January is Music Therapy advocacy month and many MT’s are blogging about the many ways that you can help spread the word about this unique profession. One of the main goals of advocacy is to increase the availability of music therapy services for those in need. As the national organizations (The American Music Therapy Association, AMTA and The Certification Board for Music Therapists, CBMT) work on the national and state levels, tasks forces and individuals work on state and local levels.
Creating Advocacy Opportunities
As music therapists (and those who are supporters of music therapy) we often end up having to define it for those who are unfamiliar with it. We do this through our websites, books, publications and in-person conversations. I see each of these methods as equally important in reaching the overall goal of increasing the availability of music therapy services.
Speaking to Groups
I was recently presenting several sessions at a national music education conference in Australia. Knowing that music therapy is an emerging profession in Australia and having been asked several times about music therapy by conference attendees, I approached the conference director with the idea of giving a short talk about music therapy during one of the lunch breaks. She happily announced the talk during the morning meeting and I ended up with close to 40 people. I was able to provide an overview of Music Therapy services (including the educational and certification process) and answer questions. As a result of my small request and talk, there are at least 40 people who have a greater understanding of and support for music therapy.
Speaking to Individuals
I was admiring a booth of ukuleles at a national music industry conference when I met a fellow ukulele player. As we talked, I discovered that she creates musical experiences for underserved children and adults–both locally and internationally. When she found out that I am a music therapist, she started asking all kinds of questions. Given her current work, it’s no surprise. We both related to those ‘magical moments’ and transformative experiences that come about through music and quickly shared our stories with each other. She is a natural for music therapy; musical, friendly, excited about helping people, and passionate. As a result of our conversation, she now knows about some options for her as well as about the profession in general. I imagine that she will help others know more about music therapy, whether or not she pursues it as a career.
Something that I’m learning is that almost everyone wants to know more about music therapy. I’m also getting better at creating opportunities to do just that. We can wait for someone to give us the chance to talk about music therapy–or we can create opportunities by volunteering our time, asking people about their professions and relating them to MT, and simply telling people around us about what we do. Never underestimate the power of the individual to impact a movement. This means you! All you have to do is ask.
A Few Tips
As we talk about music therapy, to groups or individuals, we can all use some simple and effective ways to help people understand what it is (and what it isn’t). Here are some phrases that I often use to do just that. I hope you find them useful!
- “Music Therapy is done with someone, not to someone.” (It’s more than just music or ‘sound.’ It’s a relationship. The client plays an active role in the experience and in reaching his/her goals.)
- “Music Therapists share goals with physical therapists, speech therapists, occupational therapists, and psycho therapists, but we reach those goals through music-based experiences.” (This helps connect MT with professions that are likely to be familiar to most people and it explains why MT is unique.)
- “Music Therapists design, improvise and deliver all kinds of music-based experiences to help their clients. What we do depends on our clients’ needs.” (Helps people understand that we are therapists who work dynamically with our clients, like other therapists. Music Therapy is not a type of experience, it’s a profession. People sometimes ask “What does a music therapist do during a session?” and I sometimes answer with the question “What does a doctor do during a session?” Answer: What is needed according to the needs of the client. A music therapist offers lots of options, like a medical doctor. )
- “Music Therapy is to music entertainment (or recreational music making) what Physical Therapy is to having a massage. (Helps people understand the difference between various types of experience, i.e., therapy vs. recreation)
I always like to hear from you. Please leave your comments below and remember to speak up for music therapy!