By Sheri Clark, MME, MT-BC
Last year I was given the opportunity to begin a weekly contract music therapy group at a local women’s addiction treatment program. I have been a music therapist for 18 years.  All but my two years in grad school at the University of Kansas,  I have worked as a music therapist in Hospice.  So, this opportunity was a new one for me.   As I prepared for that first group, I hoped to combine my clinical knowledge of music, psychology, and loss issues.  Personally, I can admit that I have a food addiction, so my own food management and exercise program helped me understand a bit of what my clients had endured.
What resources did I use?
1)  I found many resources on the Internet.  I looked at the program’s website to determine their goals & vision and to see what other programs were offered.  I also found articles about addiction treatment and music therapy for this population.

2) Although I was a contract MT on the weekend, I went to a treatment team meeting.  It allowed me to meet the team and get to know how they discuss clients.  It also allowed them to meet me.   I also kept in contact with the center’s psychologist  in between groups, to let her know of any issues that came up with the clients.

3)  The clients taught me much about their own experiences and their music preferences.  The more I got to know them and their successes and challenges, the more beneficial the music therapy group became.

How has this experience enhanced my practice?
1) Increased knowledge of current popular music
2) Increased practice at leading groups – I’m used to 1:1s or family work in hospice
3) Increased my confidence in my therapeutic skills.
4) increased my knowledge of addictions that I apply to my Hospice practice

At this point, the program has changed so I’m no longer doing this group.  Yet, I have appreciated this opportunity.  I encourage my music therapy colleagues to seek out a new clinical area.  You’ll be surprised at what you can do and learn through that experience, and your new clients will benefit from your expanding knowledge.