5 Ways to Advocate
by Olivia Harrington
A person enters the room with egg shakers rattling in their bag, a guitar strapped on their shoulder, scarves hanging from their music bag, and a large djembe hooked under their arm. This is what staff members, clients, and passersby see as the music therapist enters various locations. Throughout their day, music therapists might be faced with the question “are you here to entertain us?” or the statement, “yay, the music person is here!” While these statements are often innocent and well-intentioned, it is important that music therapists know how to respond in a way that embraces their enthusiasm while providing a little more understanding about the true nature of music therapy practice.
As always, it is important to lead with compassion: this is where advocacy comes in. Advocacy in Latin means "to give a voice" to a cause according to the Effective Communities Project.
Here are five ways to advocate for music therapy:
1. Have an elevator pitch.
- One to three minutes long.
- Easy to understand language.
- Keywords that represent the field.
A good elevator pitch can grasp the listener's attention, especially when you only have a short opportunity to talk in the middle of your busy, session-filled day.. Using easy to understand language can help others ‘digest’ the information they are listening to. Your language might change depending on who you are talking to. For example, if you are talking to a nurse/doctor about music therapy, you might use ‘their language’ (metabolic facts, vital signs, diagnoses), versus talking to a teacher (IEP goals, learning objectives, academic goals). Finally, use keywords that represent the field like ‘evidence-based’ or ‘clinical’ to further the emphasis on the professional mission of music therapy.
Here is an example elevator pitch:
Q: What even is music therapy? What do you do?
A: I am a board-certified music therapist! I use music to help people work on therapeutic non-musical goals.. Last week, I used music assisted relaxation to decrease a client’s symptoms of anxiety prior to a procedure. I am on my way to a patient who uses rhythmic entrainment to support range of motion goals. We work with all ages, from NICU babies to hospice care.
2. Table local events.
- Be friendly and engaging.
- Bring business cards, flyers, and pamphlets.
- Have a table cover and a sign.
Tabling local events can help spread the word to your local community about music therapy and your impact. It is important to bring business cards that have relevant information for people to take with them. Table covers help your table look professional and approachable as it draws people in. Signs and pamphlets can add to the WOW factor of the table and is a conversation starter. Bonus tip: create music therapy swag like a DIY egg shaker station, instrument exploration corner, or stickers!
3. Call on Congress.
- Connect with your state’s CBMT taskforce.
- Know your local music therapy goals.
- Be optimistic.
Contacting members of congress can help spread the voices of music therapists and music therapy students alike. The Certification Board of Music Therapists (CBMT) has an interactive website to search for and explore CBMT taskforce information. In Florida there is an active task force that last met in 2019, and currently there are no bills being presented in the state for music therapy. No matter the size of your local taskforce, or the politics of your state, know that you can make a change.
4. Post on social media.
- Have a catchy name.
- Define your audience.
- Connect with followers.
Social media is the source of resources, communication, and sometimes it is the primary way that people stay up with current events. When creating a social media page, ensure that your name is catchy and relevant to the content you wish to create. Define your audience by posting content that they can connect to, including music therapy resources, song share, testimonial quotes, and more!
Music therapy social media pages I like to use:
5. Host a “Lunch and Learn”
- Create interactive presentations.
- Bring testimonials.
- Include instrument play.
“Lunch and Learns” are another unique way to engage staff members, interdisciplinary field colleagues, families, and clients. Providing interactive opportunities (such as instrument play / call and response) throughout your presentation can increase crowd engagement.
Elise Scullin, MT-BC at Music Therapy St. Pete, LLC. says:
“One experience I had with a lunch and learn presentation was with a senior community group in San Diego. My co-presenter and I gave a brief overview of music therapy and its benefits, specifically surrounding music for relaxation and cognitive stimulation. I then got to lead a fun, interactive guided relaxation and mindfulness experience with live music. Following the relaxation, my co-presenter led a live drumming affirmation experience. This was a great opportunity, not only to advocate for music therapy, but to show people the benefits on the spot and have a positive interaction with a community group.”