Hats from the Past (and current ones, too)

By November 2, 2010Ideas

I read two blog entries that inspired some great thinking this evening.  The idea for this post originated with Andrew Littlefield on his blog, MTI in the ATL.  Incidentally, Andrew was the first winner of Music Therapy Source’s Student and Intern Support program, and he contributed this essay on the importance of advocacy.  Then, Stephanie over at The Rhythmic Mind provided additional insights on her blog.  So, I decided to follow suit and answer the question: What non-clinical roles do I or have I played that influence me as a therapist?

1. Adaptive Lessons Instructor

During my undergraduate studies, I provided lessons to children and adult clients with cognitive disabilities, Down’s syndrome, ADHD, and autism spectrum disorders.  Working with those students gave me insight into their disabilities, and more importantly, their abilities.  I learned to find strengths and build on them.

2. Musician/Entertainer

Since middle school, I have always performed in some band or another.  Even today, I gig regularly and enjoy being on stage.  My experiences in bands have taught me several things.

First of all, learned to really value musicianship.  Even when conducting a music therapy session, I try to provide the highest level of musicality of which I am capable.  In therapy, our job is not to entertain.  However, a lack of quality in the music-making is certainly more problematic than exceptionally performed music, given that all other factors are the same.

Second, I learned how to cooperate with drummers.  That is mostly a joke.  But seriously…

Lastly, I gained confidence in my ability to sing and play in front of groups.  It has been years since I’ve experienced any amount of anxiety before singing in front of groups/crowds, and insecurities about my singing voice have diminished significantly, if not vanished.  Experiences in this hat have been a tremendous asset.

3.  House Dad

During my undergraduate days, I was a member of a social fraternity at The University of Iowa.  Contrary to the stereotypical views of fraternities, I found myself a part of something special.  I became associated with a group of men who were all striving for excellence, and in a number of different fields.  I had leadership roles, contributed to committees, and participated in philanthropic activities.  During my first two years, I found valuable mentors who helped me through typical undergrad challenges.  During my last two, I became that kind of mentor.

Still living and working in the town where I went to school, I had the opportunity this year to move back into my old fraternity house.  This time around, I am the house director, or as they call me, “House Dad”.  The connection between this role and music therapy, especially with the populations with which I work, may not be immediately apparent.  Being in the role of “mentor” once again, and this time with a little more experience and knowledge under my belt, I talk often with guys about personal and scholastic goals, as well as plans to achieve them.  And they consistently achieve great things.  This naturally results in the consideration of my own goals, and keeps me energized and inspired in the personal and scholastic pursuit of excellence.  This living arrangement has also benefited my health, as I really had to get in shape to keep up with them on the basketball court 🙂


One Comment

  • Stephanie says:

    Hi Matt! Thanks for the shout out 🙂

    All these posts people are writing about “hats” are reminding me that all experience is “good” experience – in the sense that it contributes to how we function as a therapist and as a person! I know I was frustrated when I couldn’t find full-time work in music therapy when I graduated, but now I know that teaching lessons on the side makes me a better therapist, and being a music therapist DEFINITELY makes me a better teacher!

    Great post! 🙂