Allison Gunnink, MBA, MT-BC

Where do you work and who are your clients?

Since March 2018, I’ve been a full-time music therapist at Joliet Area Community Hospice, soon to be known as Lightways. I provide support to patients and families in the field and at our inpatient unit alongside two other wonderful music therapists. We also assist the grief support department with various events and/or groups.

What is your favorite part of your job?

Outside of supporting people in one of the most vulnerable times in their lives, the part of my job that I enjoy the most is working together with my teammates to try and provide the best care that we can. It is such a privilege to work in this setting. I enjoy taking time to get to know the people we are working with and collaborating with the team to try and best meet their needs.

What inspired you to become a music therapist?

My family is service oriented. I grew up with my parents setting the example of giving back to the community through serving on various boards and participating in different events. My three brothers and myself were all in band, so music was a big part of our lives. I knew that I did not want to teach and I did not want to perform for a living. My bassoon teacher mentioned music therapy to me and after I read more about it, I was sold. The idea of using music to help others just felt right to me.

What do you do for self-care?

There are many different things that I do for self-care. I guess it starts with first tuning into myself and figuring out what I need at that time. From there, I have my main go-to self-care activities. A big part of my self-care routine includes exercising; I’ve done Orangetheory Fitness for the last 5.5 years, and I’ve also run a total of 5 half marathons since 2014. I try to eat well to nourish my body and mind. Receiving my own counseling regularly is something that I’ve prioritized over the years as well. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends, listening to audiobooks and podcasts, as well as hanging out watching some favorite TV shows with my two cats.

What’s once piece of advice you have for students or new therapists in the field?

Regardless of the setting that you work in, there will be systems in place that have existed for some time. It is important to learn how the systems work, and to work within the system when needed. However, it is also important to question and advocate for changes when necessary. Try not to become defensive about the value of music therapy and what it can do. Just like we do with those we work with, meet people where they are at and go from there. I’ve learned through experience that these things can lead to burnout quickly, so take care of yourselves so you can continue to help others.