How to fight off those first-practicum nerves!

Being a music therapy student can really take a toll on your nerves, especially when you come to the time in your education when you will soon have a client of your own (under supervision of course!), and will be asked to dive into all of the techniques and therapeutical skills which you’ve hopefully retained over the past 2 years.  It’s terrifying- no one can deny it.  Excitement and eagerness take a seat in the back row, and pretty soon nausea and “shakey-hand syndrome” have front row seats to your bodily systems.  It’s O.K! Take a breath.  Let’s talk about this.

Let’s first pinpoint what it is your freaking out about.  Is it the unknown? Perhaps never meeting your client before? Sudden doubts in your skills? Or perhaps it’s the big pink elephant in the room with you… your clinic supervisor.

Ahh, your supervisor.  The professional music therapist who has been gracious enough to “watch you” during your first interactions with a person other than your classmates.  Not only that, but most likely you’ve been able to observe them and get a basic understanding of how far you need to get before you’re certified.  Okay, I’m making this sound really bad.  I don’t mean to, it’s just that… I’ve been there.  Those steps into the building, wherever it might be, seem endless as I keep reciting the lyrics to my activity in my head over and over again.  But then 2 things happen: you meet your client, and you meet your supervisor.

Guess what? It’s not that bad! Yes of course everyone get’s those “first couple of session “ jitters,” but then soon you realize you’re there for your client and it’s about them. Here are a few things so remember:

  • Your supervisor is there to help. They’ve agreed to do this-they want you to ask them questions.  Yes, I’ve heard of supervisors who are not the most helpful, but then you really get to demonstrate your professionalism and the skills you have without the guidance.  Think of your supervisor not as the Wicked witch, but as Glinda guiding you to Oz down the therapy-brick-road.
  • It’s okay for you to make mistakes: Even professionals play wrong chords, or have to make up a forgotten verse.  It’s not the end of the world.  Music is great because if it’s successful it sticks- If not, it floats away never to be heard from again!
  • Turn your nervous energy into energy for the session.  Some clients need to feed off of your positive energy. And I guarantee, you won’t feel nervous once the music starts- it’s just the lead-in.
  • Supervisor’s remember what it’s like to be in your shoes (most anyway).  My first supervisor always told me stories of her experiences.  They know your going to be nervous.  Your client however, most likely does not know this is your first time! Use that to your advantage and try to convince yourself the same!
  • It get’s easier. I promise this.  The more practice you have and the more times you lead activities and full sessions, the more natural it becomes.  Try to keep positive, enjoy the experience, and know that next semester you’re going to be that much better!

Think I’m crazy? The very first activity I led bombed.  My client (4 year old with Autism), was overloaded by the activity and basically stood there.  Access- denied.  I wanted to crawl into the corner.  NO! I tried to keep it positive, brushed myself off and got back on the horse.  I was having very successful full sessions with him by the end of my practicum.  It does get easier! Many of the things that you need to have to be a music therapist cannot be taught it school.  They are acquired through experience, or you naturally have them.  Be confident with yourself that your skills will be developed and you will be successful just like your client will be!

Here’s a little video to leave you with.  If your stuck for your first activity (or if your well into your practicum’s it’s still good) this would be a fun one.  Thanks!

dancin shoes



1 Comment

Filed under Activities, Musical Resources, Student Life

One response to “How to fight off those first-practicum nerves!

  1. Mom Sendlbeck

    I think your article is very inspiring for people in this field. I am not in this field but after reading this I want to be.

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