Your Guide to Advocacy Zen


Note: Earlier this month we found out about Social Media Advocacy Month. It’s been going on since 2013, and this year Earthtones SO EXCITED to take part! Spearheaded by Kimberly Sena Moore, the mission is to empower music therapists to advocate for our profession. So enjoy this guest blog post, and let’s get advocating!  – Emilie Wright, MT-BC

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.

The Ethical Music Therapist

Last week I attended a continuing education course on music therapy and ethics, presented by Jodi Winnwalker (our awesome CEO and founder). I’m not gonna lie– it took me a long time to write this post. The course was 3 hours long and we covered what felt like every topic under the sun. Even then, the subject of ethics is so incredibly deep that we could have talked for days and there would still be more to consider. I left with a million new pieces of knowledge, and about a billion more questions. It was amazing! There are two components to what I took away from the workshop:

Part A – What I Learned

Okay. Let’s talk ethics. Our primary resources in this workshop were the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) Scope of Practice, the AMTA Code of Ethics, and Cheryl Dileo’s amazing book, Ethical Thinking in Music Therapy.  Dileo’s book is rich with information, so I tried to distill some of it for this blog post in the form of two infographs.

  1. Ethical Decision Making When we encounter ethical dilemmas, sometimes it’s hard to know what to do. They wouldn’t be dilemmas otherwise. Luckily, Cheryl Dileo actually outlined steps we can take to ensure our decision is ethical. You’ll notice that the last step is to evaluate the decision. Even once we’ve executed our choice, we must continue to examine and evaluate its repercussions.

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2. Core Ethical Principals of Music Therapy Everyone has their own set of values and morals. They are typically very personal and guide us through our daily lives. Did you know that music therapy as a profession has its own set of ethical principles? You can read more about each one in Dileo’s book (and I recommend it!), but in the meantime here’s a list of them:

ethical principals


Part B – What I Feel

This topic is one that I will grapple with for the rest of my career — and that’s exactly what I should be doing. One of the most important steps is to actively check in with myself on a regular basis. If something feels wrong for whatever reason, I owe it to myself and to my clients to explore it further. Every challenge is a new opportunity to grow.

I also think it’s extremely important to talk about ethical dilemmas with members of our community. We encounter dilemmas so, so often… why are we afraid to talk about them? If we normalize our problems, they become addressable.

I have definitely fallen down the “Ethics Rabbit Hole” and you know what? I’m excited to be here!