WRITTEN BY PERRIN JONES, MT-BC
As a young professional, I’ve recently encountered many friends, former classmates, and co-interns asking me about what it’s like to work for a private music therapy practice to help them discern if the private practice life is right for them. I’ve been working in my current position for about ten months and work with preschoolers, children, and memory care groups currently. I always mention that I absolutely love my job and working in this environment, but of course every job, no matter where you work, has its ups and downs. I should also mention that I work for a private practice and do not own/manage the practice (for me this is a major pro – I’ll let my wonderful and experienced boss handle the business side of things)! Below are the basic ups and downs of working as a new music therapist in the private practice environment as I see them:
Up: Flexible Scheduling
One of my favorite parts of my job is being able to create my own schedule. It took me
awhile to get used to this fact, but now I’m getting better at putting the pieces of my
schedule puzzle together. I’m currently working on my master’s degree, and being able to carve out intentional time in my schedule to work on school both now and in the future when my schedule may change is immensely helpful. Though I’m not opposed to working on Fridays, I’ve enjoyed having Fridays off in recent months, too!
Down: Adapting to the ebb and flow of business
One of the hardest things that I’ve had to handle so far on the job is just uncertainty. I’ve learned to take not even our longest-term clients for granted because life happens to everyone, and whether it be financial or scheduling issues, some families and facilities decide to terminate services regardless of the quality of therapy being provided. There are drier spells which can be disappointing financially and emotionally for the therapist, yes, but the silver lining is that there are also exciting times where there are many irons in the fire, referrals coming in, and contracts being looked over. To be a therapist in the private practice environment is to get comfy with the uncertainty and be determined that even if things are slow for a while, you’re doing business development to turn things around. As John Mayer mentions in his most recent album,“It’s just a wave.”
Up: Fits well with an organized personality
Ok, I guess I’m a little Type A… (those that know me are laughing because there is no
question that I am a full-fledged Type A person). This “up” ties in with the first one; it can
be a lot to juggle a private practice schedule because, for me, that consists of a mix of
providing sessions in facilities, a clinic space, and teaching lessons in families’ homes.
Organized session planning is a must but so is an organized plan to get together and pack up the instruments, materials, books, etc. you need for the day ahead. I remember feeling overwhelmed with all the logistics when I first began, but I made mistakes and had successes and eventually found a system that works for me – organization is a key piece of that system (and the 100 reminders on my phone set daily)!
Down: Schlepping and driving
Ok, maybe this is just on my mind because it’s been hot a typical hot Carolina summer, but unloading, reloading, and carting around a variety of instruments can take its toll! Also, if you’re a person like me who tends to dislike being in the car, going from site to site (AC on full blast, of course) can be tiring. A few silver linings here, though: 1) Podcasts! I recently discovered podcasts and actually enjoy being in the car to listen to them; they take my mind off of driving! 2) Summer is coming to an end - I’ll probably forget how annoyed I was unloading heavy drums and wheeling two carts through the hallways drenched in sweat when it’s October. 3) You never know when you’ll need the random stuff riding in your car… and 4) Our business just secured its own clinic space (woohoo!), which, in time, will amount to less driving around town!
Up: Working with a variety of populations
I love being able to work with people from preschoolers on up to 90+ year-old older adults. Not only does this keep my days interesting, it also challenges me to constantly plan new interventions and activities for a wide variety of populations, causing me to continue to develop my repertoire and preventing me from getting stuck in a session-planning rut. Music therapists are so diverse in our practice, and diversity in populations throughout the week keeps my energy up!
Overall, I love working in this environment and recommend working for a private practice for most MT-BCs. What are some other ups and downs that you have experienced in your position, private practice or not?
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Providing music therapy services for early childhood to older adults, music instruction and enrichment plus continuing music therapy education in Greater Charlotte Area of the Carolinas.