Written by Jaylee Sowders
Research has been my primary teacher throughout my undergraduate experience. This sentiment does not intend to discredit my incredible professors, supervisors, and mentors, especially since my research and the opportunities associated with it would not have been possible without their support and guidance. But truly, research has served as my teacher, my motivator, my escape, and the source of my most influential opportunities. Many undergraduate students do not have the opportunity to take on long-term research projects, so today, I want to share my research experience to advocate for undergraduate research and hopefully inspire young researchers.
My thesis pertaining to music therapy treatment considerations for teens with attachment trauma began in the second half of my second year of college, through applying for a summer research program at my university. When beginning this research, I had little experience with research and had little direction for this project. However, my thesis advisor, Joy Willenbrink-Conte, MA, MT-BC, was incredibly supportive and willing to guide me through the start of the research process. When first indicating interest in this topic, I was around 20 years old, barely removed from the teenage experience. I faced many questions about my interest and positionality within this research. As I have developed along with this project, I have come to understand that my positionality, identities, and experiences within my role as a researcher is an asset to the qualitative research itself, not a detriment. Some of my identities include being a young, white, queer, non-religious, able-bodied, and neurodivergent person. In entering college at the height of the pandemic in 2020, the phenomenon of isolation and social distancing sparked my interest on the developmental and social necessity of relationships and their impact on mental health. This interest was only confirmed after hearing a guest presentation about clinical work with foster care youth in my “Introduction to Music Therapy” course. In this presentation, I learned about the foster care to prison pipeline, and I wanted to investigate how relationships during childhood affect our development into adulthood, and more specifically, how we, as therapists, can support individuals with traumatic attachment experiences.
In the Summer of 2022, I participated in my university’s Summer Thesis Institute program, where I lived on campus with 9 other student researchers to get a head start on our theses. Through this program, I learned about research ethics, completed the majority of my literature review and case study analysis, and learned to create a network of peers and mentors who can support my research. Furthermore, I received a generous research budget to purchase necessary materials and texts, and was financially supported with free housing and a stipend. This experience served as a launchpad for establishing the foundations of my research and beginning my career as a researcher. I met weekly with my thesis advisor and spent roughly 30 hours per week reading and annotating music therapy and psychology literature. Through reading, I learned so much about music therapy, including much of its history, theoretical foundations, and modern practices. This acquired knowledge has served me incredibly in future classes and conversations with professional music therapists. At the end of this experience, I wrote a preliminary literature review as a part of our program's Proceedings, and now have the opportunity to cite myself and this publication in my thesis. Through this summer program, I fell in love with the research process, including reading, writing, and collaborating with peers and professionals.
Throughout the 2022-2023 academic year, I worked with my thesis advisor on my own time to continue work on my thesis, which included IRB applications for conducting interviews with music therapists with relevant experience in treating teens with attachment trauma and applying for additional research funding. This also included applying for another university sponsored summer program, the Oxford Flyers program, which supports selected students in attending Oxford University for a 6 week tutorial, which is an individual course. My participation in this experience in the summer of 2023 truly reshaped my life and my long-term goals. I had the opportunity to transfer skills learned in my first summer research program to an international level, and found safety and comfort within the supportive academic environment in Oxford. Along with learning more about attachment trauma through my personalized course, I learned so much more about myself and my goals as well. I fell in love with the UK and academia, and realized that I want to pursue graduate studies. I also found new confidence in myself and my independence, as I not only lived in the UK for 6 weeks, but had the opportunity to backpack across Europe alone for another 17 days following the tutorial. Lastly, my relationship with my research developed further, and I found insight in my research as I grew personally and sought out experiences to explore and travel. I gave myself space to ask questions and just think about my work, which proved to be one of the most beneficial experiences in actually progressing my research.
In my final year of college, I am continuing and completing my research process through conducting and analyzing interviews and writing the full thesis. Though my thesis will be complete in the spring, I am confident that my research on music therapy treatment for teens with attachment trauma will not end with my graduation. My relationship with this work has been one of the most valuable relationships of my life, as it has supported my holistic development. Research has been one of the most rewarding, challenging, overwhelming, and incredible experiences of my life, and I want to encourage more young people to pursue this area of music therapy, as it is vital to the development of our profession. As a young researcher myself, I often have to remind myself that even with limited experience as a practicing music therapist, my vast knowledge of this vital topic within our profession is valuable and valid. It is easy to feel alone and isolated as a young researcher, so through my various roles within AMTA and my university, I hope to create a community of young students who feel empowered and supported when sharing their voices and their work. You are incredibly valuable to our profession, and your voice can inspire true and essential change to better our practice. So apply to research programs, say yes to experiences, and create that network of people who will support and empower you to make your voice heard.
Written by Kayla Duncan, MT-BC
Burnout is a significant risk in professions demanding high emotional and mental energy, including music therapy. While our passion drives us to help others with open hearts and minds, it can also expose us to stress and frustration, setting the stage for burnout.
The World Health Organization defines burnout as a result of unmanaged chronic workplace stress. It comprises three aspects: occupational exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced personal accomplishment (Maslach & Leiter, 2016). Occupational exhaustion manifests as overwhelming mental and physical fatigue. Depersonalization leads to detachment from work, potentially causing a loss of empathy. Reduced personal accomplishment results from inadequate resources and support (Valcour, 2021).
Maslach & Leiter (2016) identify six domains contributing to burnout:
1. Increased Workload: Too much work without adequate recovery.
2. Lack of Control: Feeling powerless in decision-making.
3. Insufficient Reward: Lack of recognition and rewards.
4. Limited Sense of Community: Isolation at work.
5. Inequality: Unfair treatment.
6. Misaligned Values: Conflict between personal and professional values.
Recognizing burnout symptoms is crucial. Fatigue, headaches, muscle tension, mood swings, and vulnerability to illness are common signs. If left unaddressed, burnout can worsen and spread.
To combat burnout, the Mayo Clinic suggests:
In conclusion, as music therapists, we must be mindful of the risk of burnout and take proactive steps to maintain our well-being. Recognizing the signs and seeking support can help us continue to make a meaningful difference in the lives of our clients while safeguarding our own mental
and emotional health.
Maslach, C., & Leiter, M. P. (2016). Understanding the burnout experience: Recent research and its implications for psychiatry. World Psychiatry, 15(2), 103–111. https://doi.org/10.1002/wps.20311
Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2021, June 5). Know the signs of Job Burnout. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved January 2, 2023, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/burnout/art-20046642
Valcour, M. (2021, August 27). 4 steps to beating Burnout. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved January 2, 2023, from https://hbr.org/2016/11/beating-burnout
World Health Organization. (n.d.). Burn-out an "Occupational phenomenon": International Classification of Diseases. World Health Organization. Retrieved January 2, 2023, from https://www.who.int/news/item/28-05-2019-burn-out-an-occupational-phenomenon-international-classification-of-diseases
Hello, AMTAS! My name is Tess Vreeland, and I’m your secretary for the 2023 year. The purpose of this blog is to provide updates on AMTA regions, provide informative tools and information for furthering music therapy student careers, and promote collaboration among music therapy students across America. If you have any questions or any proposals regarding the blog, feel free to email me!
Interested in writing a post? Click here to submit the Blog Interest Form.