Mending through music

A chat with COD alumni Elizabeth Malouf, music therapist

Bridget Kingston, Features Editor

College of DuPage graduate Elizabeth Malouf returned to campus on Sept. 25 to share some insight on her career as a board certified music therapist. Music therapy is an established health profession that uses music to address physical, emotional, cognitive and social needs of individuals.  In practice since 2011, Malouf currently works with adolescents and adults with developmental disabilities at the Helping Hand Center in Countryside, IL. She is a full-time music therapist and music therapy internship director there, as well as a  member of the cover band Tank & The Beez. Courier Features Editor Bridget Kingston spoke with Malouf on her career in music therapy, advice on training and schooling options and where she hopes her career will take her.    

 Bridget Kingston: Have you been musical all your life?

Elizabeth Malouf: Yeah, I really have. My dad has been my major music influence, I’ve been singing with him since I was three. But I began to practice more seriously around the time I decided to go into music therapy, which was in 2008 after I finished here at COD.

BK: Besides singing, what other instruments do you play?

EM: I play guitar as well, but singing really is my main instrument. I do a little piano here and there too.

BK: Could you describe your experience at COD and your transition into Illinois State University?

EM: Yeah, it was great! I had a lot of really great teachers. I completed my Associates of Fine Arts in Music, so I took all the music classes and general education requirements, and everything transferred to Illinois State seamlessly. Which was totally awesome because I didn’t have to retake any gen eds (laughs), and I really just got to focus on the music therapy curriculum right off the bat. Yeah, I really have nothing but positive things to say about my experience at COD and Illinois State.

BK: Could you describe what your typical day at work looks like?

EM: I work in our day program with adults, and I run about two to three groups per day. But yeah, it’s really a variety of things. I supervise the intern and meet with her, give her feedback and what not, and then just get basic materials together for the program.

BK: Describe how the your therapy sessions help the individuals. What is their reaction to your music?

EM: Really a lot of them respond positively to it, but there are a few that may be sensitive or irritated. You know not everything is perfect. But the patients are able to interact with their peers more and have a better awareness of where they’re at and how they’re doing. And I know that it’s really the music that’s doing that and not just me telling them what to do. So I really just let the music do its magic and its really wonderful.  

BK: Where do you see yourself in your career in five years?

EM: That’s a good question (laughs). I would like to go back and possibly get a Master’s for counseling. I definitely think a degree in counseling would be a great resource to have, especially when things come up in music therapy sessions. I’ll be better equipped to handle them more effectively. Again, I honestly can’t tell you where I’m going to be (laughs); it’s just always good to keep things in mind.

BK: What advice do you have for students interested in pursuing a career in music therapy?

EM: Oh, my goodness. Where to start! Honestly, I say to be open. Explore different universities that offer music therapy programs. There are only two schools in Illinois that offer it- Western Illinois and Illinois State, where I went. They’re both great schools; I have nothing negative to say about either. But yeah, I really think it helps so much when you just open yourself up to maybe traveling somewhere that’s a little out of your comfort zone.

BK: Are there any music therapy programs at colleges throughout the U.S. that stand out as being really great?

EM: Oh, definitely. Florida State is awesome,. Western Michigan is a great, great program. Yeah, Western Michigan was the first school to offer a music therapy degree. There were two founders who started Nordoff Robbins, and the two gentlemen came up with an alternative, more improvisational approach to music therapy, and Western Michigan offers that specific training, which is so great.

BK: What is your favorite aspect of your career in music therapy?

EM: I really enjoy collaborating with the different therapists. We have speech therapists, occupational therapists, art therapists, recreational therapists, counselors, behavior analysts, and we all get to meet a couple times a month and get to talk about cases and how things are going and what we can do to further help others.  But obviously I really love working with the individuals I work with and helping them through music.