Think internships are just about shuffling papers and answering phones? Think again! Hear the story of Malorie Morris, a senior Music Therapy student who is currently doing an internship at Palmetto Health in Columbia, South Carolina. You’ll see that not only does she make a difference in the lives of others while earning college credit, but she’s doing what she truly loves. Read more about her internship experience and advice on how much internship experience matters.
Job Duties/Responsibilities: My internship is part of my course requirements for a music therapy degree. All music therapy students nationwide are required to complete a 6-month internship with supervision from a Board-Certified Music Therapist in a setting of our choice. At Palmetto Health, I get the opportunity to work with various different populations, including NICU babies, medical patients, and behavioral care with both adolescents and adults.
A typical Day: A typical day consists of computer documentation, writing in treatment plans, planning for sessions, practicing music skills, and leading both individual and group music therapy sessions. My current rotation consists of adolescent behavioral care, medical referrals, and NICU babies. In mid-April, I will begin my second rotation, which includes adult behavioral care and medical rounding. I spend a lot of time during the day planning and preparing for each of my sessions, which usually last anywhere from 20-45 minutes (depending on whether it is individual or group). For each patient I work with, I do a complete initial assessment to determine specific short-term and long-term goals. All of my interventions revolve around their individualized goals, so each session incorporates the things that they need to accomplish. For the adolescent behavioral care, my session typically revolves around positive coping skills, finding new outlets for expression, and helping them make personalized goals for themselves. In the music therapy groups, I use various interventions. A few examples include musical games, drum circles, keyboard improv, or lyric analysis to address these needs. For the medical patients, the goals are a little different – usually encouraging positive distraction or pain management. This is done through music guided relaxation, therapeutic singing, instrument improv, or songwriting.
Favorite part of the internship: Getting to work with so many types of people! Every day is completely different, and you never know what to expect. The people we have the privilege of working with are ever-changing, and day-to-day their needs may be different. I love challenging myself to work with people who I never have before and pushing myself to try new things. I love seeing the effect that music has on each of the patients, no matter their situation. The teenagers love using music as a way to get their frustration and emotions out, and it’s amazing to see how it helps them build connections with each other. For the medical patients, I love being able to use music to help them deal with their pain/anxiety during a rough procedure or witnessing the profound effect it has on their emotional well-being (and their families!). Music transcends culture, age, gender – everything. It is flexible and adaptable to each situation, and I love that I get to have an internship where I get to tap into this power every day.
Most challenging part of internship: In music therapy, people are both the best thing about it, as well as the most challenging! I have definitely seen this to be true throughout the internship. Just as I mentioned before, the people we work with are always changing day-to-day. Especially the teenagers in behavioral care – their moods are never stable! Working with them has probably been the most challenging aspect of the internship because even the best-planned interventions can go awry as soon as you enter the room. I have had to learn to how to be more flexible/adaptable to their needs in the moment and to give them the kinds of expression that they need. My supervisor is always reminding me that people come to their hospital at their very worst – they come in with all sorts of baggage and histories that are unimaginable. That is both the challenge and the privilege of getting to work with them.
Why internship experience matters: Internships matter because it gives you the chance to see what it is like in your future profession while you still have guidance and supervision along the way. It is the time to test out the waters – to figure out whether or not this is the right career path for you. If you get into and end up hating it, now’s the time to know! It can be a source of direction to help you find something else. And if you get into and love it, then it’s a chance to figure out who you want to be as a future professional, and how you want to identify yourself. It gives you connections and resources, and it gives you the opportunity to find out more about yourself and to grow in ways you never thought possible.
Advice to students seeking internship opportunities: Don’t limit yourself! When I started putting in applications, I didn’t want to stray from the “safe zone”. I wanted to apply to places that I was comfortable with, and that I knew I had a chance at. When I started pushing myself to apply to places that I thought I would never get into, I was shocked when I was accepted. I think a lot of my classmates can also attest to this. Put yourself out there, even if you think you don’t have a shot. You might be surprised at all the opportunities that come your way if you’re willing to step out of your comfort zone and give yourself a chance to succeed.
How has the Career Center helped you succeed?: The Career Center has helped me succeed by giving me the chance to talk personally with an advisor. I have been able to come to her time and time again with any concerns or worries, and she has helped me to sort through it and find practical solutions. I have had individualized assistance with my resume, looking at post-grad opportunities, and finding the tools and resources that will be most beneficial to me for my career path. The career center has provided me with a wealth of knowledge and support – from resume and cover letter examples, LinkedIn profile checklists, to interview tips. They have truly gone above and beyond to make sure that I have connections and resources to reference as I enter the professional world.