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Music Therapy Clinic Provides Drury Students with Hand-on Experience

Drury student Raeanna Duncan remembers well the day she first took interest in music therapy. She was a junior in high school when a younger classmate suffered an unexpected stroke. Doctors treating the student tried many things to help her recover from the event, but with limited success. Hopeful, they decided to try something a bit different – music therapy.  

“They brought in a music therapist and the music therapist started playing Justin Bieber,” Duncan recalls, “and she started to respond the way the doctors wanted her to.”

Drury music therapy students work closely together through classes and conferencesDuncan, pictured far right, decided to look into music therapy. She discovered a field that would allow her to channel her love of music to help people with developmental disabilities, anxiety, depression, dementia and more. 

This is the kind of work that happens every day at the Drury University Center for Music Therapy and Wellness, a practicing clinic located on Drury’s campus.

The clinic, which has been operating for over fifteen years, started off humbly, providing only a few sessions each week. Julie Cassity has been director of the clinic from its beginning. 

“Now we are probably running close to 60 sessions a week with two full-time music therapists working here and two part-time music therapists,” Cassitty says. 

She estimates that the clinic now serves about 300 people each week, and that’s not including the many men and women in the dozen or so local assisted living facilities that the center visits regularly. 

The clinic focuses on helping people with developmental disabilities of all ages, but also serves juvenile detention and substance abuse facilities, the elderly, Parkinson’s patients, and even offers developmental “Mommy and Me” classes open to all children and their parents. 

Having a professional clinic on campus is a huge advantage for Drury’s Music Therapy program. From the start, students gain exposure to real-life music therapy interventions. Freshman in the program get started early on with Music Therapy Orientation, in which they get to observe six hours of therapy sessions firsthand. Beginning their sophomore year, students take a series of four Field Studies practicums where they assist professional music therapists during client sessions. 

“In Field Studies I and Field Studies II, I was able to work with people with developmental disabilities,” Duncan says. “And within those first two Field Studies, I knew that music therapy was definitely my calling.” 

The field of music therapy is scientific as well as artistic. Rigorous coursework helps prepare students for official certification by a national board. In addition to a full schedule of music classes, students must take courses in human physiology, abnormal psychology, and behavior measurement and research. 

“There’s a lot more that goes on than just singing and playing,” Duncan says.

Encouraged by her experience in Drury’s program, Duncan is excited about the career path ahead of her. After her internship, she hopes to work in a school district helping children. There is no doubt that her experience in the Center for Music Therapy and Wellness contributed to her optimism.

“We feel like this program really helps prepare students clinically for their internship and then to be a professional music therapist,” Cassitty says.

More About the Music Therapy Major at Drury