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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