This month, I am joining a group of music therapy bloggers and podcasters in the effort to encourage music therapy advocacy. In my last post, I asked you, as someone who cares about music therapy, to share your story with others. This can be done in many ways, both impromptu and planned. One of my favorite ways of advocating for music therapy is to speak to various groups about our profession and the work that I do.
If you are caregiver or a music lover, I would LOVE to speak to your group about music therapy! Please contact me if you are interested in scheduling a presentation – I can promise an engaging, enjoyable experience with plenty of music-making as we talk about how music therapy makes a difference.
The rest of this post is primarily aimed towards music therapists who are planning presentations of their own, although if you are not a music therapist, this will give you an idea of what to expect from me if I am presenting to your group!
So, music therapists, I want to encourage you to take every opportunity to speak about music therapy. Not only will this help more people understand what we do, but it also has the potential to open up doors for employment opportunities, and it will help you solidify your own perspective on music therapy and how it works. This prepares you for those more impromptu advocacy opportunities. (Elevator speech, anyone?)
Here are my top suggestions for planning a great introductory music therapy presentation:
Start with music
I have given presentations to groups ranging from physicians in a hospital to retired ladies in a church group, and with every presentation I have started with some sort of music-making experience. Of course, we music therapists know how useful music is for engaging a group, so it should be natural for us to start presentations this way. I think of this opening experience as one for the group members, not necessarily about the clinical population they might be interested in, so the music experience is adult and usually requiring a higher functioning level than some client populations may have. These experiences never fail to get the group alert and engaged in the subject matter.
Know your audience
You may be speaking to a group interested in a particular client population (e.g. a hospice interdisciplinary team) or you may be addressing folks who are interested in music therapy in general. Tailor your presentation to fit the group’s interests. When I speak to a general-interest group, I try to include anecdotes from various client populations as well as a wider range of music-making experiences. For a group interested in a particular client population, I keep anecdotes and experiences more narrowly-focused.
Cover the basics
No matter who I am speaking to, I always try to include several points: a brief definition of music therapy, a description of the entry-level music therapy education and the MT-BC credential, an overview of the various populations we serve and settings we work in, and a brief description of the domains/goal areas that can be addressed in music therapy. I have found that some people have an idea of what music therapy is, but that idea might be vague or rather narrow. I want my audience to understand the depth and breadth of education and experience that credentialed music therapists have, and I don’t want to leave the impression that what I do from day-to-day is what all music therapists do. Still, I try to keep this section of my presentation brief, as it can be less engaging than the story-sharing and music-making parts of the presentation.
Nothing makes music therapy more real than hearing about how it worked for a particular person or group. Of course, it is vital that we keep confidentiality in mind before sharing any client’s story, but with the appropriate permissions and safeguards, clinical anecdotes can help your audience understand how music therapy really works. I choose different anecdotes based on the audience’s interests, and I try to include at least a couple of contrasting stories to give a better picture of how I work. Photos, videos, and sound recordings definitely add to this part of the presentation, so add these in whenever you have the chance.
Make lots of music
Even if your group doesn’t remember the definition of music therapy or the fabulous clinical anecdotes you shared, they will probably remember the music. The music experiences you plan are a chance for your audience members to reconnect with the value of music in their own lives as a way to understand how music can work clinically. I always open and close the presentation with music, and I try to include as many musical experiences in the middle that we have time for. Singing, playing drums, doing rhythmic movement – all of these are ways to help your audience members engage with the material you are presenting.
As you seek to advocate for music therapy, I encourage you to find opportunities to give presentations about your work. Get out there, and good luck!