Monday, January 17, 2011

What is advocacy and why do we do it?- Part 1

Advocating for music therapy is, at its most basic, about telling people who we are, what we do, where we do what we do, with whom and how. It can be as simple as meeting someone at a party and responding to "what do you do for a living?" with "I'm a music therapist." And it can be as complex as working with legislators to get licensure for music therapists in your state. 

The reason we spend so much time advocating for music therapy is so that, when you and I are a lot older music therapists (and that's not to say that I'm not seriously getting to "older music therapist status" at a rapid rate here), when we say "I'm a music therapist," people will say "oh, my child is receiving music therapy services" or "I work with a music therapist in the hospital where I'm a nurse" instead of the blank stares that I used to get when I first started out back in 1987. 

In fact, the reason some of you younger folks (you know who you are) have even heard of music therapy is because there are a lot of us older folks (ahem) who've been talking about what we do for a long time.

Now, as more people are starting to learn about music therapy our focus as a profession has been turning toward gaining state recognition for what we do. After all, people who use our services (heck, sometimes music therapists use our services!) need to know they're receiving music therapy from someone who is trained, qualified, certified, and, in some states, licensed. 

Another thing we're working toward is third party payment. While there are some music therapists who are getting reimbursed by insurance companies, it is still extremely rare. Creative arts therapy providers will become a lot more accessible to those who need them when health insurance companies add "music therapy", "dance therapy" and "art therapy" to their lists of reimbursable services.

On another level, advocating for music therapy services is about creating jobs and opportunities for ourselves. We know why what we do is important, and we want to educate the people who could use our services. It also means helping the public to distinguish between music therapy, provided by a trained, board-certified music therapist, and the therapeutic use of music, provided by talented musicians who are sensitive to the needs of others.  Sometimes advocacy is about making sure we're appropriately compensated for the services we provide. The fact is that music therapists in many work situations are vastly underpaid in comparison to other allied health professionals. 

So, as you can see, advocacy is an important enough element that we need to, literally, build it into our work. In Part 2, I'll address some of the things I think are helpful as we engage in this process. 


Becoming Dr Doc said...

Loved this post as I identify as an - ahem - older music therapist!
Because of this or in spite of this, I have a similar dream for people to know about music therapy and for it to become a well recognised allied health. Work on I say!

Roia said...

So grateful that there are more of us "older" music therapists! :- ) It's good to keep the memories green (as they say).