It’s been a while since I have posted, and I’ve had a flurry of thoughts and feelings over the past 24 hours. On the largest Facebook page dedicated to music therapists, called “Music Therapists Unite”, one of my colleagues and fellow Rochestarians was silenced (multiple times) for posting a link to support petitions and funds for Daniel Prude. Her most recent blog post shares more of her experience as well as what is happening now in Rochester, NY.

What I am APPALLED by (although I know I have privilege in that feeling) was how the admins were unable to just apologize for their wrongdoing and recognize the work they need to do. The defensive words and acts were stunning to me (again, my privilege is showing) and I just wanted to share some thoughts about my values and what we believe here at Creative Therapy Umbrella. (UPDATE: the admins have been relieved of their duty by the person who origininally started the group. Progress).

First some thoughts about the state of the music therapy profession and it’s lack of social justice, reliance on “neutral” standings, and inability to move forward. There are MANY other issues besides the ones listed below but these are a few that are running around in my brain.

  • As stated by Hakeem Leonard, 88% of music therapists are white and 85% are women. There is a HUGE problem here. Access to becoming a music therapist is an incredibly racist and elitist process, and we need to do better. We need more BIPOC representation (not just token representation either) as well as different standards of acceptance. For example, classical training is a must for most programs, but why? I’d argue that the majority of people in music therapy use classical music the least, yet it is a gateway to becoming a music therapist. Classical training is expensive and not available to everyone. This is not okay. We need to do better.
  • A stance of neutrality. I am guilty of this. I’m a quiet person in groups and in the past haven’t loved confrontation. Actually I’d pretty much run away from it. In the past few years, I realized how much this was perpetually an issue for me as a therapist in my clinical work, and most recently how I was directly perpetuating white supremacy by NOT saying anything. For an organization as large as AMTA is, it is UNACCEPTABLE to have a neutral stance and hope that things just settle down. We’ve struggled with appropriate leadership within AMTA for years. I recognize that I need to say and do more. We need to say and do more.
  • Inability to move forward. I often wonder if along with the above-mentioned issues, that our profession struggles to move forward and progress because we refuse to move forward. This has happened with Masters level entry, with recent conference breakouts for diverse communities that were shut down, with the lack of mental health training in a field where we NEED that training, and with the lack of in-depth multi-cultural understanding of not just music, but human experiences in general. This is where I have struggled most in this field. Why I felt for two years that I wanted to leave music therapy. The strict behavioralism and standard to “behaving” feels racist (as it’s a standard based on white rules) and prejudice against neurodiversity (why do neurodivergent people have to fit OUR mold???). We are seeing the uprising coming from neurodiverse communities and the injustices of rigid behavioral therapies that are doing more harm than good. We can also see it from therapists who work with people of color daily and yet not recognize (or be able to accept constructive criticism) about their own problematic behaviors. I DONT GET THIS. To have the authority to help someone with their “behavior” and then not be able to check your own? I feel that we need more humanistic study in our curriculum and a deeper understanding of empathy and diverse human experiences. Our curriculums focus so heavily on behaviorism, but isn’t that reductionist? To reduce someone down to their behavior? Why aren’t we spending an equal amount of time learning about community music therapy, client-centered therapy, and social justice within the field? We focus so much on what to “do” and not enough on how to “be”. Being is so much more powerful and progressive. Have we forgotten that we are all human, working with humans, who have different human experiences? We need to move forward.

I realize all of these thoughts are coming from me, a white woman, and I’ll never know the intricacies of the injustices that are happening/has happened to BIPOC/LQBTQ/Disabled/Neurodiverse communities. To make it abundantly clear, we here at Creative Therapy Umbrella, stand against the racial violence and systemic issues that have impacted black, indigenous, people of color, neurodiverse, disabled, and LGBTQ+ people in the world. We support creating a world, community, platform, therapy room, and space that is diverse, inclusive, and equitable.

I am here to do my best, to make the mistakes of imperfect allyship, and to do the hard work. Below I am sharing with you what I am doing, both behind the scenes and out front, to learn, unlearn, and continue to support the creative arts therapy community as best as I can along this never-ending journey. Please note this is not to in any way meant to be performative but to instead hold myself and my platform accountable for the change that can be done with my privilege. Also, I’ve mentioned my stance in support of Black Lives Matter on the podcast, but I wanted to be sure to have this in writing in case there is any question on our stance.

  1. The Beginning And Never-Ending Learning Journey
    For me, I’ve spent the past few months doing a lot of internal work. Reading, reflecting, listening. Basically shutting up. I realize this is a lifetime of work and it is my value to always support diversity, equity, and inclusion. As a therapist who deeply believes in the humanistic perspective, these values are at the core of my work. This growth doesn’t stop for me ever, and as I do this I am making more long-term plans for the podcast and Creative Therapy Umbrella in general that are actionable and long-lasting. As a relatively quiet person who is not used to using her voice (especially in groups), I am working hard on finding my own voice, and finding the ways that I can support others.
  2. Diversity, Inclusion, & Equity Podcast Series
    For the podcast, one of the projects I am working on behind the scenes is to develop a series about diversity, inclusion, and equity within the creative arts therapy field. As much as I want to hurry up and get the information out there, I realize that can be performative and instead I am working hard to respond instead of reacting to situations. Please, if you want to speak on this (or if you want to suggest someone with their permission) connect with me here.
  3. Quarterly Mute
    Once a quarter, our podcast will mute for a week. In reflecting, I’ve realized that if I only focus on bringing more diverse and inclusive speakers onto my show, I am STILL centering the change on me. I am still using MY platform. So instead, this quarterly mute will have no episode or social media posts. That week will be dedicated to linking to BIPOC/LQBTQ/Disabled/Neurodiverse platforms on the podcast show notes and on social media. My hope is that this will be a way to use my platform to support other voices, their platforms, and to help center their voices.
  4. Donations
    Right now, I am in the process of setting up continuous donations to support social justice issues within the music therapy, creative arts therapy, and child therapy fields. I hope to have a more clear idea of this step in the next few months.
  5. Continued Encouragement of Feedback
    In our podcast show notes, there is an anonymous survey. This is specifically for anyone out there to use to If I have done something that misses the mark- I want to know. It isn’t your responsibility to tell me those things and I am doing my work behind the scenes. However, I do know that I am an imperfect ally and I want the feedback.

If you are looking for some resources, please stay tuned for our upcoming mute. Please take the time that you would normally listen to the CTU episode and spend it listening to an episode from a BIPOC/LQBTQ/Disabled/Neurodivere platform in our community. Please subscribe to their platform. Please donate if you have the funds.

Thank you for listening. To the BIPOC/LQBTQ/Disabled/Neurodivere community, I’m here for all of it. Your life matters. Black Lives Matter.

If you have any feedback, questions, or concerns, please feel free to e-mail me here. I am beyond happy to talk with you and if you feel more comfortable filling out the anonymous survey, please do so. I welcome any feedback, constructive criticism, dialogue, and more.

Leave a Reply