Growth as a Music Therapist: My Work in Juvenile Detention by Anna McChesney

Over the last 12 years I have been fortunate to learn, grow, teach, and inspire youth that are housed in juvenile detention.  As a music therapist in detention through the education program, I was able to see 35-60 kids in a group setting on a daily basis.  My session plans focused on the areas of identity building, increasing social skills, preventing negative behaviors and habits, and transitioning back to school, family, and the community.  We participated in interventions spanning from song discussion and songwriting to music making through drum circles and boomwhacker groups.  I found that although I was in the leadership role with a plan, goals, and assessments in place to measure the kids learning, I was often learning and growing along side them.  Being with teenagers that are so passionate about music kept me grounded.  It kept me in search of new ways to push their thinking and motivate them towards change.  I continually changed my repertoire, researched the changing brain and education, and ways to cultivate positive character.  Music therapists are lucky that by connecting to teenagers favorite past time, by being authentic, and by being kind-hearted, we have an easy way to form an appropriate and healthy relationship.  This is how I was able to be successful with so many "locked up" youth.

Although I no longer work in the juvenile detention setting, my heart is still with teenagers at risk.  Through my work, I have realized that healthy relationships, connection to what's relevant to them, and constant pushing towards greatness will be what helps youth in the end.  This realization is present in all sessions that I plan, all clients I see, and the documentation I write.  If you are interested in learning more about my work or bringing music therapy to at-risk youth, please contact us today!