Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Top 5 Ways to Advocate For Music Therapy in Your Workplace

Introduction: Advocacy --> Recognition --> Access

Since 2005, the American Music TherapyAssociation 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.

My aim is to help you be a better advocate for music therapy at your workplace, wherever that may be.  Some of these ideas are self-evident, but we don't always think  about them in terms of professional advocacy.  I do not have these in rank order, so you decide what is more important and/or applies to you.  

1. Be on time!  Nothing is better than clients and staff being able to rely on you to be punctual, even a little early!  This clearly reflects how seriously you take your job and the importance of music therapy.

2. Dress the part.  Music therapists work in every conceivable type of setting, so there is obviously no music therapy "uniform."  But we can all still choose to dress up instead of down.  This is just my bias, but even when I was allowed to wear shorts and an un-tucked shirt to do therapy on the floor for the early childhood classroom, I simply never took up the offer.  I was at least wearing khaki pants and and tucked in my shirt.  

People are making assumptions all the time according to the way you dress, even if it is unfair.  In fact, sometimes it may not be enough just to dress professionally.  You may even need to go the extra mile and put on a lab coat or other standard piece of uniform.  This may seem ostentatious, but at some hospitals, for example, you may be unconsciously or pointedly ignored at a meeting if you are not part of the white coat club! 

3. Paperwork.  Generally speaking, most people who are around music therapy in action are in awe of its power.  Unfortunately, music doesn't translate that well through reports!  A large majority of exposure for music therapy will be through our progress notes and reports.  Many of the people that read these will have never seen a live music therapy session!  

So it goes without saying that every note and report needs to be edited and reviewed.  Don't let typos and silly mistakes slip through.  Although it can be very difficult to keep up with paperwork sometimes, try to make each note unique and pertinent to each client.

4. Volunteer!  No matter where you work, there will be chances for you to do a staff in-service or make a presentation about music therapy.  Don't be afraid!  Seek out these opportunities, even if you do not like public speaking.  When you get your gig, ask for help from the MT community in your neighborhood or on the web.  We are here to help!

5. Be creative!  Continually push yourself to use improvisation and creative songs and activities.  It can be easy to rely on recordings and well-known songs to fill out therapy sessions, and these things have their place.  But, we are hired to do what other musicians, teachers and health care workers can't do with music.  

We are the ones trained to observe the small indicators that tell us to speed up or slow down a song or add more or less emotional context.  Push yourself to make up songs on the fly and try creative rhythmic activities.  Ask to be given the most challenging clients and use your creativity to make a difference.  This will create job security and expand the possibilities!               

--Have fun being an advocate this month and always!  After the break, you can take a quiz to see what kind of advocate personality you have.  Are  you comfortable with the type of advocate you are right now?  Or do you want to push yourself to be a different kind of advocate?  Find out by clicking now!


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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