Advocacy is powerful. It is our individual role and responsibility to be advocates. Yet, most people avoid it. “I don’t have any influence.”  “No one listens to me.” “What would I say?”  Yes, it feels risky. It is, to use a wonderful image created by my teacher Alicia Clair for a different context, “standing in a hammock”. When we consider engaging in advocacy it might feels like we are falling. We fear slipping into a hole. We fear our words get twisted. Or, we might get comfortable with the status quo and avoid advocacy, avoid the hammock. But, why not find a way to enjoy the hammock and advocate.

by Kristan Higginsimage

There are professional advocates and these people play a role, yet I don’t find them to be the most convincing. They are paid to promote an issue. Yet, sometimes we need these people as they can assist us in contacting the correct people at the correct time. They can help us find a sense of stability as we stand in the advocacy hammock.

Professionals in a field can be powerful advocates but people can view them as protecting their jobs. Again, it is important for many (especially those in field like music therapy) to advocate for their profession, their clients. In fact, if you are a music therapist, I challenge you to actively be an advocate. Take the advocacy quiz and find out how you can best serve our profession. Maybe you don’t have to stand in the hammock, you need only kneel, sit, or support the hammock for others.

In my opinion the most convincing people to advocate are the common people sharing why something is important.  Their personal story can be so compelling. This was evident in a December 16, 2011 NPR program Science Friday when a mother called in and spoke about the power music therapy had with her son. If you or a loved one has utilized music therapy services, we encourage you to join us in advocacy! In my opinion, these are the people most likely to make the advocacy hammock move.

If you have a belief that something is important, then advocate for it. Since 2005,the American Music Therapy Association and the Certification Board for Music Therapist 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.

I am an advocate for my profession in many ways. One, I serve on the Kansas State Advocacy Task Force for Music Therapy. Another is serving as a speaker  at various community gatherings. This week as a part of my advocacy I am speaking to two classes at Russell High School. If you would like me to share information on music therapy with a group, please contact me! 

Advocacy can be simple. Here are my suggestions for my readers:

  1. Learn more about music therapy. Visit the American Music Therapy Association and Certification Board for Music Therapist sites. Read about the profession. Find a music therapist in you area and ask about their work.
  2. Ask a music therapist to speak to a group to which you belong. It might be at your work, a civic group, a class. We enjoy sharing how you can use music in your life along with information about music therapy.
  3. If appropriate, inquire about music therapy services for yourself or a loved one. Hospitals, long-term care, rehabilitation, assisted living, community centers, early intervention centers, and school districts can all be appropriate place to ask. Music therapy can be utilized in individual and group settings.
  4. Speak to your state legislators about issues important to you. (Yes, I hope that includes music therapy.) Email them, call them, or stop them on the street. The legislators I have met really want to know what is important to their constituents.
  5. Speak to local policy makers (school board members, city and county council members to name a few) about important issues. Ask what they know about music therapy. Provide them resources from this post or a fact sheet from the American Music Therapy Association.

Come join me in the advocacy hammock! What’s your first step? Share it in the comments.

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