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5 Ways to Handle Misrepresentation of Music Therapy

by Kimberly on June 11, 2014 · 1 comment

One of the most common complaints I hear from fellow music therapists relates to misrepresentation—that is, when a person, company, or media piece advertises “music therapy” when none exists (well, there may be music involved, but not music therapy as provided by a qualified professional trained with the rigorous competency standards of board certified music therapists).

In my experience, these instances are not one of malicious intent, but rather one of ignorance combined, perhaps, with a bit of laziness (I don’t know about you, but when I google “music therapy” the first page is filled with legit sites and descriptions).

So what can a music therapist do? Here are 5 actions you can take that may help resolve the situation:

  1. Reach out and advocate. As stated previously, in my experience situations of misrepresentation can often be resolved with a bit of education. People in general seem to get excited when hearing about music therapy and they may get MORE enthused to hear that there is an actual professional field of music therapy. So send an email, connect through social media, offer to meet for coffee…use this as an opportunity to educate one more person about the profession (and perhaps create a new advocate).
  2. Connect with your regional rep. The Professional Advocacy committee of the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) handles cases of misrepresentation all the time. Each region of the AMTA has a representative on this committee. Visit your regional music therapy association website, find your rep, and send him or her an email with a brief description of the situation. At the least, it helps this committee to keep track of and monitor these cases. Plus, as the committee has handled misrepresentation before, your regional committee rep can provide support and assistance in your outreach efforts.
  3. Follow the process. The AMTA Professional Advocacy committee has also outlined a recommended step-by-step process for responding to cases of misrepresentation. They even include sample language! AMTA members can find this information by visiting www.musictherapy.org. Sign in to your account, click “Member Resources,” scroll down to “News from AMTA Committees and Boards” and click “Professional Advocacy Committee.” The information, steps, and language you need is about a third of the way down the page.
  4. Enlist task force support. Almost all 50 states now have a task force that is working with the AMTA and the Certification Board for Music Therapists (CBMT) on a national initiative to obtain state recognition of the profession and the MT-BC credential. As with the AMTA Professional Advocacy committee, state task force members track and monitor cases of misrepresentation, can offer support and guidance, and may be able to connect you with other music therapists and music therapy advocates in the state who can assist you in outreach. Connect with your task force by following this link and clicking on your state.
  5. Is music therapy recognized in your state? In most states, there is little we can do about cases of misrepresentation other than educate and ask nicely for the information to be changed. However, there are states with formal state recognition (e.g. a music therapy license) where “music therapy” is a protected title. In other words, you cannot say you are a music therapist or that you are providing music therapy services unless you hold the state-recognized designation. In these states there will be an official mechanism for reporting cases of misrepresentation to the appropriate state agency. The rules and process for doing so vary depending on the state. You can check this page to see if your state may be eligible for this approach (keep in mind that not all states with formal recognition include title protection for “music therapy”). If your state does offer title protection, follow the link to connect with the appropriate state agency website. You may need to dig around a bit on the website in your search for how to report these claims. Alternatively, you can connect with your state task force representative for assistance.

It is my opinion that these cases of misrepresentation will not go away; we are too small a profession and music is too big and powerful a medium. However, with a little patience, a little persistence, and a pleasant smile, perhaps we can change minds and opinions one person and facility at a time.

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Rachelle Norman June 11, 2014 at 4:42 pm

Thank you for this succinct answer to how to respond to misrepresentation, Kimberly! I especially like your first point – most of the time, people get more excited to hear about music therapy from an actual board-certified music therapist. It’s better to respond to a news story or website by reaching out rather than getting defensive.
Rachelle Norman´s last blog post ..10 Strategies for Using Music for Reminiscence

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