My first-ever career ambition was to become a pediatrician. I was convinced that it was the perfect job for me, and even shadowed my own doctor for a day in eighth grade. I can’t remember exactly when my goals began to shift, but eventually I set my sights on more creative fields, particularly music and journalism.
During my senior year of high school, I applied to a number of both music programs and journalism schools for college. I waited until the last possible moment to decide which path to take, and ultimately pursued my passion for singing. I was halfway through my bachelor’s degree as a vocal performance major when I learned about music therapy. I had the opportunity to observe a music therapist who lived in the area, and after my first meeting with her, I felt like I had discovered a profession that was tailor-made for me.
So while it wasn’t the original dream career of my childhood, I did make a full-circle return to my goal of working in a helping profession—with the bonus that it incorporated my love of music. I finished my undergraduate degree a year and a half early so that I could begin a graduate program in music therapy.
A Career in Music Therapy
Fast forward a few years and a masters degree in music therapy later: I got my first “real” job in my new career as a music therapist at a school for children with disabilities. This was the most challenging job I’ve ever had, but it gave me the preparation and confidence I needed to blaze new trails in the field, which included eventually starting my own music therapy private practice.
I loved being a music therapist, and was excited about all the different kinds of work I was able to do, from direct client sessions to leading groups to creating resources for other music therapists. My private practice grew from just me to an entire team, an internship program, and contracts with numerous local facilities and agencies. I amassed a collection of over 400 songs, courses and materials through my online business, Listen & Learn Music, and it became a steady source of income. I frequently went out into the community to educate about music therapy, provided enrichment in schools, and spoke at conferences.
Recalibration & COVID-19
I loved my work SO much that I took on way too much of it, and found myself dealing with severe burnout on multiple occasions. Over the years and through lots of experimentation, I learned where my sweet spot was in terms of client load and the number of projects I could take on and feel like I was striking a decent work-life balance. This was especially important when I became a parent, and I recalibrated every few months as my family grew and evolved.
By the end of 2019, I had drastically reduced my direct client work in order to focus on writing a book and running my private practice. Little did I know that I would soon be forced to make more major pivots with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our practice transitioned to Zoom for many months, and we had to adjust the way we did just about everything.
Personally, I was starting to spend a lot of time thinking about my future. What did I want it to look like? Could I keep up the momentum of being a music therapist for the rest of my career…and did I want to? Were there new challenges to take on in this field? I felt like I had already checked so many boxes in my current profession, and I was craving change.
Throughout COVID, I developed a better understanding of mental health and how people were being affected—namely, that there just weren’t enough therapists to meet the needs of those who needed help. I started to research what it would take to become a mental health counselor, at first just for fun, but then a lot more seriously. In the summer of 2021, I took the plunge into a graduate counseling program.
A New Destination
Although I was headed down an unfamiliar path, I had no plans to throw in the towel on everything I had worked so hard to build and achieve in my music therapy career. I still don’t. As I took courses, started clinical work in practicum, and eventually entered into my final internship, I continued to practice (a smaller amount of) music therapy and run my businesses. There was a lot more overlap between these two careers than I had originally understood, and I was excited to see how they could work both together and separately in the next phase of my professional life.
I graduated with my second master’s degree in December 2023, and was thrilled to be able to continue working in private practice under my internship supervisor. I’ve spent so much of these last couple of years learning, and yet feel like I’ve only scratched the surface when it comes to my counseling education. While I have a solid foundation as a solution-focused, strength-based counselor, I’m excited to learn many more approaches and techniques for a wide variety of populations and issues.
It’s interesting to be starting a new career at this stage, when I’ve already accumulated so much life experience and wisdom as a result of it. I know better than to overextend myself into burnout territory, and I feel passionate about helping my clients enforce those boundaries for themselves, too. It is a privilege to learn, grow, and improve alongside of them, and I look forward to all of the progress we’ll continue to make together, both inside the counseling room and out.
With respect and encouragement,