Earthtones Spotlight – Emma Hansen

Emma interview

When you meet Earthtones intern Emma Hansen, one of the first things you notice is her vibrant personality. She instantly succeeds at lighting up any room that she enters. It’s clear that Emma loves what she does, and she’s not shy about it!

What drew you to music therapy?
My discovery was kind of blurry. As a kid I always knew I wanted to do something music related. I took piano for 5 years and then afterwards I began to teach myself songwriting. My mom was a nurse and she witnessed a music therapist at the community hospital that she worked at, and she came home and went, “Emma, this is for you!”

I played the cello for 3 years, but we didn’t have an orchestra in high school so I took choir. I really started to excel at singing and did competitions. I was going to major in choir education, and then when I got to Utah State I decided to double major in music education and music therapy. I auditioned for the music therapy program and only a few of us got accepted out of a large number of applicants! From that point, I decided to focus just on music therapy.

For the first 2 years I wasn’t sure if music therapy was for me, until I saw it in action. I saw the use of music as a medium and I really synched with that. It’s almost like a tactile thing that can connect a therapist and a client– it just can really create a therapeutic relationship.

Once I witnessed it for myself and started practicing it as a student, I felt a huge sense of affirmation.  I would be overwhelmed and in [happy] tears all the time. I felt like… This is it!

What population do you work with? 

That’s the number one reason why I chose this internship, because I didn’t know what population I wanted to work with. I love everybody! I work with many populations: I work with geriatrics, I work with kids, I work with mental health, I work with adults with developmental disabilities…

Before I started this internship I had never worked with adults with developmental disabilities in a music therapy setting before. And I loved it because I felt like I had to pull out my magnifying glass and heighten my senses, and really look for the small things. I think in that population the smallest things can mean the most.

I chose this internship because I wanted a lot of different populations to work with. If I had  a well rounded internship I would be a well-rounded therapist.

Do you have one population in particular that resonates with you?

My favorite population changes every day! Now I’m on the verge of being a professional and I still don’t feel like I’m ready decide. And I don’t feel like I have to! Working with different populations helps prevent burn-out for me, because every day is a new challenge.

Tell us about a typical day for you.

Wednesday is my busiest day. I wake up at 7:30 and I leave the house by 8:50. I drive to my site where I have 3 back to back 30 minute sessions. Then I go back to the office where I eat my lunch. It’s a working lunch where I’m preparing for my next sessions. I might be putting together a lyric sheet or learning a new song. I’m usually in the office for about an hour and a half. Then I go to my next session. Often times in the time between sessions I’ll go into the studio and ground myself, either by practicing piano or improvising. After my last session of the day I come back to the office, finish my documentation, and I usually leave by about 5:30.

What has surprised you the most about your internship?

I’ve been pleasantly surprised with my internship! I’m grateful for the education that I received because I was prepared. I finished my coursework in May and started in January and was more than ready to start. Learning repertoire never stops. And I didn’t think I could love my clients as much as I do!

Who has influenced you?

Everyone. I am so grateful for all of my supervisors and the mentorship from [intern supervisors] Keeley St. Clair, Maggie Johnson, Ted Owen and Jodi Winnwalker. Even Genevieve [Layman, HTR] and Kate [Bodin, HTR], and all the other professionals I’ve been able to work with. Of course my fellow interns too. Everyone has a unique thing to contribute to my experience. I’m getting an eclectic experience, both with music and horticultural therapy.

What is your favorite genre of music?

That’s like asking a music therapist “Do you like music?”! I’m totally on board with the whole indie-alternative folk vibe that’s happening right now. I was raised on jazz and funk, and a little bit of folk in there. Gosh, I love everything.

How about your favorite song?

Right now it’s Do You Believe in Magic by Lovin’ Spoonful

Any advice for future interns?

Something I learned as a student, fairly early on–we’re here for a reason. We were selected because obviously somebody has faith that we can do what we do. In school your professors picked you because they knew you had potential. Have faith in your potential and your abilities.

It’s really hard to create a therapeutic space when you aren’t grounded in yourself, but understand that it’s a process and it’s not gonna happen overnight. As long as you have a heightened awareness of where you are, it will allow you to see where your clients are, and enable you to forget yourself and put your clients first. You’re prepared for your internship!