Some Helpful Advice for Passing the Music Therapy Board Exam

After 5 long years of pursuit, I am now Katelyn Farris, MT-BC. Man that feels great to say! I am absolutely thrilled to now have an undergrad  degree and a national board-certification that says I am fully qualified to practice music therapy. For students and interns who are working toward the same goal, I promise you that few things in life top this feeling.

With that being said, I had never been so worried about an exam in my life. I have always been one of those people who does well on exams, especially when I study. However, the fact that this particular exam would affect the course of my entire career carried such a heavy weight on my usual ability to be at ease about standardized tests. When you want something so bad you can taste it, you’re paralyzed with fear at the thought of possibly not attaining that certain something. To make matters worse, there is no clear-cut way to tell you exactly what will be on your CBMT exam. I’m not going to lie to you: this exam is hard.

Fortunately there are many resources to help you pass this very important test. The online practice exam, old notes from music therapy classes, textbooks, and internship/practicum experiences are all valuable materials to help you pass with flying colors. I am also very fortunate to have some awesome music therapy peers who support each other in these challenging times! My friend and classmate Nicole Ribet (who also passed her board exam!) sent me this list of tips she wrote for taking the CBMT which I found extremely helpful:

Tips for taking the CBMT via Nicole D. Ribet, MT-BC

  1. Take the test as soon as you finish your internship. – The valuable information you learn on your internship (assessments, documentation, and interventions) is fresh in your head.
  2. Study your material. The New Music Therapist’s Handbook by Suzanne Hanser is very helpful and has valuable information that pertains to everything on the test. The Scope of Practice is also valuable information as well as the Code of Ethics.
  3. Know your terminology. Know the difference between OBJECTIVE and SUBJECTIVE. Know the difference between Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy. Know what an IEP is and how it will pertain to music therapy. Know what IDEA is and how it relates to Music Therapy.
  4. Everything you do in your classes COUNTS! All those term papers, research projects, practicums, journal articles; they will be on the test. Trust yourself, you did the work it will pay.
  5. Study your MUSIC THEORY. Know your guitar chords, know what I,IV, V chords are and how they relate in music. Know your 6 and 6/4 inversions and how it relates to music. Know what cadences are and when to properly use them. Know what the difference in Baroque, Classical, ect.
  6. Know your GUITAR. Know what the individual string notes are and what they would be if you tuned to an open G chord ect. Know how to read guitar chords written out on a chart. If you don’t know your chord structures see #5.
  7. Read through Music Therapy VIGNETTES. Familiarize yourself with different music therapy scenarios and pay attention to not only the clients/patients but also what the music therapist does.
  8. Take a Practice Test. This helps you to not only be familiar with the types of questions you will see but also give you an idea of what your weaknesses are and what you need to brush up on. There is a practice online test you can buy through CBMT or if you are lucky like me, your internship supervisor will have one for you. You will also get a CBMT handbook on the website that will prepare you for how to take the test with tips and what you need when you arrive at the testing site.
  9. Do NOT Stress. Do not look at this exam as the end all be all to your career. Worst-case scenario, you fail and have to take it again. No one will DIE because you failed. I suggest no studying the night before or the day of the test. You need a good night’s sleep and do something relaxing the morning of the test. Go into your test refreshed, calm, and relaxed.
  10. Take your TIME. Arrive to the testing sight early and do not rush through the questions. Pace yourself and do not struggle with the hard questions (you have the option to mark questions and come back to them.) Do not change your answers, more than likely your ‘first answer’ is correct. You will also get a piece of scratch paper during the test that will be turned in. (I used mine for the Music Theory questions).

Final Thought – If you made it this far to take your CBMT, you were a strong student. You will do GREAT!

Nicole and me on graduation day at William Carey University. We did It!

Nicole and me on graduation day at William Carey University. We did It!

These tips helped me so much during my preparations for the board exam. After taking and passing the test myself, here are a few bits of wisdom I would like to add:

  • Mark any answers you are unsure about. If you are willing to bet money on your answer being correct, don’t mark it and don’t return to it. Use your time at the end only to check if you actually GAVE an answer, otherwise don’t dwell and move on.
  • When I had questions that I couldn’t decide between two different answers, I used my scratch piece of paper to write the question number and my alternate answer. When I came back to the question, I analyzed all the information given in the question’s scenario, then chose either to change or keep my answer.
  • When in doubt, client needs ALWAYS come first. Choose answers accordingly.
  • Draw a mini-guitar with string numbering (remember that string 1 is the smallest string closest to the floor!) and the notes for standard tuning. This helped me with guitar theory questions.
  • You can use the restroom anytime during the exam, so don’t be afraid to drink coffee if it helps you with brain power! On the flip side: if coffee only makes you jittery and impairs your brain function, avoid caffeine before the exam. However, DO eat breakfast that includes a good balance of protein, omega-3 fats, and whole carbs.
  • The primary materials I used to study were the practice exam my internship director gave me, The New Music Therapist’s Handbook by Suzanne Hanser, and the CBMT Scope of Practice as a guideline. I also had a music therapy study guide book that I found useful, and I know there are some out there on the market that are more up-to date, so that may be a worthy investment on your part.
  • IT IS NEVER TOO EARLY TO START STUDYING (I’m looking at you, freshmen)! All that you do in your undergrad studies and internship culminates to this one board exam. Soak in as much knowledge as you can and apply all that knowledge in your practicums, research studies, and internships. Attend conference sessions geared toward passing your board exam and PAY ATTENTION!
  • Bring some earplugs and a light jacket to the exam, just in case.

When all is said and done, you can take the test again. It won’t be the end of the world if you don’t pass the first time. In the end, you WILL be a music therapist if you want to be.  Take the practice exam, study as much as possible, get a good nights rest, eat a good breakfast, show up early and relaxed, and know that you are going to rock that exam! I hope this help you on your journey to becoming a music therapist and happy exam-ing!

Nicole rolls out her private practice, Ribet Rhythms Music Therapy Services, PLLC,  in Gulfport, MS this September. For more information, check out their Facebook page here.

What are your biggest exam fears? Anything you would like to add? Feel free to comment or email me at You can also connect with me via Twitter at @KatelynFarrisMT.


A Terrific Idea for the Broke Music Therapist via Buzzfeed

I just wanted to take a moment to share this awesome post from Buzzfeed. Looks like I have tons of crafting to do!

Here’s the link to “12 Sweet DIY Instruments For Cash-Strapped Musicians”:

Music Activity Monday: Cotton Balls Music

I know it’s hardly Monday anymore, but I did say I was going to do better at posting more frequently, so here we are. Better late than never, right?

Today’s music activity was actually adapted from an occupational therapy activity website (when I remember which one, I will post it). If you ever need fresh inspiration for activities, I highly recommend searching for OT activities via Google, Pinterest, ect. They use a lot of creative interventions just like we do, but their methods don’t always include music. When I found this activity I got so excited and giddy because I had never thought of it before, and I love stumbling across new and creative ideas! Since the activity was on a site geared toward occupational therapists, the emphasis is placed on the specific physical skills it works to rehabilitate; however, I can think of many social and cognitive skills this can be used to address as well. I haven’t received the opportunity to try it out yet, but hopefully I will in the not-so-distant future.



Cotton Balls Music

This is a great activity to do in a group setting. However, it can be done with only one client as well. The goal of this activity is to use the clothespins to pass the cotton balls without letting them pile up in front of the client when the music stops.


  • Clothespins
  • Cotton Balls
  • Tongs


Crossing Midline, Finger Strength, and Pincer Grasp


Have the group sit in a circle. Give each client a clothespin and a cotton ball. Instruct the group to pick up and drop the cotton ball on the lap of the client sitting to their right when the music starts. When the music stops, each client should pick up his/her cotton ball using the clothespin and raise their hand.

You can make it into a game by giving an additional cotton ball to a client who raised their hand but did not have a cotton ball caught on his/her clothespin. The client with the least number of cotton balls at the end of the game wins.


  • Instead of using clothespin, you might want to use tongs or tweezers. For an even greater challenge, use two rhythm sticks.
  • If you are playing with 1 client, you may want to just use one cotton ball and see who has it when the music stops.
  • After a few times passing the cotton balls to the right, switch and have the passing go left.
  • Instruct the group to pass to the tempo of the music.

Music Suggestions:

  • For this one I would suggest random chords and strumming patterns on the guitar; that way you can challenge your group more by adding the slow/fast variation.
  • Tailor the music to your group.
  • If you want to use recorded music, I think “Cotton-Eyed Joe” or “Peter Cottontail” would be fun 🙂


What do you think? How would you add to this activity? If you know the origin of this activity, please let me know by leaving a comment or email at
You can also follow me on Twitter at @KatelynFarrisMT

Burnout: Don’t Think It Won’t Happen To You

Music therapy is exciting, invigorating, …

Music therapy is also, at times, exhausting.

Constantly advocating, pushing for contracts, searching for jobs that in any way relate to your degree and experience are just a few of the challenges that music therapists face. Whoever said this job was easy: I seriously urge you to step into our shoes.

Not so long ago, I scoffed at the idea of self-care being important in music therapy. At conferences I never chose to go to a session on self-care, thinking pah! I know how to take care of myself, thank you! Oh, how pride cometh before the fall.

Within the past month-and-a-half, a number of stressors have caused me to feel a heavy burden that I haven’t felt in a very long time. One minute you think you have everything under control and things are going great, then the next minute life throws you too many curve balls to handle. I feel like the entire month of May, I was a huge walking bundle of stress and nerves. The pressure of a research project, a full case-load, the job hunt, grad school applications, and studying for the GRE and music therapy certification simultaneously seemed to all weigh in on me at once. Add a few worries from my personal life to the plate and you’ve got a recipe for an extremely spazzed-out intern!

Month 5 of internship is the month that you realize you’re about to leave to graduate. I can’t remember the specific day or moment it sank in that the “real world” was just a few months away, but when it hit me, I seemed to spiral into a decent of stress and anxiety. The funny thing about stress is that it makes you act crazy and you will have no idea why you are doing crazy things, thus reinforcing the idea that you are, in fact, going crazy. When you ignore the warning signs of stress, it WILL appear in your life in sneaky little ways. My eating patterns suffered; one day all I wanted to eat/drink was protein shakes, then the next day I wanted to inhale an entire cake. I also would find myself spacing out and spending 3 hours in Kroger, returning with nothing but a bag of cat food and herbal tea. When you find yourself so stressed that any moment of peace and normality comes as a surprise, it’s time to make self-care a priority.

“Burnout” is very much a real thing that many music therapists, interns, and students experience sometimes. I have learned that not only is it normal to feel this way, but it is perfectly alright to take a rest and do something about it. If you don’t treat it, either your body will tell you to take a rest by becoming sick, your professional work will suffer, or a combination of both. In light of the recent discovery that I am shockingly not SuperGirl, here are my tips and ways to recouperate from the dreaded burnout:

1. Exercise, and do something you absolutely love.

I absolutely believe that we were meant to be active, no exceptions. I could go on and on about the benefits of exercise. It’s tough to make exercise a priority, especially with important deadlines and other job-related duties. But for me, physical activity gives me an outlet to unwind and makes me feel so much stronger. A good jog also gives me time to shut out the world for an hour or two and listen to the music that I want to listen to (SUPER important for any music-driven person).

2. Give yourself a treat.

Everybody has their vices/ guilty pleasures. My indulgences: a well-crafted cupcake, a few hours of Big Bang Theory, and retail therapy (aka window shopping). Just remember not to go overboard.

No money? Treat yourself to the gift of time. Spend the day with no forms of communication such as your cellphone or social media. Clear your mind. Just breathing is a gift in itself.

3. Get just the right amount of sleep.

I suggest no less than 7 hours and no more than 9. The older you get, the more necessary and luxurious a good night’s sleep becomes. In addition to quantity, consider the quality of your snoozing as well. Pop a melatonin supplement, listen to whatever calms you the most (Chuck Wild, a fan, silence, ect.), and sink into some soft, comfy sheets 30 minutes or more before you want to begin to fall asleep. Reward yourself for a hard day’s work and recharge your batteries for tomorrow’s work.

4. Take a short trip anywhere.

One day I crossed the state line to Tennessee just to chill in a different Starbucks. The adventure and change of scenery was a breath of fresh air. So find a local park you’ve never visited, go see a movie solo, or bum the couches of some good friends.

5. Make time for friends and family.

This is especially important if you haven’t seen them in a while. Your friends and family are the ears you need to vent to and the shoulders you need to cry on. Sometimes it’s possible to be so busy that you forget you miss them until you see their faces or hear their voices. I got the luxury of going home two weekends in a row. I got to meet my newborn nephew in person, have a family cook out, attend my niece’s 1st birthday party, lay out by the pool, go to my favorite Mexican restaurant, and hang out with some of my friends that I haven’t seen in a long time. I came back feeling refreshed and ready to take on my internship.

6. Listen to or practice only your absolute favorite music for a day.

Give yourself permission to be completely selfish in what you listen/jam out to. Revisit the music that was so powerful that it inspired you to pursue music therapy in the first place. The mustard seed that starts a career in music therapy is the music that inspires, motivates, and changes us. What is yours?

7. Don’t forget to eat well!

Bad diets will cause more stress in the long run than if you let yourself go and get the oh-so-convenient cheeseburger and fries. That my-jeans-are-too-tight-but-I-have-no-time/money-to-buy-more feeling is THE worst. You’ll thank yourself later if you eat your fruits and veggies today.

8. Do not compromise your spirituality.

If you do not consider yourself a spiritual person, this of course does not apply. However, I urge you to prioritize the god of your understanding. For me, it is Jesus Christ. Jesus’ two biggest commandments are to first love our God above all things, then love others as you love yourself. When I find myself putting myself or other priorities above that, I find myself getting out of sorts and really struggling. We are also taught that we don’t have to carry our burdens, because our future is already secure. When I allow that truth to sink-in, I have so much peace, which in turn allows me to better follow His commandment of loving others. There is so much truth in the phrase “Let go and let God.”

9. Laugh and make others laugh. It is the best medicine, after all!

On that note, I leave you with my favorite scene from Big Bang Theory. Bazinga!



Below I have provided links to some awesome blog posts concerning the topic of burnout in music therapy:

Music Activity Monday: A Justin Bieber Hello!

Happy Monday to all! I’ve seen many music therapy blogs write posts every Monday sharing some great activity ideas that they use and can be “stolen” by other MT’s for use in their own practice. I believe that there’s no such thing as too many activity ideas, so I figured I would follow suit. Without further ado, I introduce to you my very first Music Activity Monday post!

This activity is a Hello song I wrote for a resident of mine who absolutely LOVES Justin Bieber. Although I’m not a huge JB fan myself, I had so much fun writing my first rap! It’s also tons of fun to perform, because it’s not often I get to show off my mean rapping skills 🙂

Not only is this Hello song a fun way to kick off a session, it also addresses a few goals. Encouraging your client to drum and/or freestyle rap targets areas such as nonverbal cueing, creative self-expression, and following directions. The call-and-response aspect of the rap encourages expressive and receptive language areas such as impulse control and listening skills. I’m sure this can be creatively adapted in numerous ways to fit your clients needs, so unleash your inner Belieber and enjoy!

Hello Song  in the style of “Boyfriend” by Justin Bieber


  • Karaoke track of “Boyfriend” by J. Biebs
  • Drum of choice
  • CD Player



Welcome to music, Ima tell you hello,
We gon’ do some stuff you ain’t never done before
Baby take a chance or you’ll never ever know
I got drums in my hands that I’d really like to beat
(begin drumming) *beat *beat *beat  for you
We’ll sing and we’ll play and dance a little too
I dunno about me but I know about you
So I’ll say hello to you in three, two…

 Hello (insert name), how are you today?
 Hey boy (or girl), let me sing to you

Hello (insert name),  How are you today?
Tell me how you’re doin, what you’ve done today

We can talk about it, anything you want

Hello (insert name), how are you today? how are you today?

Your client can use the next verse to improvise on the drum or freestyle rap about how he/she is, what he/she has done that day, ect. When the pre-chorus comes back in, you can either begin singing again or encourage your client to sing to you this time!

Have fun and keep looking for more Music Activity Mondays in your future!

6 Challenges I Have Faced In Music Therapy Internship

Can I just say that this has been a crazy and hectic past few months? Since my last post, many exciting things have happened in all aspects of my life. I have travelled to Chattanooga, TN for regional music therapy conference, taken a visit home for Easter, and began leading all music therapy sessions and classes, which includes 8 individual residents for treatment. Add a research project, progress notes and documentation, job hunting, grad school applications, and CBMT test-prep, and you have the recipe for one busy intern! Needless to say, posting on The Music Therapy Diva has been put on the back-burner. However, after a brief hiatus I am back and ready to blog! As I am in the last stages of my clinical internship, I thought I might share with you some of the challenges I have been facing during this critical time of professional development.

1. Time management

Ok, let’s admit it: we are all big fat procrastinators. And if you aren’t now, you at some point in your life have waited until the VERY last minute on some sort of deadline. In almost every aspect of our lives, we must learn to utilize the precious amount of time we are given to the most productive degree possible. The field of music therapy is no exception.  Plan sessions a week or two in advance. Write down any spur-of-the-moment intervention ideas for later use. GET OFF FACEBOOK. Never take office/planning time for granted. And if you can, try your best not to take work home. Relaxation time is very important in self-care (which, by the way, is not selfish at all).

2. Becoming tech-savvy

I have a love-hate relationship with technology. I’m not sure if it’s just me, but sometimes I can’t figure out how to turn on a computer to save my life.  I am THAT person who would much rather handwrite things than type them in a Word document; I have an Audrey Hepburn notebook that can attest to this.. Because of my brain’s apparent inability to grasp technological concepts, I have acquired a terrible habit of writing my progress notes down and forgetting to electronically document them later. I know, I promise I’m working on it.

In this day and age, however, technology is not optional and I don’t expect that to change anytime soon. Many everyday tasks would be impossible without electronics. Exhibit A: this very blog! And though I make regular weekend trips to Starbucks in order to get a Wi-Fi connection on my computer that took me 5 months to learn to work (anybody else miss Windows 98?), I do what I must to get it done.  Trust me when I say this: you cannot make it as a music therapist without knowing basic computer skills. Computers aid in everything from documentation to learning YouTube guitar-licks. I also cannot stress to you how important social media networking is to the music therapy world, but that is another topic for another blog-post.

I also have a confession to make: I was an iPad non-believer. I know, I know, I’m a music therapy grandma, right?  When I was I student, I vowed never to use an iPad in a session because it honestly scared me. However, seeing the iPad being used as a successful tool has changed my mind. The iPad can be used in so many different ways, and not one of them is a “replacement” for live music as I previously thought. Creative iPad use enhances therapy and can be used as further contingency. One of my residents in particular will only stay the full length of her session if she gets some iPad time at the end (and believe me, that is HUGE for her!). With that being said, I do believe that electronic devices, as with anything else, should be used in moderation. It’s called MUSIC therapy for a reason, and nothing beats the vibration of real instruments sounding beautiful chords.

3. Not having enough hands

Ok, this not something I can change about myself, but it would be nice to sprout an extra pair sometimes! I can’t count the number of times that I have been loaded down with a djembe, CD player, notebook, pen (which usually ends up in my hair), egg shakers, and guitar/guitar accessories. There may not currently be a cure for our limited limbs, but there are ways to combat the symptoms. Large totes, backpack guitar cases, and rolling carts all help carry the loads of “stuff” that comes with being a MT. If you are fortunate enough to own an iPad, it can eliminate much of the baggage when travelling. It can be used in lieu of notebooks, chord sheets, certain instruments, props, CD players and recording devices. For more on the iPad, refer to Challenge #2.

4. Holding back laughter

The residents at The Baddour Center are hilarious. They each have a personal sense of humor and I can play and joke with each of them in different ways.  But what happens when they say something I find funny, but they are being dead-serious? Or if their behavior is socially inappropriate and/or disruptive? These particular situations happened my very first week of leading group activities completely by myself. In one particular class, after singing “how are you today?” during the Hello Song, this resident decided he was doing so well that he needed to get up in front of the class and lift his shirt a la “Girls Gone Wild”. As I struggled to maintain composure and some type of authority, I promptly told him to stop and sit down. However, my giggles proceeded to come out like word-vomit during the next round of the Hello Song, rendering my vocal chords ineffective to sing. This, in turn, set the tone for the rest of the group session, which wasn’t as behaviorally controlled as I would have liked for it to be.

Bottom line: if your client/resident is being inappropriate, serious, or harmful, you should do all within your power not to LOL. Laughing is normally a positive reinforcement for any behavior, and if your clients have a certain attention-seeking behavior that you are working to get rid of, laughter only encourages the repetition of said behavior.  However, if the resident is joking or trying to be funny in an appropriate way, it is perfectly OK to laugh along with them! Not only is laughter the best medicine, but it builds rapport with your clients.  This may all sound like common sense, but trust me, sometimes it takes great self-control.

5. Holding back tears

This week one of my residents talked about how she was not looking forward to Mother’s Day, as her mother had passed away 7 years ago. When I said “I know, I know”, she replied “no, you don’t”. Talk about heart-breaking! How was I to respond to that? When a situation like this happens, you have to be strong in order to help your client/resident deal with his or her emotional pain in a manner conducive to therapy. Sometimes you just have to take the emotional punch in the gut with no sign of a grimace. Remind yourself that you can cry all you want at home.

6. Fighting germs

Once upon a time, there was a girl named Katelyn who loved to taste her friends/family’s food, take a swallow after other people when she was thirsty, and never use Germ-X. She would also offer the same eating/drinking courtesy to those around her, because she believed in the Audrey Hepburn quote: “For a slim figure, share your food with others.” Then one day, she became an intern at The Baddour Center, a lovely and magical place for lovely and magical people. These beautiful people loved to give hugs with reckless abandon, greet everyone with a firm handshake, and bestow their kisses upon hands and cheeks. But there was a wicked villian called “Germs”, and this wicked villian came in the form of the flu, stomach virus, and pink eye. And while the people of The Baddour Center were absolutely precious and pure of heart, their hands were not so pure of the nasty Germs that terrorized the villiage. The Germs spread so quickly among the villiagers that the entire Baddour Center was quarantined for two weeks, meaning all art, music, and recreational activities were cancelled. Katelyn observed within a few short weeks of coming to The Baddour Center that she needed to take strong action in the war against Germs in order to defeat the enemy once in for all.

Long story short: I now love to Lysol the entire perimeter, AirBorne and vitamins count as a food group, and hand sanitizer is my best friend.

I am very thankful for every single one of these challenges, because they have caused me to grow in ways I never thought possible. This has been such a precious time in both my personal and professional development. If you are approaching this moment yourself, I urge you to make the most of every minute and welcome every challenge that comes your way. I would also love to hear from you and/or answer any questions, so please feel free to leave a comment!

5 Songs That Instantly Make Me Feel Better

This has been a very unusual week at the Baddour Center. All activities in our department were cancelled since Tuesday due to a stomach virus that has spread from resident to resident and house to house. As a result, the building has been extremely quiet all week. There were no music therapy sessions, no social hour, no office visits, no expressive arts classes. It was odd, but we were under nurse’s orders.

While this week has been rather slow, next week is going to be killer busy for me. Between leading group music therapy sessions all by myself, going to Chattanooga, TN for the SER-AMTA regional music therapy conference, and choreographing a dance routine, this week is going to be hectic! In light of all this sickness and stress, I thought I would share with you 5 songs that are guaranteed to put me in a good mood, whether I am heartbroken, physically ill, or when I just have “the blues”.

1. “Circle of Life”.

It has to be the song from the movie, not the Elton John version. Maybe this is because I am a 90’s kid, but I can’t listen to this song without getting pumped about life.


2. Almost any song by Tim McGraw.

Tim McGraw is always going to have a special place in my heart. I grew up listening to country music, and he and his wife Faith Hill were my absolute favorites. When I am down or upset, Tim McGraw is my go-to.


3. “Don’t Stop Believin'” by Journey

Come on, you know you still turn this song up no matter how over-played it is. It will always be a song to fist-pump to.


4. “All You Need Is Love” by The Beatles

A classic “hippy-dippy” love song with a great message.


5. “Girl On Fire” by Alicia Keys

A new favorite of mine. It’s hard not to feel empowered after listening to this song.


What are your good-mood songs? Leave me a comment or send me an email at


This week wraps up my 6th week of internship, and it has been quite a busy one. We’ve had both Fat Tuesday and Valentine’s Day-themed sessions, a Valentine’s dance tonight, and this is the last week I have of observations because I begin co-leading next week! Though that is a lot to think about on its own, one thing seems to be on my mind this week over and over again: home.

Most people my age experience moving away from their families when they go to college, but as WCU was only 30 minutes away from my home, I never fully experienced that because home was a short drive away. This is probably the longest I have ever been without going to visit Runnelstown, much less Hattiesburg. I’ve never been the type of person to get extremely homesick, and I have a more independent personality so am just fine being alone. But this week I couldn’t help but to be thinking of my family and friends down South.

View of the tornado from Hardy Street

View of the tornado from Hardy Street

If you have seen the news this week, you’ve probably heard about the tornado that rampaged through South MS this past Sunday. My family was thankfully left unscathed, but several people I know have lost their homes, churches, and parts of their school. Although my William Carey was left unharmed, Southern Miss was not so fortunate. It’s been a rough week for my hometown, and I hate that I could not be there to help everyone pick up after the devastating mess. It is so bad that President Obama declared it a major disaster for Forrest and Lamar counties. It is a miracle that there were no fatalities (praise God!). I am also thankful that South Mississippi is one of the most giving and generous areas of the country, so I know that they will clean up and rebuild in no time!

A heartbreaking image of the devastation to USM's campus

A heartbreaking image of the devastation to USM’s campus

Being homesick is something that everyone experiences sometimes. Although the Baddour Center is home to all the residents, they will still tell me about going “home, home”. Many of them live in different states all over the US and only get to visit once or twice a year. If you are an intern or music therapist, you may be dealing with a client or patient who struggles with being homesick from time to time. You have also probably experienced being homesick yourself at some point in your life. So here are my Top 10 songs to use in sessions (or as personal therapy) that have “home” as the common theme:

1.”Home” by Michael Buble
2. “Who Says You Can’t Go Home” by Bon Jovi
3. “I’m Going Home” by Daughtry
4. “Country Roads” by John Denver
5. “Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynard Skynard
6. “The Long and Winding Road” by The Beatles
7. “Green Green Grass of Home”
8. “Homesick” by Mercy Me
9. The House That Built Me” by Miranda Lambert
10. “Home” by Phillip Phillips

Several of the songs on this list have certainly lifted my spirits when I have thought about missing home. They can be used in a variety of different activities such as lyric analysis, songwriting, and improv. Have you ever done an activity or session that addressed homesickness? Have you ever dealt with homesickness yourself as an intern or at a new job? I would love to hear your ideas/stories!

Hattiesburg, Oak Grove and Petal are still recovering from the disastrous tornado that hit on Feb. 10. If you are interested in helping, you can make an online donation at

The Importance of Goals

Many people don’t realize that music therapy is a goal-driven practice. Goals are the purpose, drive, and method behind the madness. Having goals is what sets us apart from the misconception of what some think we do: just “singing to people to make them feel better”. The type of goals we have for our clients also sets us apart from music educators. A music teacher’s objectives may be something like “name the years and composers of the Baroque period”, whereas a music therapist’s goals may be “increase response to verbal cues” or “improve motor functioning skills”. When the goals set by the music therapist are achieved, the MT will then document the progress of the patient/client, thus showing the effectiveness of music therapy interventions.

Goals are not only important in music therapy; they are important to have in life. Think about where you are right now: you are either here because a) you set a goal a few years ago and worked hard to get here, b) are in the process of attaining some goal you are striving for, c) a combination of a and b, or d) you are not here by choice, and are either happy or unhappy about it. Setting goals for ourselves allows us to shape who and what we want to be, and if we don’t have goals, we have no life-purpose.

If you are a music therapist or MT student, you probably already know the value of reaching goals, both personally and in your practice. Internship is HUGE time of growth and goal-setting in a baby music therapist’s journey. One of the purposes of this blog is to document my progress during my internship experience, so I thought I might share with you some personal and professional goals I have for myself. Some of these goals I hope to have accomplished by the end of my internship, and others I hope to have accomplished in the next few years.

By the end of my internship, I hope to:

-Create a “Big Ole Book” filled with activities and categorized by goal-area, population, and activity type.

-Create my own assessment and progress note form.

-Successfully document the effectiveness of my music therapy sessions when I get my own case-load.

-Decide where and when I wanna do grad school.

-Look and apply for jobs.

-Get back down to my “pageant weight”, which is 15 lbs lighter. (This may not seem to have much to do with music therapy, but being healthy and physically fit is a very important part of being a good therapist, and feeling energized and good about yourself is just as important for your client’s well-being as it is your own.)

By this time next year, I hope to:

-Be a Board Certified Music Therapist!

-Have a job somewhere (hopefully working as a music therapist)

-Be applying/auditioning for grad schools.

-Run in some type of marathon.

Within the next few years, I hope to:

-Help the state of Mississippi enact legislation for music therapy licensure.

-Have a music therapy association established in Mississippi.

-Establish a music therapy internship site (because you can never have too many of those!).

-Present at Regional or National conference.

-Have a master’s degree and possibly a doctorate.

-Contribute in some way to a published journal article or research project.

These goals serve as motivators and guidance in my present life choices. Over the years my goals may change and morph into something completely different, but right now the future as I see it is very bright for my career and the field of music therapy. I may not reach all of my goals I set for myself, but that’s ok. The sky is the limit, and that is very exciting! I cannot wait to meet future clients, advocate for music therapy in my state, and further my education and clinical practice.

If you are a student, intern, or even professional, I encourage you to set goals for yourself and create a “treatment plan” for your own life. I also encourage you to document your progress by journaling or blogging, which can be a great tool for self-reflection and even a form of therapy for yourself.

What are some things you would like to accomplish in the next few years? What are some goals in the past that you have already come to achieve? I would love to hear from you!

Lessons I’ve Learned So Far

It’s so hard to believe that I’m almost through my first month as an intern at the Baddour Center! I have absolutely loved it so far; this is exactly where I need to be. I have spent this first month mostly observing classes and sessions, so I thought I might share with you what I have learned at this point in my internship experience.

Lesson 1: Expect the Unexpected
No two days are ever the same, which is one of the reasons I am in love with this line of work. So how am I to prepare for something I don’t even know is coming my way? Just “roll with the punches”. The great thing about music and art is its spontaneity. Allow your residents/clients the freedom to be creative. If a resident wants to come to your office and seranade you with a little George Strait, let them.

Lesson 2: Think Like a Music Therapist
Although observing doesn’t seem like much, it is an important part of a budding music therapist’s growth experience. Observation is the time an intern has to think “What would I do if I were in the therapist’s shoes? How would I handle this situation?” Also, think about why the therapist chose a particular activity or course of action. Is it to address a certain need? To correct a behavior problem? Constantly asking yourself these questions prepares you for future practice.

Lesson 3: It’s OK to Not Be Perfect
“Perfectionist” is a word many of us use to describe ourselves, especially if you are a musician. As artists, we were born with a undeniable desire to work and practice and stress and strive to remove as many flaws from our art as possibly possible. But one of the big differences in music therapy and music teaching is that perfection is not a goal. The main focus here is to ensure that the quality of life for each resident is the best it can possibly be, and sometimes that excludes “perfection”.

I have learned so much already, but I still have a loooong way to go. I am very excited to continue this journey and see how much more I can grow in this experience. This has been an exciting whirlwind of a month, and I am looking forward to the next five months at the Baddour Center!

So what are some lessons you’ve learned in your music therapy internship? Have any tips as an intern director or professional? I would love to hear your thoughts with a comment!