So I just had one of those gut-wrenching, butterfly-in-the-stomach, mama-bear-protecting-her-cub type of moments. In this case, I was the mama bear and my cub was music therapy.
It started a few days ago when a local Austin reporter emailed me to see if they could set up a phone interview….
The woman told me she was “doing an interview on music therapy”, and would I “be interested in being an additional resource for information on what music therapy was, what music therapists did, where we worked, etc.” I was absolutely honored she asked me and ultimately, incredibly excited that an article on music therapy would be displayed in a highly-circulated newspaper! I jumped at the opportunity to talk with her.
Fast forward to today.
The reporter called and I began answering her questions about the field. She was genuinely interested in knowing more about music therapy and I appreciated her honest and straightforward questions. I felt as though everything went really well and I couldn’t help but think how this article would help spread the word about who we are and what we do as MTs.
At the end of our conversation, I asked her about her story, the focus, and where/who else would be interviewed (I think we’ve learned to be so protective of this field and I wanted to make sure music therapy was not going to be confused with anything else). I’m so, so glad I asked.
It turns out that she is doing an article about a nursing home that is implementing this program into the rooms of their residents: http://www.corohealth.com/ (additional articles can be found here and here). I’m not dogging this program (in fact, the product description reads that a music therapist helped in the creation of it, along with neuroscientists, nurses, etc.); however, I am saying that it is not a representative of the field of music therapy and it is VERY different from what we do as board-certified music therapists.
We as music therapists use live interventions, live music, & live communication. We create goals and objectives. We have evidence-based data, research articles, a national association (AMTA), and academic journals. We adapt to what the client’s need is at that very moment and we work with them, personally, to address their cognitive, emotional, physical, and social needs. A computer system CANNOT replicate what we do as therapists.
(If you disagree or agree with any of the above, I’d love to have you say so in a comment below!)
Unfortunately, upon finding out this information, I had to ask her to not use any of my quotes, as I did not want people to get this program confused with music therapy. I also asked her to not use the term “music therapy” or “music therapist” in the article. I felt really bad at first….as though I had wasted the reporter’s time and/or ruined her article. I was also literally sick to my stomach that I had almost had all of my music therapy quotes, anecdotes, and experiences associated with this program.
THE BRIGHT SIDE….and there is a bright side
I realized that this was a good experience for me, and that this will more than likely not be an isolated case. I will encounter having to make this kind of distinction again and again throughout my career. It also gave me a chance to tell her that I would be willing to work with her on an article about music therapy services that are happening in Austin and get her in contact with music therapists in the area that are working in nursing homes, hospitals, mental health facilities, pediatric clinics, etc. Austin has some truly amazing therapists and I told her their stories and experiences would make a killer article!
It is by no means the fault of the reporter or the nursing home to assume this system would be synonymous with what we do as music therapists. If anything, it just created another opportunity for me to advocate for the “real deal” and allowed me to see just how big of a difference one conversation about music therapy can make. Additionally, I realized that while many more are discovering what music therapy is, there is still SUCH a need for music therapy advocacy!
I’m beyond excited about an upcoming opportunity to speak with my local congressman’s district director on the 22nd of this month. I hope to further spread the word about music therapy and the need for state recognition! If any of you have spoken with the local government regarding music therapy, I’d love to hear any suggestions you may have for me! Thank you in advance!