Business advising helps therapist fine tune new practice

By Hope Belli Tinney, Washington SBDC

kim-mcmillinSPOKANE, Wash. – When therapist Kim McMillin and her husband wanted to relocate from Denver in 2014, Spokane was attractive because of family in the area and opportunities to focus on music therapy.

Music therapy, she said, uses music to assist people challenged by a variety of developmental or neurological disabilities. More than 65 years of research has shown that music is useful in helping to unearth and process strong emotions.

“When people engage in music making with a music therapist, it changes neural pathways,” she said. “Music is processed globally; it lights up the entire brain.”

Addressing a need in the community

A registered nurse for 15 years, McMillin pivoted to mental health care and completed degrees or certifications in counseling, marriage and family therapy, couples therapy, play therapy and music therapy.

In considering the move, she discovered that Spokane had just three music therapists for a population of more than 400,000, which meant the field was wide open for new practitioners.

In Denver, she had a single practice offering both talk therapy and music therapy. In Spokane, she separated the two into the Center for Healthy Families ( and the Center for Music Therapy ( Paradoxically, she said, having separate entities simplifies both paperwork and outreach activities.

Advisor provides resources, encouragement

Music therapy has been successfully used to treat a range of neurological and developmental issues – from Alzheimer’s and autism to depression and anxiety – McMillin said, but it isn’t top-of-mind for patients searching for help.

To find clients, she reached out to the Women’s Business Center and from there was referred to the Washington Small Business Development Center (SBDC) where she began meeting with Tammy Everts, a certified business advisor.

The Washington SBDC ( is a network of more than two dozen certified business advisors who provide no-cost, confidential, one-on-one business advising for entrepreneurs who want to start, grow or transition a business. Hosted by Washington State University, it receives funding from the U.S. Small Business Administration and other institutions of economic development and higher education.

Everts is one of three SBDC advisors in Spokane, along with business advisor Alan Stanford and international trade specialist Vern Jenkins.

“Tammy has just been amazing,” McMillin said. “She has hung in there with me, been my cheerleader and has given me resources.”

Helping clients help themselves

McMillin and Everts have worked on a business plan, marketing, networking, social media, website development and more. When McMillin’s networking efforts stalled, when her to-do list seemed overwhelming, when yet another office space was too expensive, small, big or far away, Everts was ready with another suggestion, resource or word of encouragement.

“I had somebody I could talk to,” McMillin said. “I had somebody who cared about my success.”

Their work together is starting to pay off. McMillin has as many clients as she can handle and is making inroads among other professionals who can help raise awareness about the benefits of music therapy. In September, she gave a presentation to the Spokane Music Teachers Association; in October, she spoke to the staff at St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Institute.

“People want me to fix them,” she said, but that’s not her role. Instead, she uses music in a therapeutic relationship to help clients identify their challenges and develop skills to overcome them. “They need to do the work,” she said.

Everts, who has been an SBDC advisor since 2014, said that sounds a lot like her job, too: “We don’t do the work, but we can give our clients tools, resources and expertise that significantly increase their ability to succeed.”


News media contacts:
Kim McMillin, Center for Music Therapy, 509-979-4357,
Tammy Everts, Washington SBDC in Spokane, 509-358-7893,