Checks and Balances

I am relieved this morning that someone that I voted for won yesterday's election. I find it very frustrating to live in a state where my vote is ALWAYS in the minority. It makes the exercise of voting seem futile at times, but I still vote. I still find it to be a small thing that I can do to participate in my country's bigger picture. That's all that I want to say about voting and politics because I find voting to be a very private process and that's it.

Participating in our voting process always makes me think about how we attempt to regulate or watch or oversee or manipulate or what's another good word other people to do what we want them to do. I like the idea of checks and balance as a desirable outcome for governing. I like that idea for ethical behavior and therapeutic interactions as well.

How does this work in the music therapy world?

I am a member of my professional organization. This is one of the first steps that I take to ensure that I am doing what I need to do with my clients in ways that are intended to be good for my clients. As a member of AMTA, I am bound by AMTA's Code of Ethics, and I have a responsibility to my clients (always and forever the clients first of all), to my fellow music therapists, and to my organizations to act in an ethical manner in all things. I know that it is expensive, but it is a commitment that I have made to myself and to my profession, so I pay that fee every single year to support my profession and my job. I may not always agree with the decisions that the organization makes, but I am able to participate and make my voice heard because I am a member. This is important to me - I feel that you should not complain if you are not willing to make an effort (I feel the same way about voting, by the way. If you are going to complain, then you better have voted!).

I am board certified. This is also an important step to having checks and balance in my professional life. Part of the board-certification process is to continue my education past what I paid for in school and into new ideas and more learning about my job. By taking the steps towards advanced learning and comprehension, I demonstrate to those around me that music therapy is important, dynamic, and growing. This offers another check on me and my interactions with (you guessed it) my clients!

I am an internship director. Believe me, having students in your facility makes you more and more aware of the attitudes that you have about things like music therapy itself, about your own biases, about how you function within the professional expectations, and how you work within your clinical arena. There are things that I cannot change about my facility, about my personality, about my clinical interactions with my clients, but being an example for someone else brings all those things into the forefront. When it is just me, lone music therapist, it is easy to forget that my attitudes and perspectives are just that - mine and mine alone. Having another person in the clinical environment means that those attitudes get expanded - in both good and not so good ways, at times.

Unfortunately for me, my clients do not have the ability to shop around for the best therapist for them. I find that gaining and losing clinical contracts is an excellent check on music therapy professionals. If someone does not like a specific therapist, they often have the opportunity to go shopping for another therapist. This is not something that happens at my facility (I am the only choice), but my continued employment is a condition of whether I am functioning the way that others want.

How does this all work? Hey, if there is a person out there who states that he/she is doing music therapy but is not board-certified, they are not music therapists. Don't care if you have a degree in music therapy, if you are not board-certified, then you aren't a music therapist. Unfortunately, in most of our states, there is no title protection or recognition of the certification as a criterion for making such statements. This is why CBMT and AMTA are working towards state recognition in all states. If that same person is board-certified but is not a member of AMTA, then they are not bound by the Code of Ethics of AMTA. So, they are able to do music therapy, but they do not have the ethical responsibilities that other therapists have. If my clients leave me for one reason or another, that is a check on my work as a therapist.

As I walk out into the bigger world today, I am going to reflect on these thoughts about how we have those checks and balances in all aspects of our lives. I hope you have a chance to think about all of this as well.

Thanks for reading.


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