Saturday, January 15, 2011

Let Me Explain Something You May Not Know

Sometime within these past five years, I became an advocate of music therapy. I’d like to believe I know myself pretty well, but somehow I managed to transform into this role by accident. It was pretty sneaky how it happened, considering the fact that I was NOT looking for this hat to wear on top of all the others. And let’s just be honest here. You’re probably wearing that hat as well.

An advocate of music therapy is any person that stands up for our field. It might simply be someone that answers the question, “What is music therapy?” We answer this question a lot. Beyond this, students and professionals regularly practice advocacy when they dress up and attend an observation, practicum, internship, or other session. Generally, if you wear the hat of music therapist or music therapy student, then you can already consider yourself an advocate.

Knowing that you are already an advocate of music therapy, I want you to consider two things. One, in your everyday life, represent your career choice to the best of your ability. This means dress appropriately, speak intelligently, and act professionally. Put your best into every meeting, planning, and session. Two, is it possible to do more? If you love your field, let people know it. Make your circle just a little larger and teach people the reasons you love music therapy. Speak up and make your voice just a little bit bigger.

Because government has a hand in everything we do, the ultimate goal here is to let the big guys know that our field is worth a penny. You can do this on whatever level makes you feel comfortable. If you are comfortable speaking out on behalf of music therapy within your current circle of friends, this increases awareness in hopes that they might spread your word in their own circles. If you wish to go beyond this, you can speak out to businesses and potential music therapy clients. These are the people that can directly invest in our field. One of the greatest impacts I think you can make however, is to directly contact government representatives. If this is where the thought of advocacy gets scary, let me help make it less intimidating.

Generally, there are three layers of representatives: national, state, and local.

National level:
You have two senators to represent your state and one congressman to represent your district or community (that makes three letters).
U.S. Senate: (search for your state in the drop down box)
U.S. House of Representatives:

State level:
Find the website for your state legislature. The number of representatives that you can contact will depend on your state.

Local level:
Find the website for your city council and county commission (or find the equivalent of this; the names of these will vary depending where you live). The number of these will also vary.

With just a few letters (and they can all be the same, folks, just change the header!) you can get word directly to the people that directly influence our field. If a bill ever comes to their attention that involves music therapy, they may remember your letter and vote in its favor! The more they hear the words “music therapy,” the more likely it is to stick. So make your voice heard. With this new year, make a resolution to contact at least one representative. And what to say? Answer that question, “What is music therapy?” Tout the benefits. Mention the incredible research supporting it. The point, I think, is just to say “Music therapy is important to me, and as my representative it should be important to you too.”

Well advocate, thank you for reading this blog post. This may be one of the most important posts I make all year. If you have questions (I will answer any to the best of my ability!) or comments, please leave a message below.


  1. Nice post, Michelle. You make excellent points about presenting ourselves professionally! While I just assume it's what we do, it's not always the case, and it definitely is worth saying. Thanks!

  2. You made some great points, Michelle. Thanks for sharing this!

  3. I love how you said to "make your circle a little larger," and "your voice a little bigger." Those are exactly the things I am working on this year!