Music Therapy Advocacy for the Right-Brained Music Therapist

by admin on January 22, 2012


Introduction: Advocacy –> Recognition –> Access

Since 2005, the American Music Therapy Association and the Certification Board for Music Therapists have collaborated on a State Recognition Operational Plan. The primary purpose of this Plan is to get music therapy and our MT-BC credential recognized by individual states so that citizens can more easily access our services. The AMTA Government Relations staff and CBMT Regulatory Affairs staff provide guidance and technical support to state task forces throughout the country as they work towards state recognition. To date, their work has resulted in 35 active state task forces, 2 licensure bills passed in 2011, and an estimated 10 bills being filed in 2012 that seek to create either a music therapy registry or license for music therapy. This month, our focus is on YOU and on getting you excited about advocacy.


Have you ever taken one of those quizzes that measures your Right Brain/Left Brain dominance?  I always find them interesting since I usually score Right Brain (97%) and Left Brain (3%).  My learning tends to gravitate more towards tactile, kinesthetic, and auditory pathways.  Visual learning (especially reading) usually comes in last.  So when I use social media (like reviewing the other advocacy posts out there by my amazing colleagues)- I confess- I spend the most time reviewing the posts that have video content or podcast clips.

With my right brain dominance, I tend to process the whole better than the parts or details.  Maybe that is why I just can’t seem to sit through a state informational meeting at a conference at…what is it usually… like 7:30am?  I do always find someone who went to the meeting to summarize all the key points and news for me though- bless them.  So I thought, why not create an advocacy post to relate to my advocacy style?  After all I am a big, bright advocate for my clients/consumers and my profession, I’m just not “task-force material” in the typical sense.  Seriously, when I receive a New York State Task-Force Announcement, I feel like I need a personal interpreter to interpret what I am reading:

Luckily, the music therapists serving on the New York State Task-Force are amazing and are so patient to decipher everything for me. :)  And let’s face it, New York State is it’s own breed of complication and confusion when it comes to licensure.

So, in hopes of reaching some of you new advocates out there, (or those with severe right-brain dominance), who want to advocate for your profession, I wanted to share some of the directions my advocacy has taken me and provide you with some advocacy ideas/tips.

1.  Membership

Maintain your AMTA professional membership and CBMT credentials, and encourage all music therapy students, music therapy interns, and current music therapy professionals to do the same.  I can’t even count the number of times I have turned to the AMTA and CBMT teams for advocacy tools, resources, clarifications, and solid advice.

2. Thanking Those Who Work Hard for Your Profession

Personally, or through an email, thank the people working on your state’s task force.  They dedicate their time and energy on very complicated projects and vigilantly keep track of the changes that could affect our practice.  If you can’t be part of your state’s task force- show respect and admiration for those who are working hard to make changes in our profession. :)

3. Advocacy Starts with Your Clients/Consumers and Their Families

Encourage clients, consumers, and family members to share with others how they are benefiting from MUSIC THERAPY with a MUSIC THERAPIST.  Provide your credentials and detail your training through conversations, brochures, websites, or other materials.

4. Share Your Work with Other Professionals

Find ways to collaborate with other educators, related service providers, and administrators to clarify music therapy at all levels.  Team together to provide a short inservice to board members and actively DEMONSTRATE music therapy with audio or video clips or through other media formats.

5. Share Your Successes

Blog about your success stories.  Share song strategies and interventions with other music therapists.  This is a way of sharing evidence-based practice.  Post songs and videos of clients and consumers when possible.  Document helpful resources through Twitter, Facebook, and other social media avenues.  If you don’t have have your own website or YouTube account, ask to post on someone else’s site.  Guesting blogging is a great way to reach a new set of listeners!

6. Bring Music Therapy to the Community

Look for ways to collaborate and connect with other agencies, groups, politicians, and advocates in the area.  This year my Blue Ridge Music Therapy Center is staging a musical with a local theater group, a music studio, and other community volunteers!  You can bet that we will be contacting local media and TV stations!


I love to summarize (that’s so right-brained of me), so here are some key points for advocacy in our field:

  • Advocacy is for everyone and comes in many forms!
  • When advocating, understand your audience and what language to use to best advocate for music therapy.
  • Connect with your state task force and/or connect with AMTA Government Relations staff or the CBMT Regulatory Affairs staff for more information about the State Recognition Operation Plan.
Here is another kind of quiz for you to take to uncover your advocacy style:


Superstar or Behind-the-Scenes Sleuth: What’s Your Advocacy Style?


There are many ways to be an advocate. You can be the one who talks face-to-face with a legislator or agency official, or the one who helps behind-the-scenes in organizing grassroots efforts. You can serve on a state task force or help out with periodic letter writing efforts and Hill Day events. What kind of advocate are you: a superstar or a behind-the-scenes sleuth? Take this little quiz to find out!

Be sure to let us know in the comments section what type of advocate you are!

Take the Quiz

1. When asked by your state recognition task force if you know whom your current State Senator and/or Representative are, your reply is:

  1. “Good question.”
  2. “I think I know, but let me double-check.”
  3. “Yes, I know the names but not much about them.”
  4. “Yes, they’ve already heard from me about an issue.”

2. Which best describes the written correspondence (e.g. email, letter, etc.) you have had with your Senator and/or Representative:

  1. I’m on a first-name basis with at least one of their staff members.
  2. You’re kidding, right?
  3. I’ve considered writing, but don’t really know how the process works.
  4. I’ve made contact on at least one occasion about an issue.

3. You have been approached by your state recognition task force to participate in a “Hill Day” to make visits to legislators regarding state recognition of music therapy. Your first thought is:

  1. “That sounds scary, but if you give me some guidance I’ll give it a shot.”
  2. “Do you need me to help train others? I’ve done this before.”
  3. “Isn’t there another committee or task I can help with?”
  4. “I’m happy to go as long as I don’t have to do the talking.”

4. You are just settling in to your seat for a 2-hour flight when the person next to you asks, “What do you do?” After you respond, the questions begin. You think:

  1. “I don’t mind sharing, but I want to listen to the CD I downloaded before this flight. Let’s wrap it up.”
  2. “So far, so good. I hope I can answer all their questions.”
  3. “Bring on the questions. I love these opportunities to educate!”
  4. “I wish I’d said I was a dental hygienist.”

5. An agency that you work for has asked you to give a presentation about music therapy to their Foundation Board. You see this as:

  1. A little bit of a daunting task but do-able, as long as you can confer with colleagues for help and practice.
  2. An ulcer in the making. Is there someone else that can cover this one?
  3. No sweat. I love doing this sort of thing and could do it in my sleep.
  4. This could be fun. I have a little practice with this and welcome the chance to be in front of a new group.

6. You get a call from a colleague in the state association to talk about the “State Recognition Operational Plan” and what your thoughts are on pursuing licensure. You:

  1. Recall hearing something about this and are glad for the chance to ask questions and talk about what is happening in the state.
  2. Want to know about being more involved with the task force or how you can help.
  3. Aren’t sure they have the right number.
  4. Are part of the team making these calls.

7. As you sit down with the morning newspaper you notice that the opening of the current legislative session is front page news. The article outlines what the major issues are for this session. You:

  1. Skip past that to find the weather for this week.
  2. Skim through to get a sense of what issues are going to be “hot topics.”
  3. Make a note to see what committees your Senator and Representative are on in case they might be able to help.
  4. Wonder why the writer of this article didn’t cover the healthcare issues with the same depth as the online coverage that you’ve been following.

8. You receive an e-mail from your state task force asking you to complete a survey about your work as a music therapist. You:

  1. Helped create the survey and look forward to compiling the results so you can figure out the music therapy profile in your state. What a great advocacy tool!
  2. Hope to get around to it in the next week or so but think, “Haven’t I already answered these questions?”
  3. Complete it right then and sign up to be contacted in the event that they need help with state recognition tasks.
  4. Delete. No time for another survey.

9. At the urging of a friend you agreed to join your state task force. On the most recent call, the group is deciding who will take on particular tasks. You are most likely to:

  1. Take the lead on writing correspondence to your colleagues as long as you can get some feedback and support from the other task force members.
  2. Volunteer to be the chair of the task force. You are ready to lead!
  3. Take on a task that can be done by searching the internet and providing information to help the group’s effort.
  4. Participate in calls and weigh in with an occasional opinion about what the group should do next.

10. The efforts of your task force have paid off and there is a bill proposed to license music therapists going before the Health and Human Services Committee on the Senate side. Your sponsoring Senator has indicated that a few of you should speak at the hearing. You:

  1. Look forward to hearing how that works out.
  2. Are willing to contact a client’s family that might be willing to share their story.
  3. Are happy to help organize materials as long as you don’t have to speak in front of anyone.
  4. Have had your presentation and remarks ready for weeks. Bring on the committee.

Tally Your Score

Question 1: a=1, b=2, c=3, d=4

Question 2: a=4, b=1, c=2, d=3

Question 3: a=3, b=4, c=1, d=2

Question 4: a=2, b=3, c=4, d=1

Question 5: a=2, b=1, c=4, d=3

Question 6: a=2, b=3, c=1, d=4

Question 7: a=1, b=2, c=3, d=4

Question 8: a=4, b=2, c=3, d=1

Question 9: a=3, b=4, c=2, d=1

Question 10: a=1, b=3, c=2, d=4

What’s Your Advocacy Personality?

Don’t forget! Be sure to let us know in the comments section what type of advocate you are and who directed you to this quiz. :)

34-40 points: Loud and Proud

Maybe YOU should run for office?! Your advocacy style is a front-and-center, informed, direct approach. You aren’t afraid to take any and all opportunities presented to you to promote your cause. Whether it is making sure you are up-to-date with the latest “intel,” staying connected to your colleagues and professional happenings, writing e-mails or taking meetings, you make sure that you are well informed and that your voice is heard.

26-33 points: Not Afraid to Take the Lead

You are excited about the possibility of working for change and you aren’t afraid to talk to others or take on a leadership role as long as you have some support and guidance from others. You enjoy sharing ideas with about the profession and how to achieve change.

18-25 points: Behind-the-Scenes Sleuth

You are committed to helping out the group in a role that does not require you to be front and center. You work to stay informed and are happy to search the internet, write a letter or e-mail, or deal with tasks that allow you time to process and respond.

10-17 points: Supporting Role

While you feel invested, you aren’t necessarily comfortable being front-and-center to answer questions or lead the charge. You prefer a supportive role that helps further the cause. Rest assured that there are lots of advocacy tasks that would not get done without the support of those who are more comfortable doing the detail or research work that supports the more vocal members of the group. Maintaining membership and board-certification, responding to surveys and requests from your task force, and reading organizational news are ways to be involved without committing a huge amount of time.

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