Guest Post by Laura Al-Bandar: Becoming a Music Therapist

I have been practicing as a Music Therapist for ten months now, and it has absolutely flown by! Bearing this in mind, and with the start of the academic year approaching, we decided in my most recent clinical supervision session to review my professional experiences over this time, i.e. to think about the things I feel confident in, what I feel less confident in, and any goals I want to work towards over the next year. I feel like I have learned so much in this time but still have many areas that I am finding difficult.

I couldn’t help but think, when will I stop being a newly qualified Music Therapist?

As my Supervisor pointed out, in some ways I have more experience then some other Music Therapist’s who have been qualified for longer. Some only work part time, and some only have worked with one client group, whereas I have been working pretty much full time and regularly worked with children, adults and older adults, including those with mental health issues, learning disabilities, physical disabilities and in palliative care. This has really helped (or, forced!) me to broaden my skills and repertoire, for example my guitar skills are still rather questionable but at least I can now do some basic accompaniments and improvisations!

On the other hand, you could argue that floating between so many styles of working has made me a ‘jack of all trades’. I often feel like I haven’t really mastered anything yet and that there is still so much I need to improve on. Ten months ago, I was able to put this down to being newly qualified, which was reassuring and optimistic! But now, can I still use that excuse? I wonder if there is ever a point when I really should feel like I know what I’m doing.

I suppose it depends on how you look at it. When you think of the number of clinical hours I have separately spent with each client group, perhaps I would still be considered as newly qualified. But if it’s regarded by the number of clinical hours worked in total perhaps I wouldn’t be.

Another issue for consideration is how to approach CPD. I really feel like this is so much harder when you are a) working full time /really busy and b) working with so many different client groups. The HCPC say you need to do enough CPD in order to work competently and safely. So, does this mean I need to do much more CPD then other Therapist’s who only work with one client group? How can I fit this all in when I am already working full time? And how can I afford to pay for all of this training as a freelancer? So far I have gone for a very selective approach, choosing the trainings, literature etc. which I really feel like will immediately help me or those that can be applied to a large range of my work.

Sometimes I feel like I am doing an amazing job, that I have the potential to be a great Music Therapist. And sometimes I feel completely lost. But maybe this is the nature of the job, you never know what each session will bring. Each client is different moment by moment and even if you have years of experience you may still be surprised or unprepared for what is in store. So perhaps you could argue that we are all new to each moment, the date that you received that bit of paper that says you are allowed to practice is irrelevant.

I do feel like having such varied experience is invaluable, in that I can learn more about my clients by comparing them to others who are totally different. And maybe in a few years time all of those different experiences will build a broader, more diverse foundation which will help to manage any new, unexpected moments that do arise. I am actually quite glad that I haven’t got to the point where I am too comfortable, because I may become less receptive, less open minded and probably quite bored! This is one of the reasons that I love my job, because there is always a progression, plenty of unique moments, and endless inspiration.

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Laura Al Bandar Written by:

Laura is a newly qualified Music Therapist, she studied at Roehampton University and is now contracting solely for Chiltern Music Therapy as a freelance Music Therapist. She works in the community across Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, and Hertfordshire, working with a diverse client base. She is particularly interested in multi-cultural and feminist issues as well as promoting and developing the role of music therapy in health and social care.

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