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Listening to your intuition: What is it telling you? A music therapist’s journey between two homes.

Written by Bernice Chu, MA, MTA, NMT-F  

A warm hello to YOU, a member of the Music Therapy Academy Community! Wherever you are reading this, I hope our paths cross in real life one day and that we can connect and advocate together for the use of creative arts in healthcare. Before I begin, I must-must-must say thank you and express immense gratitude for Annilee Baron who has done such a remarkable job as Director of Communications. I am so excited for her future endeavours and look forward to reading about her successes. I am inspired to share my story with you with the main aim of sparking conversation - so reach out, let’s chat!

This is my story.

I’ve been thinking a lot about transitions recently. How do we decide where we live? Who we love and live with? What will our occupation be? What hobbies bring out the best in us as individuals? What causes will we spend our lives passionately advocating for? Is there a particular experience or conversation or piece of literature that inspires our intuition to finally decide? Or is it a process that takes place over time? And once a decision is made, where do we find the energy and drive to follow through? This train of thought led me to wonder about our gut intuition and perhaps by sharing my story, that will inspire someone (or noone) to make a decision they’ve been wondering about for a little while. Take whatever value you may find.

Originally from near Toronto, I completed the undergraduate program in music therapy at Wilfrid Laurier University in 2008. As undergraduates, our cohort took part in a variety of academic seminars where we listened to speakers and their clinical work from around the globe, including some from the United Kingdom. One particular seminar which inspired me greatly was given by Dr Amelia Oldfield (if you have not seen her work, you must!). As the undergraduate program wrapped up, I had the honour and pleasure of connecting and having a valuable conversation with Rachael Finnerty about considerations of further studies abroad in the field of music therapy. Rachael was encouraging and knowledgeable about the benefits and risks of studying abroad which she openly shared based on her own valuable experience.

After completing my 1000-hour CAMT internship at the Hospital for Sick Children, I was offered an opportunity to enroll in the Masters of Music Therapy program at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, England taught by Dr Amelia Oldfield, Dr Helen Odell-Miller, Tony Wigram and Eleanor Richards. In the context of my undergraduate studies and conversation with Rachael, it was an opportunity I could not refuse. Dr Amelia Oldfield was my mentor throughout which alongside the training experience was truly invaluable.

I completed postgraduate studies in 2011 and a few months later was offered a music therapy post at the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability (RHN) in London, United Kingdom. I worked at the RHN full-time specializing in music therapy work with adults in neurorehabilitation and in prolonged disorders of consciousness conducting numerous group, individual and joint therapy sessions. Through this role, I was fortunate to have opportunities presenting in national and international universities and conferences in the United Kingdom, Europe and North America. I clinically supervised music therapists working in neurorehabilitation, national and international students. I was part of different research projects working as a clinician and data collector in collaboration with Dr Wendy Magee and Helen Gill-Thwaites, MBE. The biggest learning point from my experience at the RHN was learning how to collaborate, how important it is to bring together our strengths as different specialty clinicians in order to bring out the best in the people we work with. Transitioning into the variety of roles and opportunities was initially daunting, however, trusting my intuition with the incredible support of experts, and my clinical supervisor enabled me to specialize further in the field of music therapy. The process of that journey gave me confidence in my clinical thinking in therapy sessions, to become attuned to my clinical voice and how that might fit in the wider field of music therapy. 

My journey in the UK later found me opportunities as Co-editor of Leading Note Magazine produced by the British Association for Music Therapy, and social media manager for a local charity. From these roles, I discovered an enthusiasm and passion for visual media and photography. I am interested in the use of social media as a means to connect us as professionals in a growing field. More importantly, I am interested in advocating for positive social change in helping others through the medium of creative arts; in building relationships with other allied health professionals to become better for the people we work with. 

After 12 years in the UK, I heard my intuition speaking again. What was it telling me now? It felt like a big decision was coming - first a thought, then an idea, numerous conversations, and then actions. It felt scary and exciting; exciting and scary. It felt bittersweet. After 6+ months of feeling, I decided it was time for a new chapter - and so, I find myself writing to you from Vancouver, Canada where I’ve very recently moved. I’ve recently started working as a music therapist at a home for young adults who have brain injuries, and long-standing mental health needs. I feel open to transition. How will I evolve as a clinician and as a person?

Returning home (to Canada) required leaving a home (United Kingdom). Although I miss the network of inspiring colleagues and friends on the other side of the pond, I feel excited for the journey ahead. I return Canadian, British and Chinese - influenced by different worlds and different cultures. I am curious about adapting and evolving as a clinician within the clinical setting, and to continue supporting the growth of music therapy in Canada, UK, and globally. In this way, I invite you to embrace change; to embrace your intuition. What is it telling you? Where may your path lead? Dream big, use your community to help you get there, and share what you have learned.

It is in this context that I am delighted and honoured to transition into the role as Director of Communications for the Music Therapy Academy. Not only because it is a knowledgeable platform that connects experts in the field but also because it is founded by Rachael who I had that important conversation with many years ago. I have been an avid Music Therapy Academy supporter since it’s very beginnings. I am excited about our potential as a platform and as a diverse community that seeks to raise the bar in healthcare. In many ways, it feels the right move and I look forward to learning from you (our community); I look forward to our journey together.