy things and then realize they don’t want them, which you can find on a closed Facebook group called Music Therapy – Buy, Sell, Trade. You can also keep your eye on Craig’s List and different places. Spend your money on an accountant and on equipment. Otherwise, you gotta spend money on gas and basic requirements. And there are marketing aspects you can spend money on, such as brochures, business cards, and and the list goes on, but you can get a lot of that very inexpensively by going to the internet! But remember that all of this is directed towards generating real clients. The direct way to generate revenue is actually connecting with people, giving presentations, offering your services, and literally saying, ‘I am looking to build my practice right now,’ and telling everybody you know that you are in this space of growth, and that they can help. ‘Oh you love my services over at this place? Great! So tell me, are you a member of a group where I can give a presentation for people who are like you?’ That’s gotta be your focus!”

How do you market yourself and your business?

 

“So I like the direction of this, because first you asked about resources, and now you’re asking about time. Time is your most valuable resource. Time might even be more valuable than money at the point of starting your business. The way you spend your time is important and valuable. What I have found to be the most successful way to market myself is by word-of-mouth. When I hear someone say, ‘Kat! Your session, it’s not even close to entertainers! There’s an obvious difference.’ And they’re regurgitating all of the education I’ve provided them. If I notice that they’re regurgitating the education I’ve given them, then I tell them how I appreciate that they’ve noticed and say, ‘I’m curious, since you’re in this position, maybe you have a family member or know any other families who may benefit form a service like this, or are you a member of any support group outside the setting I normally see you in?’ Offer yourself. Do presentations. Get in front of a group of decision makers, and make sure they make some decision before the end of your presentation. There’s gotta be a flow to your presentation. Be strategic and be smart. By the end of your presentation, you want to make sure everyone knows, ‘I’m building my private practice now!’ Maybe you give a little marketing freebie out or something, but also pass around your calendar and have them sign up for free 30-minute consultation within the next two weeks. There’s only so much you can cover in a group, so make sure they know that you want to meet again to dig in and get to know them and their situation on an individual basis, you want to help meet their individual needs. Whenever you have the opportunity to get in front of a group, you want to wow them, provide them with the neuroscience and research behind music therapy, engage them in something experiential and share real experiences, and get them excited – you have to have contagious excitement coming with you wherever you go, and it’s easy for us to do that because music therapy is our passion, our life calling. Word-of-mouth is an active process of selling music therapy. When you start out, you want to do events whenever you can, but over time you might eventual start weeding out which to do as you start learning which opportunities will turn into the most real clients. Collect data! How many people or what percentage from which presentations actually led to consultations? And then how many turned into paying clients?”

How has ethics played a role your work?

 

Ethics pertains to the relationships within your work. So, ethics pertains to the relationships you have with your clients, your relationships with colleagues, and the relationship you have with the general public. When you’re considering ethical decision making, I highly recommend Cheryl Dileo’s book, which goes through this ten-step process of ethical decision making. Of course, we have a couple courses on MusictherapyEd.com too, which are really helpful: cultural ethics, and then a course on web ethics. Ethics plays a part in every aspect of your business. Don’t discriminate if a client can’t pay; If you cannot financially take them, you can make the ethical decision to refer that client to a different agency or organization. Instead of shutting them out, of course you always want to refer them to services that they do have access to! Depending on your state, there’s probably some health and human services available to help that sort of individual. Give them additional resources and point them in the right direction. It’s very important to maintain healthy relationships with your colleagues. Sometimes a colleague turns into a direct competitor, and maybe they’re in the same area, and maybe even serving the same population! There are a lot of examples of how music therapists in this situation maintain very healthy relationships. You don’t want to solicit places who already have music therapy services, so if you can build relationships with other music therapists and learn where they’re already working, you can cross those places off of your list and then discover everywhere else where you can reach out to!”

Continue reading our interview here!

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Profile: Jamie George, LPMT, MT-BC

Jamie George, LPMT, MT-BC is the owner and director of the George Center for Music Therapy, Inc. in Atlanta, GA. Since she founded the George Center in 2010, the business has grown to employ 10 board certified music therapists, plus a billing manager, an office manager, and a university-affiliated intern.

 

Jamie, what are your first thoughts on running a private practice?

 

Not for the faint of heart. Best decision I ever made. There are tons of perks to starting and running your own business; People say, “Oh, I can make my own schedule, I can choose the clients I work with,” and all these things sound really great, but at the end of the day, making your own schedule means that while you can go grocery shopping at 2:00 on Thursday, you’re also in QuickBooks on a Sunday until 3:00 in the morning. To build a successful business, you will work eight days a week. Being a business owner is truly a great responsibility. Perhaps too many people go into private practice thinking it will be flexible and you’ll get to be your own boss, when really, everyone is your boss – every client is your boss, every employee is your boss, and you are your own boss, because if you’re like me, you’re tougher on yourself than anyone else. I feel a great responsibility to my employees, and I want to support them as much as possible. I treat them well for being on my team; they make this business look better.”

 

How can beginning business owners pay rent when we’re first starting out? What can we do to bring in enough money while we’re still working to build up our clinical caseload?

 

“Well first of all, I think it’s a mentality. You need to be hungry. Nothing’s just going to fall into your lap. No one is going to knock on your door and ask you to be a music therapist. When I started, I had a part-time contract in the public school system, and I also was consulting and contracting with a private school; It was my first music therapy contract, so I was doing music therapy groups there, but they when they first asked me to look into their QuickBooks and see what was going on, I found that they had lost over $400,000! So they asked, ‘Can we hire you to fix our QuickBooks and get us up and running?’ That first year that I had my own practice, I was still working part-time in the school system and working at this private school, because I didn’t want to go into debt while building the business. It was important to me to build my business the right way. You’ve got to be able to talk the talk and walk the walk to sell music therapy, and to sell yourself! Making a website and a blog is not enough. You’ve got to be hungrier for it. You literally have to pound the streets, network, and meet as many people as you can.”

 

What are some of the most important things to spend money on when you’re first starting a music therapy business?

 

“My investment up front was nothing: I had my car, my own instruments, and I was just going to facilities and doing home visits. I really think my biggest investment in the beginning was time. Time spent going to special needs events, meeting parents, talking to administrators, getting meetings, and more, because that’s the biggest investment. Time, energy, and hunger are things you should be spending your currency on, not necessarily your money. If you’re planning on having employees and a team, start investing in instrument early. A) They’ll break, and B) when your practice begins to grow, you might someday have four groups running at the same time, and you will run out of sticks and shakers real fast! Also, liability insurance is worth it. We live in a litigious country and culture, and you need to protect yourself and your employees.

“What you spend money on also depends on your long-term business structure. The whole reason I started the George Center was to have a place where music therapists earn a livable wage, have a place to work as a team, feel supported and be able to bounce ideas off of and be creative with each other, and won’t need to work out of their cars driving 50,000 miles a year. I wanted a place where music therapists feel appreciated, and so I knew my long-term business plan would have employees, not independent contractors. I wanted a big team approach to music therapy. As I’ve grown, I’ve spent my money on my employees. My employees make more money than I do. You have to respect them, you have to appreciate them. That’s what keeps them doing what they do, which keeps me in business, which makes my clients happy!”

 

Can you share any advice for the paperwork side of running a business?

 

“Get a mileage app. Everyone has a smartphone these days. There is also an awesome app called Dragon Dictation, and there is a version for medical so it’s HIPPA compliant. It’s awesome. Progress notes are the bane of my existence, but now after a session, I get my phone, open the app, click the dictation button – and the more I do the better it works – then I just say, ’It’s this client, I saw him this day from this time to this time, he did this and didn’t do that, he got three prompts on this, we worked on that,’ and so on. I click send and it sends the note to my e-mail. That night, or the next week, or whenever, I open my e-mail, make a few edits, and simply copy and paste it into my progress note documents.

“Moving on to intake paperwork, make sure you have a financial agreement. It doesn’t matter if it’s a facility, a corporation, or an individual client. I highly suggest that if you bill with insurance that the intake start with, ‘Our relationship is not with your insurance company; it is with you,’ making it clear what you promise to do on your end financially, and what exactly the client’s responsibility will be. Not just a signature at the bottom, but sign each individual statement. If there is any issue with reimbursement, the client is ultimately responsible for paying for services. Long story short, financial agreements are really important. With your intake paperwork I would try to be as well-rounded as you can. The more you know before the client even walks through the door for an initial assessment, the better it’s going to be, and the better you can tailor your communication. Remember that music therapy is often family based; We’re not just treating the kid, we’re treating the family, especially those with a newly diagnosed kid. Communication with the whole family is so important. What are their expectations of music therapy, what do you expect of them, what’s going on at home, what are their immediate needs, and so on. Long-term, of course we’re going to work developmentally, but sometimes we need to get the parent to a place where they’re able to support their child, and if they’re losing their mind, we’re not there yet. We ask a lot of history questions, questions about behavior, favorite songs, and motivations, and what happens if their child is upset. Ask family-centered questions whether it’s children or even adults that you’re taking care of. It still affects the whole family.

“Next, I think assessments are the single most important thing and should take the most time, be the most detailed, and be the most well-rounded of any of your paperwork. If the assessment is done well, then it’s easy to write your goals. It’s easy to communicate value to the parent or caregiver.

As for treatment plans and progress notes? We all make it way too hard on ourselves. Our progress notes fit on a single page for a whole month. Part of that is because we bill insurance, and though we learn SOAP notes and DAR notes in school, the insurance companies don’t care. If that sort of documentation helps you as a therapist, then that’s great, but no insurance company is going to sit and read a page of subjective, objective, and so on. We have a treatment plan with our long-term goals at the top and our SMART objectives on the left hand side, then we have small boxes that we can type into saying, ‘Objective met 3 out of 5 trials.’ If you want to make a subjective statement, such as, ‘Client fell asleep during session,’ or ‘Client started new seizure medicine and was drowsy,’ you can write it in an area for comments. But we’re really just focused on marking if the objective was met, how it was met, and how many times. I created our current document based on the documentation my OT, speech, and PT friends shared with me, because I wanted to match what they were submitting to insurance companies. I melded them together and adapted them to music therapy in order to sort of look the same.”

 

What are the intangibles a music therapist private practitioner should have in order to succeed?

 

Hunger. Drive. Ambition. Empathy. And a true, true motivation for the betterment of our profession. We are in a position as private practitioners where the whole world is our oyster. Our advocacy reach is not limited to a single facility or population. We can truly grow our profession to the same size as OT, ST, PT, or any other allied health profession, and I think it’s up to us to do that. We get to go into tons of different facilities, corporations, schools, non-profits, families, and more. I really believe that our image and our success as a profession depends more on private practitioners in this country than anyone else. While the work of our researchers and our writers is very important – and that helps us earn funding! – it’s the private practitioners that are out there working it, who are able to sell music therapy in a clear way such that people can understand the work that we’re doing and will get behind it in an ambitious, motivated way.”

 

How did you choose your business name?

 

“Atlanta is a great place to own a business because music therapy is known here, and it’s huge. Fulton County schools has the largest music therapy department in a school system in the country. Music therapy really is a household name. There are 12 private practices in the Metro Atlanta area. With 12 private practices and 12 names, there already are a couple practices that use the city of Atlanta in their name. A very popular name for practices across the country is, “Music Therapy Services of…. different areas,” but I wanted something that would stand out. Something that could be shortened without being too MT specific, because we also have some art therapy here, we have performing arts groups here, we do kindermusik, a mom’s fit group, and more.”

 

How did you choose your business structure?

 

“I knew long-term it wasn’t going to just be me. An LLC was out to begin with because my business plan and business goals were much bigger than that. I’m an S-Corp, and I like the pass-through taxation of an S-Corp. Also, here in Georgia, and some other states that may be similar, there are tax benefits as a corporation. For instance, we have something called the GaSSO Scholarship (http://www.georgiasso.us/), where every year I can give money to the state and I can say which private school I want it to go to, and I can even say which student I want it to go to, so if it’s one of our clients, it’s mutually beneficial when I donate because I get it back next year, plus a credit on my federal taxes.”

 

What is your perspective on music therapy?

 

“My short answer is that there’s room for all philosophies, and I don’t necessarily treat by just one, and certainly my team doesn’t. I get hung up with these people that are ONLY Nordoff-Robbins, or ONLY NMT, or ONLY Guided Imagery. We do patient-centered work, so the philosophy should be patient-centered, and treatment should depend on what their individual needs are at the time. I am a NMT and I absolutely use NMT techniques and methods in my sessions. I also live in the southeast and we have a very behavioral approach; Having worked with a lot of kids in need of some behavioral interventions, I use music as a contingent reward as well. I absolutely improvise in sessions, but all of that depends on the client! I’ve got a client that started when he was very little. He moved from music therapy sessions, to him becoming innately musical to the point of being a savant. He is now 16 and is a much better musician than I am, but we can still work on non-verbal communication, interaction, and these non-musical goals. I’ve also got some severe-profound clients who are not going to participate in the same way, so I use a much more sensory approach with them, dealing more in imagery and auditory stimulation. There’s room for all philosophies. I’ve got a lot of people on staff and they all use different approaches, and with different personalities, too. In addition to being client-centered, you have to find what fits your personality and what serves your work best. It’s best to match clients with the right therapist.

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Profile: Professor Karen D. Goodman

Professor Karen D. Goodman is a credentialed music therapist and licensed creative arts therapist with deep clinical, teaching, and publishing experience. She oversees program assessment for the John J. Cali School of Music at Montclair State University. She has been the Music Therapy Coordinator for two decades and founded the graduate program in 1998. She frequently presents at international conferences, and her research and writing is acclaimed in more than 70 countries. She authored the widely-distributed book, “Music Therapy Education and Training: From Theory to Practice” in 2011 to analyze and inspire more conversation about the education and training of music therapists in America. She then produced, “International Perspectives in Music Therapy Education and Training: Adapting to a Changing World” in 2015 to expand on this topic by collaborating with clinicians from around the world to offer cross-cultural insights and innovative approaches to music therapy education and training. I had the unique honor of reading her recent publication and reviewing it for the Psychology of Music journal. I was then very excited follow-up the review with a conversation with Professor Goodman herself!

Thank you for your time today and sharing your thoughts. Let’s start off by talking about “International Perspectives in Music Therapy Education and Training: Adapting to a Changing World.” Why did you create this book? How did the book come together?

“There was no book out there that took a comprehensive look at music therapy education and training, not to mention any book that looked at music therapy education and training from an international perspective. I have been going to international conferences since 2000, almost on a regular basis. I think the cross-cultural aspect of it really fascinates me, so I thought it would be nice opportunity to reach out to a lot of international colleagues, who are all good writers and big figures in terms of education in respect to their own countries. The book took shape as I was having conversations with these various people. I would make a few suggestions for what they might write about, because I knew them and I knew some of their previous writing, even if their previous writing wasn’t about education. I was very pleased that my colleagues were so forthcoming! That was very stimulating. I have a lot of international colleagues in my life right now, and I enjoy it tremendously. I think that it’s important for us to not be provincial, and I think that when we live in the United States we are kind of US-centric, and we need to move away from that. It’s a big world out there. It’s a lot more stimulating, at least for me personally, to look at music therapy around me in terms of what’s happening in other countries. I hope reading this new book made you want to go to an international conference. The next world conference will be in Japan during 2017, and the next European Music Therapy Conference is going to be this July in Vienna!”

What did you enjoy most about this project? What was something that really fascinated you?

“I really enjoyed the cross exchange of ideas. I think there are a lot of commonalities in terms of the challenges that music therapy educators have from one country to another, but I think the way in which we go about responding to those challenges can be very different depending on the country of origin and the context of our institutions. The nature of our institutions can either help us or hinder us in terms of developing the therapy programs. When I think about it, that is clear to me now. The doctoral program in Denmark, for example, is unlike any other program in the world. It’s not the type of program that could readily take place in the Unites States. We just have a different structure for doctoral work here, and I think that’s kind of unfortunate that we do have such a rigid structure in place for doctoral programs here. So that was really fascinating to me, and I encouraged the author of that chapter to make that clear, which she did. What was also interesting to me is that a lot of challenges that educators have with their institutions in the United States is not publicized. I don’t think we talk about it much, even in our conferences. There was one person who wrote about the challenges that he had in his university in the United Kingdom and how he was managing them. I think that was very bold to write about that, and I was very pleased about that chapter. We learn from challenges, from difficulties, and if we write about those things, we’re helping other people through that process. We do ourselves a favor when we reflect one challenges in realistic ways; we can be idealistic about what we want to achieve, but we also have to look at what the challenges are.”

Where do you hope to see the field of Music Therapy by the year 2025?

“I would like to see additional focus on elder care because as the demographic gets older, as the baby boomers who were born between 1945 to 1965 or so start reaching 80, we’re going to need a stronger healthcare system in this country for elder care that it is affordable, accessible, and supports families and their loved ones. Part of that system should be making room for music therapists. I encourage music therapists to enter the field of elder care because I really think we’re going to need more people.

I want to continue to see more evidence-based care. I would like to see some blurring of the boundaries between theory and practice, so that people do not compartmentalize their thinking about theoretical orientation, so that they begin to realize that there are different ways of providing music therapy depending on the population and that’s okay! You don’t need the same orientation or interventions for every single person.

I’d like to see more transparency from organizations. I encourage AMTA to face any challenges they may have in a transparent way with their membership, including financial challenges that music therapists have in paying both dues and continuing ed certification fees. 

I’d like to continue to see more trans-disciplinary efforts. I would like to see as much respect as possible paid to developing one’s musicianship. I think we have to have high standards for people entering the field, and that music has to be incorporated into the work. I think we get caught up in a more academic notion of music therapy, but we can’t forget about how important music and developing one’s musicianship is in order to provide the best music therapy.

I also would like to see more collaborative efforts between entry level faculty and senior level faculty. I entered music therapy with a group of people that I thought were very dedicated and very gifted in terms of education, and I think people who are entering the field now need to be respectful of that group of pioneers. It wasn’t very easy for us, we didn’t have over 300 books in the library! 

I would finally like to see some system of clinical supervision similar to the system they have over in England. Elaine Streeter organized a registry for supervisors, so you know who has been trained to be a supervisor and who you can call to supervise your work as a junior clinician. We don’t have anything like that in this country. When I look on Facebook, I see some groups or pages where people are writing about their clients like, ‘Here’s my client, here’s the situation, what do I do?’ First of all, I think that’s unethical because they are describing the client if they’re putting in enough pertinent details that the person could identify themselves, and then they’re asking, almost crying to the wind, ‘Wait, what do I do here?’ So I think clinical supervision and a system to train and practice as clinical supervisors is important.

What advice will you give for younger music therapists?

“I would encourage them to be in clinical supervision for their work. Continue their own education not only through continuing ed course, but also through clinical supervision. Don’t panic about how to work with different kinds of cases, but look at things more in terms of therapeutic principles and use of music so that you don’t compartmentalize your thinking. Be open to new ideas. Keep learning a lot of music that is cross-cultural. When you go to conferences, it’s great to go to the events, but you also learn a lot by finding new people and talking to them! I think that we need to be more open to meeting and talking to other people.”

What advice will you give to aspiring researchers?

“It is important not to be too beholden to any one model. As a clinician you might say, ‘I only have a humanistic orientation,” or ‘I only have a behavioral orientation,’ or ‘I only have a neurological orientation,” and so on, but if you do that, you can overlook how different approaches may be necessary for different kinds of populations. In the same way, researchers shouldn’t feel like, ‘I have to conduct quantitative research because otherwise I won’t get funding,’ or, ‘I only do qualitative research because it’s more open,” or something like that. I think that we need to be open to different kinds of research design. You shouldn’t keep yourself in an office and just design abstract research. Research needs to spring forth from clinical practice. That’s an older model of a lot of related fields, particularly psychology, but I don’t see it much now in music therapy…. maybe historically, but not now.

It is important to read a lot. Take note of which journal articles or, more specifically, which journal articles that are based on research studies, really capture your attention. And what was it about that article that really drew you in? Was it the topic? Was it the way it was designed? Was it the specific outcomes? Was it the way that it was written? In other words, it’s great to be able to have sources of motivation and inspiration in your own work. I don’t think any of us work out of a vacuum. It’s important to read a lot and identify what you are comfortable with and what impresses you.

It is also important to notice things during your clinical work. Question things. Write reflective journals which allow you to link theory and practice. Ask the questions that come up throughout processing your clinical work. Are those questions that have been answered in the literature, and if not, how might you approach them in terms of research design?

Sometimes when I work with students on their writing, I’ll read things and know that I could rewrite it in a second and it would be just right, but I can’t do that because it has to be their voice. As an educator I have to convey to them what they need to do and let them learn through the process.”

What advice would you give to the next generation of music therapy educators? And what is it like to be a professor?

“Don’t cut yourself off from the clinical work. Don’t cut yourself off from developing your musicianship. You can’t effectively teach if you cut yourself from your clinical work or musicianship. Be open. We have a research academy for university learning, so if there is any available center where professors get together to talk about your teaching, take advantage of that. Take advantage of opportunities to watch other people teach, and be inspired by the professors in any discipline who taught you the most effectively when you were a student. Remember what they did that you liked. How did they impact your own work?

It’s very rewarding when you see your students get excited about learning, and when you see them taking initiative! It is challenging to work with students who don’t have that. It is a luxury, as someone in the world of academia, to have time to keep learning, to keep developing my own ideas. I would say that students help me do that, because I have to respond to their needs. I never teach the same course exactly the same, because I have a different group of students each time I teach the class and they have different needs as a group and individually. 

“I’m starting a fourth book that was really inspired by the ways Oliver Sacks wrote his case studies. It is based on my clinical work using the therapeutic music lesson as a basis for music therapy. It will present all of my case loads from my earlier work in the 80s and going up until the present, because I still do some clinical work.”

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Profile: Bree Beynon, MT-BC, Neurologic Music Therapist

Bree Beynon, MT-BC, Neurologic Music Therapist, is the Managing Partner of Palm Beach Music Therapy Institute (PBMTI). Before she accepted this position in 2014, she was a clinician and Director of Business Development. Check out PBMTI’s great blog (Thanks again for publishing my guest post “Lyric Analysis Analysis“!), and tune in for their innovative radio show, Connections (recently featuring Florida’s MT registry bill SB 204 / HB 571 senate sponsor, Jeff Clemens!). The Rhythm & Reason Blog asked Bree a few questions about her current work and vision for the future.

How did Palm Beach Music Therapy Institute develop its name?

“I joined PBMTI 6 years into it’s existence so I was not present for the creation of the name or structure.  The name ‘Palm Beach’ suggests higher standard of clinical and musical ability and professionalism which I know is important for my partners and I.”

What have been the most important things to spend money on? The least important?

“Again, I got very lucky coming into this ‘ready-made’ situation, and I fully recognize that.  Now that I am managing the financials for the business during this time of growth I can say that the most important thing is your staff, not only their pay but helping with insurance, education, materials and overall happiness whenever possible.  I don’t think there is a ‘least important’.  Everything has importance if it is essential to your business!”

As PBMTI’s Managing Partner, what are a few of your responsibilities?

“I manage the day to day operations, staff, contractors, client relations and business development.”

Administrative duties and paperwork can be daunting for a new business to establish and for anybody to keep up with. Will you share and suggestions or general thoughts about this side of running a business?

“Surround yourself with competent and motivated people and don’t be afraid to ask them for help.  No one can do it all alone.  Recognizing that is a strength, not a weakness.”

What are the intangibles a person should have to succeed? How can one cultivate those intangibles?

“Motivation, passion, energy and courage.  Operating a business is not for everyone and that’s ok.  If you identify as someone who has these characteristics and wants to move the field of music therapy forward, reach out to a successful business owner and pick their brain!”

What is your perspective on music therapy?

“That’s a big question!  My perspective is that more and more healthcare and education professionals are going to be looking for creative, holistic and non-pharmaceutical approaches to treatment and when that happens, music therapy will be a very welcome and celebrated solution.  The future is very bright for our field and our clients.”

What is your vision of music therapy in the state of Florida and across the country by 2025?

“Board-certified, licensed music therapists will be in every hospital, school district, mental health facility and senior living community AND serving as subject matter experts on healthcare and education boards and advisory councils.”

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Profile: Jenn Manno, MM, MT-BC, NICU-MT

“I currently live in East Windsor, NJ. I graduated from Immaculata University with a dual degree of a BA in Music and a BM in Music Therapy and began working for a private practice shortly after graduation. In 2013 I completed a Masters from Florida State University in Music Therapy with a specialty NICU certification. Most of my clinical experience has been in hospitals, medical daycares, early intervention, and school settings. I currently have contracts with New Jersey Pediatric Feeding Associates (NJPFA) and Sensory Playground, an occupational clinic. At these facilities I provide music therapy to assist young clients with sensory needs to food or other stimuli, body regulation, communication needs, oral motor needs, and behavioral issues. I am devoted to providing treatment that elicits positive responses. 

“I am currently an independent contractor. I do this because there seem to be few jobs full time with children, which is the population I enjoy working with. Being a contractor can be frustrating, it takes hard work, flexibility, and willingness to try anything to make things happen. Unfortunately, the funding is not always there for children with special needs and most families are paying out of pocket for services, but I continue to work with parents and families because that is where the need is. I believe the earlier the intervention, the better the outcome. These children learn to function more independently with musical interventions, that is why I do what I do. Seeing a child light up when something clicks is wonderful, seeing the look on the parents’ faces when they watch their child do it, is even better.

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