A Social Media Advocacy Challenge

For the past several years, January is a month when Music Therapists take to their social media platforms in a combined effort to educate our online communities about our profession. This year the task force encourages the Music Therapy online community to maintain mindfulness in advocacy situations:

Title: Your Guide to Advocacy Zen

Advocacy can help open doors, produce opportunities for growth, expand your horizons, and grow your personal and professional network.

That said, advocacy is also not without its challenges. Over the course of the past decade, music therapists have been faced with responding to misinformed, potentially damaging comments that can serve to undermine the profession and services we provide, all while striving to continue moving forward with advocacy efforts that make a positive difference. These negative exchanges can lead to feelings of frustration, anger, and stress, and serve to potentially distract us from focusing on our clients and our work.

In light of the contentiousness that seems to surround legislative and policy issues, we propose incorporating a spirit of mindfulness to advocacy efforts. Mindfulness is defined as a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. This requires an awareness of our attitudes, feelings, thoughts, and actions; an understanding of how they impact our experiences and behaviors; and a willingness to take responsibility for our mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical well-being.

To that end, we offer the following guide to assist you in your search of an advocacy zen space and ask…when have you been REACTIVE or PROACTIVE in your advocacy efforts?

Scenario 1: When feeling REACTIVE to a misinformed comment, demeaning question, or misleading blog post…

How to react from an advocacy zen space:

Step 1 – Perceive. Notice the feeling and visceral reaction you are experiencing. Be aware of your physiological response to the situation.

Step 2 – Process. Implement coping strategies to help you process through your reaction and self-regulate. Take a slow, measured breath, count to 10, or walk away from the situation and take a break.

Step 3 – Respond. Be intentional in what you say and do in response to the situation. Redirect the conversation to the main focus: the client.

Scenario 2: When being PROACTIVE by taking initiative in advocating for the profession and our clients…

How to react from an advocacy zen space:

Step 1 – Visualize. Begin with the end of mind. Imagine what your ideal outcome would be without barriers and challenges. Envision your goal or purpose.

Step 2 – Develop. Focus on the strengths of your current situation as you design your strategy. What is working for you? What’s going well? What do you have that you can build upon?

Step 3 – Accept. Approach your plan with an attitude of acceptance. Though you begin with the end in mind, you may not know the path to get there or the obstacles that may occur. Be open to and accepting of the options and possibilities that are presented to you.

As the music therapy profession continues to move forward in its advocacy efforts, we encourage you to be mindful in your reactive responses and proactive endeavors. We cannot control the vitriol and negativity that seems common to the political climate, but we can control and take responsibility for our own reactions and responses. Let’s continue in our efforts from this  intentional advocacy zen space.


In light of this topic, advocacy mindfulness, I have decided to embark on a social media advocacy challenge. It occurred to me recently how many people I reach online, Facebook especially. When I post pictures of my life or big news or milestones my kids are reaching, it is seen and (I like to think) appreciated by friends from my high school years, college years, former coworkers, former co-interns, friends from churches, friends of my parents’, family members, extended family members, my in-laws and their friends, and even very random acquaintances. I have decided that I should start intentionally reaching out to this community. Throughout the month of January I am going to post something about Music Therapy every other day in efforts to educate, answer questions, and start conversations. One of my main resources for this project is the book Defining Music Therapy by Kenneth E. Bruscia because of it’s ease of understanding, eloquence of speech, and thorough information on topics within Music Therapy. However, I will also draw information from the many textbooks I have from college, the American Music Therapy Association website (www.musictherapy.org), and the Certification Board for Music Therapists website (www.cbmt.org).  

I would like to invite each of our readers to join me on this Advocacy Challenge throughout the month of January. Use your Facebook/Instagram/Blog/Radio Show/etc. to educate those around you on the details of what it is to be a Music Therapist. To make your involvement easier, I am sharing with you what I will be posting this week so you can copy/paste for your own use. I have written below what my first 3 posts will contain (to be used Monday, Wednesday and Friday) and I will keep updating the blog with my Exploring Music Therapy series as the month goes on. I will be blogging this month about how my project is going and will share any interesting interactions or conversations that come from it. Please share in the comments section or on our facebook page if you intend to join the challenge!

Be Musical and Happy New Year!


Exploring Music Therapy, Day 1. I am a Board Certified Music Therapist, and this month I am going to be making efforts to share with you, my online community, details about my profession. You can look forward to a new fact about an aspect of Music Therapy every other day. Please read, ask questions, and I hope I can share with you my love for my profession. To start, here is a broad definition from one of my favorite books, Defining Music Therapy by Kenneth Bruscia: “Music Therapy is the systematic process of intervention wherein the therapist helps the client to promote health, using music experiences and the relationships that develop through them as dynamic forces of change.”

Exploring Music Therapy Day 2: A common question I hear when people learn I’m a Music Therapist is “How do you use music in therapy?” This question can be taken from several different angles. The first thing to note is that we use Music Experiences, which means that there is a level of active involvement present from the client. The types of Music experiences utilized can fall into 4 categories:
1. Improvisatory – Spontaneous musical expression which involves the Therapist responding to the unique actions of the client. This experience can address is establishment of a nonverbal channel of communication in a clinical setting.
2. Re-Creative – The client learns or performs precomposed vocal or instrumental music or reproduces any kind of musical form. This can be used to develop sensorimotor skills, improve attention and reality orientation, develop memory skills, and develop communication and interaction skills.
3. Composition – The therapist helps the client to write songs, lyrics, or instrumental pieces, or to create any kind of musical product. The therapist gauges the client’s participation to their musical capabilities and takes care of the rest.
4. Receptive – The therapist provides live or recorded music directed to clinical goals, involving the client in Active listening and responding either verbally, physically, or other appropriate manner.
(From the book Defining Music Therapy by Kenneth Bruscia)

Exploring Music Therapy Day 3: Continuing with the question “How do you use music in therapy?” I am going to share a little bit about our human relationship to music. Many years ago, an Ethonomusicologist named Alan Merriam created a list of the 10 specific functions of music across global cultures.
1. To influence physical response
2. As a form of communication
3. As a form of emotional expression
4. As symbolic representation
5. To enforce conformity to social norms
6. To validate social institutions and religious rituals
7. To contribute to the continuity and stability of culture
8. To contribute to the integration of society
9. For aesthetic enjoyment
10. For entertainment

This research has been used to develop what is known as the CAMES model of music therapy. This stands for Communication, Academic/cognitive, Motor, Emotional, and Social. The CAMES model is used to assess, create goals, and design treatment plans for our clients.
(From the book An Introduction to Music Therapy: Theory and Practice, 3rd Edition, by W. B. Davis, K. E. Gfeller, and M. H. Thaut)



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