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Meet Rebecca J. Froman Freiman of Greater Chicago Music Therapy Inc.

Today we’d like to introduce you to Rebecca J. Froman Freiman.

Rebecca, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
My love of music from a very young age was quite apparent according to everyone around me. Throughout high school in the Chicago suburbs, playing the oboe and participating in wind ensembles and orchestras was my passion. While I knew that music needed to be an important part of my life’s work, I knew that I didn’t want to be a performer and knew I wanted a career that would allow me to work with people. I had the opportunity to take two courses in psychology in high school, and I was smitten. Toward the end of my senior year, I enrolled in my high school’s special project program which allowed me to shadow a music therapist in the community, combining my love of music and my interest in psychology. Seeking a solid foundation in both music and psychology, I attended the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, MI and earned my Bachelor of Musical Arts in oboe performance and psychology while taking classes and undertaking apprenticeships and volunteer experiences that prepared me to go on to graduate school in music therapy. I completed my Masters of Arts degree in music therapy at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, IA, and returned to the Chicago area to complete my clinical internship and begin my career.

Throughout college and graduate school, I taught Kindermusik classes for children and their parents. This was great experience for me as an aspiring music therapist; the curriculum uses music activities to foster development, aligning with the core principle inherent in music therapy that music therapists use music activities to support non-musical goals. Continuing with the early childhood population as a music therapist was the career I envisioned until I had a student clinical rotation on a geriatric psych unit at the University of Iowa’s hospital. So, when seeking my first professional position as a music therapist, I aimed to work with older adults, and joined the staff of a large skilled nursing home community that had specialized care for those with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, those in short term physical rehabilitation, and those toward the end of life on hospice. My first week at my job, I was given a referral for a private client through a psychologist colleague who was in desperate need of a music therapist for one of her client’s teams. For the next eight years, I continued to work on the nursing home’s team while seeing a few private clients “on the side”. After these eight years, I joined a hospice team on a part-time basis that had never had music therapy. I created and implemented their music therapy program while still seeing clients “on the side” for the next four years of my career. The balance of “on the side” and my other work tipped more and more over those 12 years, and to continue to meet the needs of those who would not otherwise not have music therapy, I founded Greater Chicago Music Therapy Inc. in July of 2017 with a purpose of increasing access to music therapy services for older adults at home or in care communities in the Chicago area.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It was difficult to leave the incredible nursing home and hospice teams that I have worked with as an employee and transition to full time private practice. I knew that I would miss the camaraderie as well as having team members readily available to brainstorm and collaborate with daily. However, I am extremely lucky that I have an incredible network of talented, savvy, and insightful colleagues, and many good friends in the field of eldercare. I seek professional peer supervision and now belong to a few different groups that help me to be a better clinician. Whereas it was easier to coordinate with one closely-knit team when I was on staff with the nursing home and the hospice, it can be a challenge to stay on top of communication now that I am part of many different teams for each client. However, I benefit from interfacing with even more teammates and learn so much from each and every one of them.

As I have had private clients in conjunction with staff positions since my first week on the job, the biggest transition has been the more “businessy” side of my practice becoming Greater Chicago Music Therapy Inc. I am extremely lucky that my mother, Gloria Froman, has a business called Let Me Get The Bill, Inc. that specializes in exactly what Greater Chicago Music Therapy Inc. needed to get its wings off the ground and take off.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Greater Chicago Music Therapy Inc. story. Tell us more about the business.
Greater Chicago Music Therapy Inc. provides individual and group music therapy sessions for older adults in the Chicago area. Music therapy can be a wonderful modality for older adults because it uses music as a tool in therapy to work on non-musical goal areas that have to do with aspects of functioning such as physical, psychological, social, emotional, cognitive, communicative, behavioral, or spiritual health and well-being as well as general quality of life and care. As a board-certified music therapist, I work in relationship with my clients using music interventions that give clients opportunities to work on their therapy goals. So, for example, if a client’s goal is related to decreasing depression, I might engage them in improvisation, singing, or instrument playing, and use the music to help elevate mood. If a client’s goal is to improve their walking, I might collaborate with their physical therapist to use musical aspects such as pitch and speed during their session. If a client’s goal is focused in on attention and needing stimulation, I might sing their favorite song with them but add pauses to catch their focus. One of the best things about music therapy is that there is no such thing as “take two Mozarts and call me in the morning”; I create unique and personalized music interventions based on a person’s needs, responses, and their strengths, and use evidence-based techniques creatively to bolster their functioning.

With a specialty in working with older adults, Greater Chicago Music Therapy Inc. is unique to music therapy practices in the area in that there are not many that specifically focus on this single population. I have presented about music therapy work with older adults in hospital systems, non-profit organizations that provide services for those with dementia, academic, and other settings. I also have had my work published regarding multicultural music therapy, particularly serving clients that identify as Jewish. My work experience includes working with Holocaust survivors, their families, and providing intervention to support the unique needs of this population. It is humbling to do this work and I feel quite privileged to get to use music therapy to bring these clients insight, comfort, and often times, closure.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
I am extremely lucky that my parents supported my love of and curiosity about music. They shuttled me to and from youth orchestra and Chicago’s Symphony Center for lessons throughout high school, to Interlochen Arts Camp, and allowed me immerse myself in music. I feel quite privileged that I had these opportunities, and that they were so supportive of my passion for music and for people. In graduate school, I found the most incredible mentors in Dr. Kate Gfeller and Dr. Mary Adamek, who both guided me toward my work with older adults and helped me hone in on my specialty of working with clients that identify as Jewish. I also am extremely fortunate to have amassed an incredible network of colleagues in eldercare who understand all that music therapy has to offer and serve as staunch advocates to increase access to music therapy and educate others about the field.

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