Articles for September 2013

In order to be a Board-Certified music therapist (MT-BC) you must first pass an examination and then take continuing education courses to re-certify every 5 years. Part of this training includes adhering to a strict code of ethics about our music therapy practice. My role as a small business owner further extends the level of professionalism that we strive to maintain good relationships not only with our clients but with the facilities that actually pay us.

Our business goal is to provide the best quality music therapy services available. That means our therapists arrive 5-10 minutes early to prepare for each group. We respect the schedules of the programs that we serve and will have a substitute available if the regularly scheduled therapist is ill or unavailable.

Each session is planned to encourage each participant to be fully engaged in the music making process, which allows each participant to make neurological connections in the brain and physiological changes in the body, which then provides the conduit for achieving goals.

Now I don’t expect every music therapist to have the same level of commitment or passion to this profession. But I do want people that experience music therapy to realize the importance of this service and the added value our programs offer to the facility. And, most importantly, I want the participants to have fun!

Last week Alison and I had a meeting with a program director at a very large facility that offers skilled nursing, long-term care and memory care in addition to their large assisted living community. We were excited about presenting our programs and adding them to our client list.

After discussing our business and therapeutic approach, the program director told us that he was familiar with music therapy and that he already had a music therapist that he was not happy with. He told us that she was often late to groups and often was unprepared. While I am happy that we have a new client for our business, I am disappointed that another therapist would leave a bad impression.

Thankfully, this program director has had years of experience and has worked with many other music therapists and he understood the importance of what we do and that the therapist we are replacing was not how most of us operate.

I understand burnout, and have experienced it first hand, but I encourage all music therapists to examine the work you are doing, and determine if it is the right fit for your level of experience and expertise. If it is not a good match, take the time to refer the group to another therapist that may be a better fit for the program so that you don’t leave the individual, group or facility with a negative impression of this great profession.

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How do you put a value on something?


Car manufacturers look at the cost of parts, manufacturing, distribution, commissions for sellers, cost of running a dealership and probably thirty other factors all to determine the price of their car. Car brands add value as well as reputation and history. A Mercedes Benz is much more expensive than a Ford, and the buyer can chose to pay for the vehicle he wants.
But what if the item in question is different? What if it isn’t a tangible object? What if it is a service? Okay, so the yard guy comes and mows and trims for an hour each month, I can see the results of the work he has done so that must be a tangible service. How about a service that can impact the quality of an individual’s life for years to come? Well, that seems to me like an important and necessary service and I would expect to pay more for that then I pay for landscaping.
The news is out, people! MUSIC THERAPY WORKS! Each day there are more news stories about music therapy in NICU (neonatal intensive care units), hospitals, schools, long-term care facilities, mental health, and hospice. I have had the blessing of facilitating music therapy sessions where the client met important and life-changing goals and I have devoted my life to providing this important service. And yet when it comes to negotiating contracts, I tend to negotiate in the wrong direction despite my knowledge of the benefits of music therapy.
Over the last few weeks, I have been discussing wages and prices with my colleagues. Why am I so willing to lower my rates? The primary reason is that I love music therapy. Anything else is work so I want to do more music therapy. And when I see the impact on the individuals I serve, I truly feel as if I have received a bonus. However, you can’t pay the mortgage with the hugs you receive. Instead, we worked backwards. What is a monthly budget that would be comfortable and include things like health insurance and retirement? Take that, divided by a reasonable amount of contact hours and our prices are determined. So now, as much as I would like to see everyone receiving music therapy, I won’t undersell just to make the group happen.
How do you determine the value of the services you provide? Or how do you value the services you procure?

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