Conquering the CBMT Exam

Hi again! I want to share something I’m very proud of: this summer, I successfully passed the CBMT exam and officially became a board-certified music therapist!

For those of you who are not familiar with the exam, it’s a three-hour test consisting of 150 multiple choice questions. 130 of those are scored, and you must get 95 or more correct to pass. Upon passing, you are able to use the MT-BC title, standing for Music Therapist Board-Certified. It can be very stressful!

For this blog post, I’m sharing some of the unique study tips that really helped me conquer this exam.

Confession: I’ve always had bad test anxiety. Tests have always scared me and this test was absolutely no exception. Since so much was depending on me passing this, I knew I needed to conquer this test anxiety and develop some unique study habits.

  • The first and most impactful thing I did was see a counselor in my area who specializes in test anxiety. She really changed my mindset going into the exam and even though I only had two visits, I really owe so much of my success to her!
  • Next, I broke down all the info I wanted to brush up on down into flash cards. I meticulously color coded these, using colored flash cards and coordinating colored pens. I gathered the information from the New Music Therapist’s Handbook by Susan Hanser as well as several websites and journal articles, depending on what I needed to study. This all seems like pretty common study stuff, but wait…
  • I recorded myself repeating the flash cards and ‘teaching’ myself this information. I did about one recording a day, and listened to them whenever I could- on my commute, when out for a walk, while cooking dinner, anytime I had some free time.
  • Then, I transcribed these recordings into a notebook. Hearing myself and writing it down incorporated different learning styles and helped me to solidify this information.
  • Almost every night, I called my mom and ‘taught’ her what I had reviewed that day. Since she isn’t a music therapist this was all new information for her, and she asked questions that helped me solidify the information even better.
  • I made sure that I stopped making new flash cards about a week and a half before the exam. For the rest of the time I focused on listening to recordings, transcribing, and really getting that information down in my brain.

If you are taking the CBMT exam soon, I hope some of these study tips can help you. If you aren’t taking it soon, I hope these tips can at least help you for other exams in your life, no matter how big because these strategies can be applied to so many other subjects and situations.

To all MT students and interns: I wish you nothing but the best of luck! This exam is absolutely passable, so please don’t get discouraged. You know this information- it’s just a matter of refreshing it.

As always, please feel free to reach out with any comments, concerns, or questions. I look forward to hearing from you!

Molly Robitaille, MT-BC

Intern’s Corner – Week 19

Hello everyone! I hope you have had a fabulous week! These past few weeks I have really been finding myself as a music therapist. It’s been a lot of fun, but it’s not always rainbows and butterflies. If I had two words to describe the past few weeks, they would be stress and growth.

Stress

As I approach the ¾ mark in my internship, everything is getting real. In just 6 or 7 weeks my internship will be over, and the only thing left to becoming a music therapist is the board certification exam. I’m so excited, but also terrified for what lies ahead.

On top of preparing for professional life and the exam, there are intern duties that I need to complete and regular clinical work that needs to be done. Lots of prep was needed, new classes started, new session plans, etc. Long story short, there was a lot going on.  

I felt the stress a lot last week. I was putting everything before myself. I had late nights, skipped meals, and did not take care of myself. I ended up getting sick on Thursday and could not come in on Friday. I truly think that I got sick because I was neglecting self care.

I talked to my supervisors about ways to help combat the stress, and, wow, I immediately felt a whole lot better. I started making daily check lists rather than weekly, which doesn’t seem like a big change, but it has helped. It’s beneficial for me to see the few tasks I need to complete during the day rather than the long list of tasks I need to complete for the week. It simply helps my mindset.

I also will prioritize these tasks. Clients come first, followed by my assignments. I was also encouraged to take a break for even just a few minutes in between sessions when able. These few changes and simply talking it out made me feel so much better going into the final stages of my internship.

Growth

The past week wasn’t completely full of stress; great things happened too. The first Listen & Learn classes went great and I had a lot of fun teaching them. My clients also made great strides toward their goals! I also saw growth in myself as, though I was feeling stressed, I did not show it and still had wonderful sessions throughout the week. 

I’ve always shown exactly how I feel on my face. I really can’t hide anything. However, this is not always helpful as a therapist. This past week I had to push aside my feelings and focus on my clients during their sessions. My supervisors told me that they could not tell I was stressed based upon how I was interacting with my clients. This is a HUGE compliment, as my affect has been a main area of focus throughout my practicum experiences and internship.

I also learned that I can handle a whole lot more than I think I can. With everything going on, I still had successful sessions with my clients and completed everything I needed to. In reality, the stress I was feeling was not worth it. 

I’ve also learned a very important thing: Take care of yourself!

I decided to share how I have been feeling these past few weeks because I know that music therapists, interns, students, and others outside of the music therapy field all have moments of stress. I’ve learned that making time to take care of yourself, despite all of the tasks you feel like you need to complete, is essential to getting through the stressful time. Skipping out on self care may only make it worse. In my case, I got sick and had to miss a day of internship. If something has to give, don’t let it be your self care.

Thanks for reading my thoughts this week. If you have anything to add on this topic, please leave a comment!

Emma Kovachevich

Intern’s Corner – Week 18

A Week in the Life

Hello again everyone! We are really getting back into the swing of things here at MTC as our Listen & Learn classes start back up. It’s been an exciting week!

A month or two ago, one of MTC’s therapists, Molly, wrote a blog post about her typical schedule. I liked it so much that I thought I would give you a “Week in the Life” of an MTC intern!

My schedule has changed quite a bit since starting my internship, and it continues to change a little from week to week. I will share with you my current weekly schedule, as the school year is in full swing!

Monday

On Mondays I spend the morning at one of our school contract locations. I provide group sessions as well as a sing-along. I then head back to MTC and facilitate 2 one-to-one sessions. I have about an hour in between the sessions, so I use that time to work on my weekly assignment, documentation, and other prep that needs to be done. Then I finish out my day by taking a piano and guitar lesson with one of our amazing teachers here at MTC!

Tuesday

Tuesdays look very similar to Mondays. I’m back at the school contract throughout the morning, but this time I have both group and one-to-one sessions, followed by the sing-along. Afterwards, I head back to MTC and have my supervision meeting. This is a wonderful time for me to talk about how things are going and receive supervision from the four MT-BCs at MTC. Then I have a one-to-one session, teach 2 lessons, and practice during the extra time I have.

Wednesday

Now that Listen & Learn classes have begun, my Wednesday mornings are spent leading a class and observing one of Rachel’s classes. I then have a little break that I use to write my blog, do some practicing, and prep. In the afternoon I head over to a contract location, where I provide music therapy for a hospice group. Then I go back to MTC and provide 2 one-to-one sessions and finish off my day teaching another Listen & Learn class. Wednesday is the day I have the most diversity in populations served.

Thursday

I do a bit of traveling on Thursdays. I start off at a daycare contract and lead one group session and observe the other. I then travel to the children’s hospital and provide music therapy to patients until the mid-afternoon. From there I head back to MTC and have 2 one-to-one sessions and teach a Listen & Learn class!

Friday

Fridays are my “short” days. I spend the morning to mid-afternoon at the children’s hospital and then practice and prep at home!

Weekend

The weekends are my time. I typically travel to Macomb or back home and spend time with the people I love. I do make sure to dedicate some time during the weekend to prepare and practice for the next week!

This is a very generalized version of my weekly schedule as an intern at MTC. I hope this is beneficial for those who wonder what a music therapy intern’s schedule looks like! I love that I have such a range of populations in my schedule and get to work with almost every age. I truly enjoy going to internship every day!

Thanks for reading! Have a great week!

Emma Kovachevich

P.S. Here is a screenshot of my schedule on Google Calendar for all of us visual learners out there!

Intern’s Corner – Week 17

3 Things I Wish I Could Go Back and Tell Myself During Music Therapy Practicum

Hello everyone! It’s been a beautiful week here in Springfield! The skies have been blue, the temperatures warm, and the office has been full of music!

As the school year is now in full swing and music therapy students’ practicums have begun, I’ve been reflecting on my practicum experiences. 

For those who do not know, music therapy students are typically placed in different settings throughout the community each semester as their practicum. At Western Illinois (where I have my undergrad training), students provide music therapy once a week to their own clients with supervision from music therapy professors or professionals.

My first practicum experience was as an observer the spring semester of my freshman year. I then co-lead a group the spring semester of my sophomore year. Every semester throughout junior and senior year is solo leading! 

I remember practicum being terrifying but so exciting at the same time. This is the chance during undergrad to apply what you are learning in your classes in a real-life scenario. As I look back on my experiences, I want to share with you what I would have told myself back then.

Calm down!

I was a nervous wreck for a lot of my practicum sessions. I wanted to provide the best services I could for my clients, but I was also so scared that I would embarrass myself or do something wrong during the sessions. There was truly no reason for me to get so nervous, though it is normal to feel this way! It’s important to remember that you know more than you think you do, and your supervisors and other staff support are there to help you if something unexpected does happen.

Take It All In

Carefully observe everything you can during your sessions. This can sometimes be difficult as you are also leading the sessions, but it is so important to recognize how your clients respond to the music and interventions you bring. This is your time to try out new interventions, be creative, and see what works for your clients and what doesn’t. I found practicum to be one of the most beneficial aspects of my undergrad experience. 

Have Fun!

Getting to provide music therapy is such an amazing experience. Enjoy it! 

Practicum is such a wonderful time for learning and growth in the real world. It can be scary at first, but know that everyone around you is there to support you as you develop your skills. 

Leave a comment if you have any advice for current music therapy students during their practicum experience!

As always, thanks for reading!

Emma Kovachevich

Intern’s Corner – Week 16

My Personality Traits and How They Impact My Role as a Future Music Therapist

Hi everyone! I hope you are having a wonderful week and had a great Labor Day Weekend! 

This week on the blog I’m talking about my results from the Enneagram Personality Test. I’ve seen this test all over social media and discussed amongst my friends, so a few weeks ago I decided to take the test.

For those of you who do not know what the Enneagram Test is, it is a personality test that tells you which of 9 personality types you fit into. There are lots of personality tests out there, but this one seems to be the most popular right now. 

I haven’t done a ton of research on this topic, but I wanted to share with you what my results were and how I see these personality traits impacting me as a future music therapist.

So, my Enneagram personality results were 6w5, in other words I am “The Defender.” Some of the traits of this personality type include intelligent, introverted, serious, self-doubting, problem-solving, and rule-following. Here are how I see some of the personality traits of a 6w5 in my work as a future music therapist:

Serious

I know what I need to do and do whatever I need to get it done. I also tend to just say things as they are, and sometimes I’m a little too blunt. However, I see this serious trait being beneficial in my music therapy work as I know when to get down to business.

Self-Doubting

If you have read my previous blogs, you know that this is something I struggle with. This is mostly seen as, perhaps, a negative trait. On the bright-side, this trait can help guide me through my limitations in the music therapy setting and establish what I need to work on.

Problem-Solvers

This trait is so helpful in so many instances, whether it’s helping out a friend, talking with family, or in the music therapy setting. I think that this trait helps spark my creative side of deciding on adaptive materials, visuals, etc in how to best engage, communicate with, and help my clients.

Intelligent

I will be the first person to say that I am not the smartest person out there. I know that I have a lot of knowledge in my brain, but communicating that knowledge is difficult. The knowledge I do have helps me so much when planning as well as thinking on my feet during music therapy sessions.

These are just a few of the personality traits that I see influencing my work in the music therapy setting. I by no means am advocating for this test, but simply find my results incredibly accurate and helpful in understanding myself better. 

Have you taken any personality tests? How do you see your personality traits influencing your practice? Let me know in the comments!

As always, thanks for reading!

Emma Kovachevich

Intern’s Corner – Week 15

The Internship Search

Hello everyone! I hope you’ve all had a marvelous week! Things at MTC are really starting to pick up as the school year gets into full swing. I’m looking forward to all the new opportunities I will be given in the coming weeks!

Around this time last year, I started the search for an internship. I know that many senior music therapy students have started or will be starting this same process very soon! Thus, I wanted to share what I looked for in an internship and some handy little tips I found helpful during the process.

What I Personally Looked for in an Internship

Population

This played a big role in my search. I wasn’t gravitating to or straying away from any one population during practica and my undergrad experience. Though every population and age group is different, I truly enjoyed working with all of the people I had worked with so far. I knew that I wanted an internship that would provide me with experiences in a wide variety of populations. Most of the internships I applied for were private practices or businesses that could provide me with those experiences.

Location

Although I like to adventure out on my own, I definitely knew I wanted to stay somewhere in driving distance from my family and friends. Thus, all of the internships I looked at were in the Midwest.

Supervisors

This is a huge one. As an intern, you will be learning from and working with these people for at least 6 months. I wanted supervisors that I knew cared about me as a student, but also as a person. I also wanted supervisors with whom I knew my personality would mesh. This is one that you will get a better picture of in the interview process. 

Tips and Advice

Start Applying

I waited until the start of my senior year to look for internships, which is very doable. However, it is important to pay attention to application deadlines. As soon as you narrow down which internships you want to apply for, start filling out those applications and reaching out to the internship directors. It will save you from a lot of stress.

Practice

Since this is a music therapy internship, you will most likely have to perform some repertoire during your interview. I think it’s quite obvious that you should practice the rep you plan on using, but I found it helpful to also practice other aspects of the interview. I had my parents and friends ask me potential interview questions and I would practice responding to them. Some universities also have the option to participate in mock interviews in their Career Development Programs.

Interview Them

The interview process isn’t just about them interviewing you, but this is your time to ask questions and get to know your potential supervisors and site. Bring questions to ask and be engaged in conversation. Not only does it give you more important information, but it also makes you look invested, genuine, and professional.

Be Open

Be open to new possibilities. Don’t rule out an internship site because it’s not with your dream population or because you don’t think you would ever get it. Take a leap and be willing to step out of your comfort zone. The world has a funny way of surprising you. 

I’m not going to lie: the internship search can be a bit stressful, but I hope this blog post gave you some insight! It can be a bit daunting, but nothing feels better than securing that internship. I don’t normally cry happy tears, but I definitely did when I was offered the intern position here at MTC. Honestly, have fun searching for your internships and set your standards high! 

If any other interns or professionals would like to add any advice, please leave a comment! Thanks for reading!

Emma Kovachevich

Intern’s Corner – Week 14

Embarrassing Moments and Things I Never Expected to Do in a Music Therapy Setting

Intern's Corner | Music Therapy Connections

Hello again!

It has been a wonderful week at MTC and I hope you have had a great week as well! I’m officially halfway through my internship! These first three months have been full of learning, growth, great moments, and some not so great moments. 

This week’s blog is all about embarrassing things that have happened and things that I never expected I would do during my internship. 

I am the first to admit that I am an awkward person. Not only am I awkward, but I’m clumsy. It was pretty inevitable that I would have some embarrassing moments during the first half of my internship.

Lost Slipper

It seems like whenever other staff are standing outside one of my contract locations, I trip and lose my shoe. I would like to compare myself to Cinderella, but it’s never that graceful.

Falling Guitars

One of the guitars I use in group sessions does not have the best strap on it. I think it is that way on purpose in case I need to take the guitar off quickly. However, it can be a bit of a hassle during sessions. The guitar ends up falling from the strap at least once a session. Thankfully my reflexes are fast enough to catch it, so it has not fallen to the floor (yet). 

Stumbling Over My Words

One of my big goals during the last half of my internship is to get better at talking to other professionals. I tend to get nervous and stumble over my words as I try to process my thoughts and speak at the same time. It’s happened so many times that I cannot name one specific scenario, but it definitely makes me feel embarrassed every time. On the plus side, it’s getting better every day.

Performing my Rep Check for my Supervisor’s Kids

This one was actually a lot of fun. I did my Rep Check and then ended up improvising and creating songs with them. They created a lot of fun lyrics and we did this for about 20 minutes. It was a great experience, but also extremely nerve wracking to have an audience of people observing the music making; 3 of them being my supervisors and 2 of them being the parents of the kids. 

So, some embarrassing and awkward things have happened. It’s a part of life. Thankfully, I am good at laughing at myself and then continuing on with my day. It’s all a part of the fun!

I have also had some experiences that I never pictured myself doing in a music therapy session.

Singing an Italian Aria

I now have a client who really likes opera. I promised her I would bring her an aria the next time I saw her, so I went digging through my old voice lesson repertoire. I ended up singing an Italian aria with her that went up to a high G and I accompanied myself on guitar. I definitely never saw myself doing this music in a music therapy setting. Current students: if you think you will never use the repertoire you are learning in lessons, you may be absolutely wrong.

Improvising

Never ever in a million years did I think I would improvise songs as much as I do. Improvisation used to terrify me (and it is still a little scary). I was the girl in Vocal Jazz Ensemble that avoided scatting at all costs. Now a good portion of the music I use in sessions is improvised; whether it be to give directions, say hello or goodbye, or for relaxation. If you told me 4 months ago that I would be improvising as much as I am today, I definitely would not have believed you. 

These first three months of internship have been absolutely amazing, with some embarrassing moments here and there. It’s a part of learning. I’ve also experienced some things that I never thought I would do in a music therapy setting. It’s been a wild ride, and I’m so looking forward to what the second half of internship brings.

Do you have any embarrassing moments? What about things you’ve had to do or sing in sessions that you never thought you would do? Please share them with me!

As always, thanks for reading!

Emma Kovachevich

Why I Chose Music Therapy

My college graduation cap!

Hi again! I wanted to take a few minutes today to talk about what brought me to music therapy.

As a high schooler beginning to think about college, I had no idea what I wanted to do. After looking at my passions and hobbies, I settled on occupational therapy. By the beginning of senior year I had a college picked out and was planning on applying for fall 2015.

What brought me to occupational therapy? Throughout high school, the highlight of my weeks during the winter and early spring was volunteering with the local Special Olympics Swim Team on Friday evenings. I attended local meets and even State Games with the athletes, and learned that I had a passion for helping people. Naturally, this led me to occupational therapy.

However, there was always a little voice in the back of my head saying, “But what about music?” I couldn’t ignore that. I was very involved with my high school music department — in marching band, concert band, choir, the spring musicals, jazz band, even going to music camp for a week in the summer. I didn’t want to let that go. I knew I didn’t want to go into music education or performance, so I thought that a career in music just wasn’t possible for me.

As senior year rolled around and I was trying to get excited about a future in occupational therapy, that little voice grew louder. The college I had chosen didn’t have a band, orchestra, or choir and that just didn’t feel right to me.

At some point that fall, someone (perhaps my mom, a friend, or my band director) mentioned music therapy to me. I had no idea what that was but immediately knew that I had to do it. After looking it up, my heart was set!

After touring some colleges, I settled on Molloy College in New York and after applying, auditioning, an interviewing I was accepted as part of the Class of 2019. Four years later, I know I made the right choice. Music therapy is the perfect combination of my two passions: helping people and music.

As always, thank you for reading! I look forward to seeing you around MTC!

Intern’s Corner – Week 13

Confidence

Hello everyone! I hope you’ve had a fabulous week! I’m sure it’s been a busy week for lots of you with the new school year starting.

This week I had my midterm evaluation. It’s amazing to think that I am halfway through my internship! I was so happy to hear from my supervisors that I am where I need to be. As expected, I am excelling at some things and need some improvement in other areas. One big thing we talked about during this meeting was confidence.

This topic may sound similar to my perfectionism blog post at the beginning of my internship, but I wanted to dive a little deeper this week. I can’t say that I’ve ever been a confident person. I am aware of my strengths and weaknesses, but tend to dwell on the things I’m not so great at. I think that this is a normal human thing to do, but it doesn’t necessarily help me in the therapeutic setting. 

During sessions, I’ve been able to develop this “fake it till you make it” attitude. This doesn’t mean I come to sessions unprepared; this attitude just helps me take things as they come during the session. It helps me get out of my own head. My supervisors even tell me I look “cool as a cucumber” during most sessions. It’s the before and after that get me.

Before sessions, I tend to doubt my skills and knowledge. I get worried that I’m not going to be what my client needs. After sessions, I think “I should have done this,” or “I could’ve said this better.” Basically, I get in my head and it’s hard to get out.

I think these things, but in reality the sessions always tend to go pretty well. It’s my lack of confidence before and after sessions that are keeping me from fully succeeding. My supervisors and I talked about how if I gain more confidence, all the other skills that are still developing will fall into place. 

The start of confidence is beginning to focus a little more on your strengths than on your weaknesses. So, this week for my self care I have been taking time throughout the week to write down some of my strengths. I feel a little strange doing this, but I think it will help in the long-run.

I know that I’m not the only one that struggles with confidence in themselves. I would love to hear how you pump yourself up and get into a confident mindset! Please feel free to leave a comment; it may help me and others reading this blog.

Thanks for letting me be real every week and for reading my blog posts. I appreciate it more than you know!

Emma Kovachevich

Integrating Technology Into Music Therapy Sessions

Hi again! I’m back to talk about the modern marvel of technology. It’s pretty amazing, and can be adapted and used in so many ways within music therapy sessions.

  • GarageBand. This one almost goes without saying. From recording songs for clients to giving them the opportunity to write their own music from scratch, this is an amazing resource for music therapists to have in their technology toolkit.
  • Music games. There are so many wonderful music games available that can help accomplish a variety of goals. Anything from rapport building to fine motor skills can be addressed through interactive music games. Some of my favorites available for iPads include Incredibox, Sound Forest, Piano Tiles, Auto Rap, and Ditty.
  • Organizing repertoire. I almost never rely on physical copies of music anymore. I have everything scanned in to meticulously organized Google Drive folders that I can easily pull up or access in a session, even without WiFi. I also use Guitar Tabs, which has lyrics, tablature, and chords for almost every song under the sun! I don’t have to worry about carrying around binders full of music or forgetting something at home. I can also look up client requested music in an instant.
  • Google Drive. I use Google Drive for EVERYTHING from tracking client and student attendance to documentation to organizing music as mentioned above to coordinating schedules and plans for the week with my colleagues. It’s easy to organize things and access from multiple devices — all password and fingerprint protected, of course.

This is just a small sampling of how I use technology in everyday sessions. Of course there are many other technology resources available for music therapists, but I find these ones to be the most accessible and successful for me.

As always, thank you for reading and have a great day!

~Molly