Each January, music therapists from around the world come together to support and advocate for the field of music therapy on social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, music therapy blogs and beyond. This year’s project theme is “We are…” and will center on exploring and honoring our identity as music therapists and as a distinct and stand-alone profession, unique from other professions and professionals with which we work. This music therapy intern and baby blogger could not be more honored to participate in this exciting music therapy advocacy movement this year!
This post goes out to all you music therapy students and interns…because I believe that we play a very important role in music therapy advocacy efforts! Today, I want to share with you 5+ tips (and some personal stories from my own experiences) to empower you to be an awesome student advocate for our profession.
1. Though you may not feel like a professional yet…always act like one!
When you’re out in the community for your practicum work or internship, you are constantly representing the field of music therapy. Dress well, be respectful and leave a good impression of yourself wherever you go. You never know what future opportunities may come of it!
For example: During one of my practicums at Shenandoah University, my practicum partner and I formed an awesome relationship with our placement site—a fantastic educational group for parents of children with autism called Essential Pieces (http://lfsva.org/essential-pieces/). While the parents meet downstairs and listen to seminars given by local professionals working in the field of ASD, their kids are provided with free services including music therapy, social groups and sensory experiences.
At the conclusion of our practicum placement, my partner and I were asked to return in the springtime as GUEST SPEAKERS to talk about music therapy for children with ASD. How cool is that?! It was such an awesome experience to teach about and advocate for music therapy with the parents of the clients we had been working with for months. If we hadn’t maintained a professional working relationship with Essential Pieces, we might not have been given that opportunity. We were even interviewed for a segment on the local news about the benefits of music therapy!
2. Don’t isolate yourself from fellow students and working music therapists.
Reach out and make some new music therapy friends! Think how awesome it might be to talk with music therapists from all over the country (and world)…and how even more awesome it would be to meet them in person at the next MT conference!
- Be brave and expand your network beyond your circle of music therapy friends and professors. Send an e-mail to a music therapist you admire in your area and ask if you can shadow them for a day or take them out to coffee to talk about what they do.
- Get to know other students and MTs on twitter, instagram or in music therapy facebook groups.
- Start a pinterest music therapy board and share it with your friends. Talk about how you might adapt some of the activities that you find or have a pinterest crafting party and make some visual aids! To get started, feel free to share your pinterest page with me! I’d love to follow you and see what awesome MT ideas you’re pinning. Check mine out at: (http://www.pinterest.com/kcorne4/)
- Go to conferences!
3. Be aware of what’s happening in the field by reading…A LOT!
I know what a challenge it can be to find time to read for pleasure or to do self-motivated research when you’ve got a mountain of school assignments waiting for you every day.
But who you are as a music therapist is not just where you went to school or where you interned; it’s a lifelong personal philosophy that is always growing and changing.
Stay open minded to variety of approaches and I guarantee that you’ll never stop building your own unique style as a music therapist.
- Set goals. These could be as simple as reading three articles per month or reading one book chapter per week. But the important thing here is to try to find readings outside of school assignments about different populations, techniques and issues from a range of viewpoints (I know, I know…there’s no time!!! But the extra effort will be worth it, I promise.).
- Mix it up! Over the past few months, I’ve read books written by teachers and OTs (The Out-of-Sync Child: Kranowitz and Miller), psychologists (Engaging Autism: Greenspan), neurologists (Musicophilia: Sachs). I urge you to learn from related professions and think about how you can adapt and apply these techniques to your own MT practice!
- Start a MT book club with your friends. Have a pizza party once a month and talk about what you’ve been reading! (Seriously though…any takers for this one? Who wants to start a book club?! :D)
4. Get involved in advocacy efforts in a way that makes you feel comfortable.
Joining volunteer efforts (whether big or small) will introduce you to your local MTs and keep you up-to-date on what’s happening in your area. As you transition from student to professional, this is a great way to get your name out there and be an active contributor to music therapy advocacy in your state or region.
- Join your state music therapy task force. Many state task forces have spots for student representatives, but you can also ask for any additional volunteer work they might need help with or if any committees are short on members. You’ll never know until you ask! Contact Judy Simpson at AMTA (firstname.lastname@example.org) or your region/state’s MT association to find out how you can help.
- If your state has its own music therapy organization, get involved. Even attending just one meeting will help you get to know other local music therapists and fill you in on what’s going on in your region!
- Start a music therapy blog. If that sounds too overwhelming, read and comment on other blogs. This is a great way to have discussions with other MTs as well as find some ways to enhance your own work as a student or intern. But know that the music therapy blogging community is extremely welcoming to new bloggers! There are so many amazing resources out there to look to for advice and support as you explore blogs for ideas or think about starting your own.
- When you see a great blog post or newspaper article about music therapy, share it with friends or family.
5. Never be afraid to bring your new ideas to the table.
The great thing about MT students and interns is that we are just so darn EXCITED about what we’re doing. Offer your unique perspective and energy about music therapy by sharing some fresh ideas at your next state MT association meeting or on a blog post.
I hope that this list might inspire and challenge you to find one new way to contribute to music therapy advocacy not only this month but year round. I’d love to hear how you plan to advocate for music therapy in the comment section below!
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