Recent surveying of the music therapy profession in the UK detailed that 38.5% of those who responded had more than one employer, 34% had two or three and 4% had four or more (Carr, C et al 2017). I am one of the 4%. The mental load of the different hats we wear as music therapists can be weighty. A working week containing multiple roles becomes a balancing act with different settings, client groups, admin specifications and venues to consider and hold in mind.
With the aforementioned in mind, I wondered if it might be interesting to describe an 'average' working week of my own? I currently have six roles, four as a music therapist, one as a Trustee with the BAMT and one co-running Wind Chamber Music Weekends.
To focus in on the music therapy ones, I have;
I start with a half day in one venue. Once I arrive I unpack my instruments. I have managed to work out what I can carry in one journey from the car to the session room which includes a keyboard, guitar and wheeled box of small percussion, hand puppets (don't forget the monsters), plastic farm animals, silk scarves and a parachute (of course!). There is time to make handwritten clinical notes in client's case-files as I go along during the morning . Any other admin, meetings or report writing occur outside of this time.
I pack up and head off to my freelance session via the shops where I pick up my lunches for the week ahead. I find that buying ready made lunches on Monday helps to a) eat more healthily and b) remove some of the mental load of planning ahead.
When I arrive, I just have time to set up the room, hold the session, support the client in leaving at the end of the session which they struggle with, write handwritten clinical notes and pack up again before heading to the last session of the day. Any other reports or admin take place outside of the time I'm booked for.
At the last session I am always greeted at the school by a wonderful member of staff who rushes to hold doors open for me and my bulky load with a warm and welcoming smile. It is incredible what a powerful impact that has on me at the end of each Monday. I smile back and thank her profusely, go to the room, set up, hold the session and pack up again. Notes are written in the car this time as they are electronic. I could do them when I get home but I find that the quality of my note writing is better when they are written as soon after the session as is possible. Also, it means that when I get home and have put away the instruments and transferred the case-files from my locked work bag to the locked cabinet in my office, I don't have anything more to do and if I want/need to, I can put my feet up and unwind.
Tuesdays, Thursdays & Fridays
These are spent at ELFT in my NHS post. Here I hold 1:1 and group sessions in the adult learning disability service and group sessions in the recovery college. There are meetings, trainings, collaborations, research, managerial and clinical supervision, assessments and much, much more. Everything takes place in the working hours I'm employed for; note writing, reports, supervision and admin.
I used to think I had Wednesdays off, and I do sometimes, but in reality they are often the time I use to do the admin from the non-NHS posts, the supervision, the invoicing and the admin from these roles. I also try to fit in the BAMT trustee matters and admin for the music courses...
So there we have it. A fairly swift break down of my 'average' week. It all works out fairly well at the moment. Mondays are a well-crafted machine that work well if everything goes as planned but as soon as something goes slightly wrong, such as bad traffic, then the whole machine splutters and then breaks. Wednesdays are usually quite busy despite being labelled as a day off.
For me, tricks like buying my lunches on Mondays for the week ahead serve to lighten some of the mental load of having multiple roles. Placing barriers around roles and striving for clear definition of time is also essential.