Saturday, March 12, 2016

Graduate Study in Music Therapy at SMWC: An Interview With Beth Deyermond, MA, MT-BC

Beth Deyermond, MA, MT-BC has been a practicing music therapist for over 14 years.  She is the Music Therapy Department Chair and Internship Director at The Center for Discovery (TCFD) in Harris, NY.  TCFD is a residential school for children and adults with significant multiple disabilities and Autism Spectrum Disorders.  Beth is married and has two children, Sophia (10) and James (7).  She graduated with her Masters of Arts in Music Therapy degree from SMWC in December 2015.
Deyermond at December 2015 Commencement
Receiving her MA in Music Therapy
"What drew you to SMWC for the MAMT Program?"

I had been a practicing music therapist for twelve years before deciding to go back to school.  During that time, I had experience with a number of different programs and came to the conclusion it was important for me to be a part of a program that worked with my familial and professional responsibilities, and also one that resonated with my personal philosophy of Music Therapy.  The MAMT program at the Woods fit that bill 100%. Even though it was very far away, and I knew it would be difficult to be away from my family and from my job during the residencies, the residency format allowed me a level of choice so that I could live my life in the way I preferred and I needed (Besides, I am now an expert at air travel!).  

In addition to the residency format, I would be remiss without saying I was particularly drawn to the diversity of coursework and the caliber of professors teaching the different courses.  After finishing the program, I can honestly say that my hopes and expectations in this area were surpassed by far.

"How did you balance your family life and work life while completing this degree?"

Is it bad that I laughed out loud when I read this question?  There were times during the program when I honestly didn’t know how I was going to get it all done.  Life happens to all of us and it is constantly stretching us beyond our perceived capabilities. 

When I started this program, I made a decision: family always came first.  I did not want my kids to miss out on quality time with their mother.  I did not want to miss a soccer game or a dance recital because of schoolwork.  Because I made that a priority, I really had to plan my time and use it in a focused way.

I said the word “plan”.  I will admit that I absolutely love to plan.  I love to make lists.  I love to cross things off my lists.  This very much came in handy during the program.  At the start of every semester, I made a list of all of the assignments and when they were due.  At the start of every week, I made a plan and a timeline for what needed to get done each night and tried my hardest to stick to that plan.   
Family comes first!
 Even with all of the planning, there came a point in time when I realized I needed to allow myself some grace.  My house was not always as clean as usual.  I wasn’t always able to make dinner completely from scratch.  I had to learn to say “no” when I had too much on my plate.  I also had to learn to ask for help (Luckily I am blessed with a wonderful and supportive husband and a wonderful and supportive supervisor). It was difficult to admit that I couldn’t do it all, but when I did, the balancing act became much easier and so much less stressful.

It was not always easy.  It was not always pretty.  It was not always “balanced”, but I still made it through, and my kids were so proud of me.  Knowing that is even better than the pride I have in myself.
 "What have your experiences been like as an Internship Supervisor?"

People have often asked me why I supervise interns.  Isn’t it difficult? Doesn’t that take up a lot of time? Why do you accept so many at once? (We currently have eight MT interns and four staff music therapists). The answer to that is yes, it is difficult and yes, it takes up a lot of time, but, with each intern, I learn as well.  I learn about myself.  I learn new clinical techniques.  I learn how to be a good and effective supervisor. I learn about being an ineffective and bad supervisor. I learn about new music and new technologies. 

It is for all of these reasons I feel it is worth it. At The Center for Discovery, we work using primarily clinical improvisation.  I love challenging interns to think of their session work in a music-centered manner.  I love the moment when an intern connects with an individual and you can feel the electricity pulsing through the music. I love when an intern conquers their fear of the piano. And, I love when an intern develops confidence in their clinical abilities and in areas that may have been a struggle in the past.

So, the answer is “yes”.  Training interns is a lot of work.  But it has absolutely made me a better therapist and a better supervisor overall.  I hope to have the opportunity to do it for many more years.

"What did you like the most about the Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College Master of Arts in Music Therapy Program?"

There are so many positive experiences it is hard for me to pick just one!  My immediate answer to this question is the relationships that formed during this experience.  With each incoming cohort, there is an opportunity to create a bond that is uniquely special and strong. I was blessed to enter and finish the program with eight of the most amazing, brilliant, talented, and passionate women I have ever known.
A student's cohort provides needed support throughout the program.
Pictured: Beth's cohort and fellow December 2015 graduates
I also loved the fact that the program reignited my love of learning.  I will freely admit that I was not one to get the Journal of Music Therapy or Music Therapy Perspectives journal and sit down to read them cover-to-cover.  The program at SMWC helped inspire me to get back into reading current literature and looking into a broader range of topics I knew would only enhance my clinical and supervisory work.

"What things did you learn at SMWC to help you further your clinical skills as a music therapist?"

I think one of the biggest things I learned from the MAMT program is a deeper understanding of myself.  Each class was challenging in its own way and either taught me a new skill, or reminded me of a trait that is not always in my personal forefront.  Each skill learned is something to translate into my clinical work...perseverance, trust, patience, empathy, and confidence.

"What is it like supervising interns (undergraduates) who come from the same school as you?"

I don’t think I’ve ever been asked this question!  I’ve supervised interns who went to the same undergraduate program as me, but I was there long before they were, and the program has definitely evolved and changed since then.  That being said, I actually did supervise a Woods student while I was in the MAMT program.   It was nice because it gave us something to talk about at the beginning of our supervisory relationship. It also provided an instant connection both of us took pride in.

"What would you like to let someone else know about your experience in the SMWC MAMT program and its impact on your life?
Beth and her husband

This experience was one of the best decisions I have made. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there is something about the campus that pulls you in.  From the moment you step on campus, you become a part of something greater.  There is a history there that you become part of.  There is pride in all aspects of the campus and in all aspects of the program. The professors are not only brilliant, but are also supportive and relatable. When you are done with the program, you experience a sense of accomplishment that is absolutely incredible. I am so very grateful for my experience at The Woods and all of the individuals who helped me along the way!

Written by: Nathan Mensah, senior music therapy major

Edited by: Sharon R. Boyle, Associate Professor of Music Therapy
For information about the SMWC Master of Arts in Music Therapy program, contact:
Dr. Tracy Richardson, MT-BC
Director of Master of Arts in Music Therapy Program
Chair of the Music and Theatre Department

For more information about the SMWC Undergraduate Music Therapy and Music Therapy Equivalency-Campus programs, contact:
Sharon R. Boyle, MM, MT-BC
Coordinator of Undergraduate and Campus Music Therapy Programs

For more information about the SMWC Music Therapy Equivalency-Distance (MTED) program, contact: 
Larisa McHugh, MA, MT-BC
Coordinator of the Music Therapy Equivalency Distance Program