Children's Medical Center

(Courtesy Children’s Medical Center) The American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) supports music for all and applauds the efforts of individuals who share their music-making and time.

With fewer than 200 Music Therapy internships available each year in the United States, receiving an internship is nothing less than impressive. Senior Music Therapy major Caitlyn Etter, who recently accepted an internship in Tallahassee for fall 2018, sat down with us to give us some insight on what makes SMU’s Music Therapy program stand out from all the others. 

smu student caitlyn et

“Music therapy truly means the world to me.”

Why did you choose to major in Music Therapy?

I always knew that I wanted to incorporate music into my career somehow. I originally thought about majoring in Music Performance in hopes that I would become an orchestral French horn player, but I realized later on that maybe that wasn’t the best option for me. The only other options that I knew of at the time were Music Education or Composition, and those choices didn’t really suit me either, so I felt stuck. I then stumbled upon the website for the American Music Therapy Association completely by accident, and I was immediately interested! Music Therapy then became my major of choice because of how beautifully it incorporates music, science, and helping others and the community all into one career!

Why is Music Therapy important to you?

Honestly, I always love answering this question because music therapy truly means the world to me. It’s an incredible field that a surprising number of people do not know about (or at least don’t know for sure what it really is), but that has an innumerable amount of benefits for a growing number of populations. One of the greatest advantages I’ve had from my music therapy education at SMU is that I have been able to work with a variety of populations including children with learning disorders, older adults with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in a memory care unit, adults and families receiving hospice services, adults receiving chemotherapy, and even children and teens with behavior and mood disorders. During my time with each of these populations, I have personally witnessed remarkable growth and signs of benefitting from music therapy, no matter how big or small they may be to some. I could go on and on about the amazing experiences I have been a part of through music therapy with my clients, and those experiences, for my clients and their loved ones, are why music therapy is important to me.

What kind of Music Therapy internships were you looking for?

Students can choose a music therapy internship in whatever population they might be interested in, whether it be working in school districts, private practice, mental health, etc. My third practicum during my time at SMU was with Faith Presbyterian Hospice here in Dallas, and I unexpectedly fell in love with hospice music therapy. Because of my newfound passion for music therapy in hospice, I was looking for an internship where I could work in hospice and palliative care, and possibly bereavement services as well.

Why did you choose the internship in Tallahassee?

I chose my internship at Big Bend Hospice because it had everything I was looking for in an internship experience. Obviously, the population fit exactly what I was wanting, and then some! I also remember when I was able to visit Big Bend Hospice prior to applying, I was very impressed with both the quality of the facility and how kind and generous everyone was to me during my visit. Something else I noticed early on was that music therapy was taken very seriously and given a high amount of respect in the community, which was huge for me. In the end, I went with my gut feeling and accepted an internship offer with Big Bend Hospice because it truly felt like the right place for me.

What are you most excited about for your internship?

I would say I’m most excited about working with the populations I will get to work with. During my time at Big Bend Hospice, I will have the opportunity to lead sessions with patients and families receiving hospice and palliative care services, whether it be in a facility or in their home. On top of that, I get to help lead bereavement groups for adults, children, or adolescents, help with memorial services for patients who have passed away, and maybe even assist a support group for older military veterans. Even within the hospice population, there are a wide variety of opportunities for me during this internship, and I can’t wait to have those experiences with my future clients!

What are you hoping to get out of this experience?

I hope that I can not only learn as much as I can about music therapy in hospice, but also learn even more about myself as a person. Music therapy is a field that truly allows patients to explore themselves, and in hospice, those kinds of experiences can be incredibly sentimental and intimate. While the entire experience is about the client and their loved ones, you can definitely learn a lot about yourself in those types of intimate experiences. Through this internship, I hope to absorb as much as I can through the innumerable amount of experiences that I have the pleasure of being a part of.

What is the most important thing you’ve learned during your time as a Music Therapy student at SMU?

Take care of yourself. Self-care is a concept that I personally feel is overlooked or misunderstood all the time, especially as a student. Self-care and mindfulness are topics that have come up in the context of music therapy, but they really do apply to everything that you do. It’s about more than getting eight hours of sleep, doing your homework and treating yourself to some ice cream on a bad day. In the end, it really is about being kind to yourself and truly understanding your circumstances, and not being afraid to give the time and attention to yourself that you deserve. It’s also about trying to live in the present moment, and trying not to always view life in judgement statements. In the end, put yourself on a pedestal and be kind to yourself, because if you can’t take care of yourself, you definitely can’t take care of things or other people.

Read more: What Do Music Therapists Do?