Response to “Some Reflections About Representativity”

Schapira (2005; 2012) has interesting thoughts on the responsibilities and effects of advocacy, which he termed “representing (2005)” or “representativity (2012).” Schapira (2012) stated that the individual work of each music therapist reflects the work of every music therapist. By that logic, our work here in the United States is supporting the advocacy efforts of other music therapists internationally. Schapira also commented that while representing is vital to our profession it may not be enough. He stated:

“It is an attribute, and I dare say that it is also an obligation, of the intermediate institutions that nucleate us. I refer to universities, associations of Music Therapy, regional organizations (like the Latin American Music Therapy Committee or the European Music Therapy Confederation) and the World Federation of Music Therapy (para. 3).”

With this in mind, it can be seen that advocacy is a global effort on individual, communal, and organizational levels. Advocating is part of our job as music therapists. Advocating for state recognition has become an important component of working as a music therapist in the United States. Presently, State Task Forces are seeking ways to be involved in state regulations regarding music therapy. Additionally, music therapists are seeking involvement in other pieces of legislation important to our clientele.

State recognition in the United States can be defined as the "policies and processes by which the state government and agencies recognize a particular profession (Moore, 2012a, para. 4)." These policies are as individual as each state. Historically, service professionals such as music therapists have been regulated on the federal level. But in the 1990s, a shift was made to the state level (Moore, 2012a). Although the Certification Board for Music Therapists (CBMT) has certified music therapists nationally since the mid-1980’s, recent shifts in regulations have led to increased interest in state recognition (Moore, 2012a).

By 2005, the need for organization on this topic was apparent. The State Recognition Operational Plan (SROP) was created to address the growing needs and concerns regarding music therapy state recognition (Moore, 2012b; Resig, 2012). The SROP is a joint effort between the American Music Therapy Association’s (AMTA) Government Relations and CBMT's Regulatory Affairs staff (Moore, 2012a). Since its inception, the SROP has helped to create nearly 30 task forces throughout the United States and has been active in helping music therapists create legislation in states such as Arizona and North Dakota (Moore, 2012b & AMTA, 2011b). Currently, the SROP is chaired by Judy Simpson, Director of Government Relations for the AMTA, Dr. Dena Register, Regulatory Affairs Advisor for the CBMT, and Kimberly Sena Moore, Regulatory Affairs Associate for CBMT (Moore, 2012b).

Music therapists are looking to ensure two things through state recognition: 1) increased access to music therapy and 2) increased assurance that those providing services are qualified and reputable (Moore, 2012a). State recognition has become an integral part of the music therapy profession and those entering the field need to be knowledgeable and prepared. Abrams (2007) stated that it is important for music therapists to remain current in their knowledge of state regulations. Section 22.13 in the AMTA Professional Competencies states that music therapists will “respond to legislative issues effecting music therapy,” (AMTA, 2009b, para. 155). Additionally, the AMTA Code of Ethics (2008) states in section 6.1 that “The MT will strive to increase public awareness of music therapy,” (para. 56) a potential outcome of increased advocacy.

Another element to consider is that other professions are advocating and lobbying on issues affecting them. Americans for the Arts is a national foundation whose "mission is to serve, advance, and lead the network of organizations and individuals who cultivate, promote, sustain, and support the arts in America (Americans for the Arts, 2012a, para. 1)." Upon visiting their website, one can find several ways to become involved. In addition to explaining their own policies and agendas, Americans for the Arts shows their top legislative concerns, priorities, and updates (Americans for the Arts, 2012b).

Although state recognition is an important issue for music therapists, becoming an advocate and understanding these issues is not included in the AMTA Professional Competencies or Advanced Competencies at this time (AMTA 2009a; AMTA 2009b). In our efforts for state recognition thus far, the SROP and the State Task Force volunteers have been effective in some of our legislative efforts (AMTA, 2011a; AMTA, 2011b; Pinkerton, 2012).

Opportunities for self-education are available through CMTE trainings, conference presentations, blogging, and personal communication with your local task force. With conference season approaching in the United States, there are nearly 15 presentations and 5 Continuing Music Therapy Education (CMTE) courses being offered. In the Mid-Atlantic Region, Judy Simpson and Maria Hriko Fray (2012) led a CMTE regarding advocating for music therapy in our nation's capitol. After a short training on the eve of the event, music therapy professionals and students visited the offices of their senators and representatives to speak to them about issues affecting music therapy.

In addition to the opportunities for self-education, the SROP has released the "Music Therapy Advocacy: State Action Toolkit," a comprehensive guide to advocating for music therapy in your state (Simpson, Register, & Moore, 2011). This packet is a strong foundation for working towards state recognition in the United States. The State Action Toolkit includes information regarding how to find your Senator, form letters, and helpful hints on establishing rapport with government workers.

By maintaining our current practices, those who are most interested in this topic are given the opportunity to lead and initiate conversations with legislators. However, with only 170 active state task force volunteers (AMTA, 2011b) the time commitment becomes evident.

Additionally, if you agree with the ideas that Schparia presents in his writings, you must consider that the advocacy efforts in America are a direct reflection on music therapy globally. That being said, the importance of educated and effective advocates becomes more apparent. Although adding a thorough understanding of state recognition policies to the AMTA Professional Competencies may not be the feasible option currently, programs could consider introducing terminology and the importance of this issue to the next generation of music therapists in North American universities and colleges. By doing so, we help to cultivate the next generation of volunteer advocates.

State recognition ensures that our client's have the best access and reputable music therapists available. Advocating, whether for state recognition, better jobs, or increased public recognition, is an important part for music therapists in the United States and internationally. By combining self-education and basic education regarding these topics in undergraduate curriculum, we can ensure that current and future music therapists are educated advocates best suited to support our cause.