- Attitude and skills of music therapists. Music therapists often show a high level of commitment to the profession. Many are passionate about their work, extremely dedicated and eager to provide the best possible treatment programs to their clients. Many RMTs (registered music therapists) bring many and varied skills to their role in the workplace and are adept at multi-skilling and multi-tasking.
- Networking. The music therapy profession is increasingly consolidating and increasing links with other parts of the music sector, with a growing recognition of the expert knowledge of music therapists within the music sector.
- Attributes of professional organisation (Australian Music Therapy Association). AMTA is the single professional body for music therapy in Australia.
- AMTA has transparent and professional governing and administrative procedures and is currently in a stable financial position.
- Provision of professional development opportunities and standards. AMTA has hosted annual conferences for 34 consecutive years to build networks and share knowledge; maintenance of professional standards through CPD (continuing professional development) requirements for ongoing professional registration, consistent national standards for professional course validation; national code of ethics and standards of practice; excellent networking opportunities within AMTA.
- Research. Growing body of scientific evidence in music therapy; international recognition of Australian MTs and researchers; a refereed journal that has gained international recognition, (published since 1990); increasing number of RMTs publishing books and journal articles in MT and related professional arenas
- Diversity of work opportunities. RMTs work across a diversity of educational and clinical settings.
- Difficulties with continuing inclusion and retention of music therapists in profession. Small number of music therapists in some geographical and clinical areas and in nation as a whole; difficulties retaining and including RMTs in rural areas and those with limited or no paid work at present.
- Difficulties in negotiating role in workplace. There is often a sole music therapist in a larger team of better established professionals; they may need to consistently assert their role and explain the contribution of music therapy; RMTs will often work under compromised and stressful working conditions and often have to deal with prejudice in the workplace where co-workers may not understand how music therapy is working for the clients, and will question the integrity of the music therapist.
- Acceptance in mainstream health. Continued struggle to gain acceptance as mainstream health providers; funding limitations currently preclude employing professional marketing/publicity and promotions staff to truly promote music therapy to general public and music sector.
- Heavy reliance on volunteer office holders to maintain professional organisation functioning. Potential for burnout for officers in positions throughout organisation; difficulties in passing on expertise and knowledge of AMTA; many RMTs don’t have time to commit to the organisation; a lack of gender balance in the profession, with a predominance of women, who share the Association and professional tasks with child rearing.
- Diversity. Variable level of music therapists between states; although improving, with an uneven distribution of experience in certain areas.
- Increased opportunities for increasing the public profile of MT. Getting more positive media and awareness of MT; ability to promote ourselves across a huge spectrum of areas across the health/life span; expert knowledge in music across the life span in current climate which emphasises benefits of music for health and in health care settings; current opportunity for promoting music therapy through Making Music Being Well (MMBW).
- Geographically representative internal structure of AMTA. Executive and National Council currently encompass RMTs from across Australia – more able to listen to the needs of members from all states.
- Career diversity and initiatives. Opportunities for new job positions are created constantly. Many RMTs are also very creative at making new work for themselves in different and more obscure/isolated areas of need. As established career structures and advertised positions have been lacking in the past, music therapists have developed skills in accessing alternative funding sources and in working in community settings.
- Developing mutually beneficial networks. The continuing development of partnerships within the music therapy sector (Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy Australia and its Golden Stave Music Therapy Centre) and externally (Music. Play For Life, community music and arts and health sectors, Australian Music Association and MCA); potential for unique role to support current growth of the arts in health. Creating further effective links with other health organizations
- Funding opportunities through collaboration. Many opportunities are arising for RMTs to obtain funding in partnerships with not-for-profit organisations or as part of research, or RMTs are asked to be the facilitators of programs when other organisations wish to obtain funding.
- Strain upon music therapy profession and individual music therapists. Limited retention or return career support for music therapists who lose professional registration due to burnout or through changing of careers. This negatively affects the growth of the music therapy community. Many music therapists (particularly rural members) are working in isolation and may feel disconnected from the music therapy community.
- Ongoing viability of professional organisation. The organisational structure’s reliance on volunteers is impacted by a lack of adequate succession planning for office holders, especially at national level. This leaves the organisation vulnerable and limits the transfer of knowledge within the organisation. The future possibility of progression to models of other paramedical professions (employers asking for eligibility for registration/membership rather than actual membership) would adversely affect the association.
- Career structure and awards. The award system for RMTs is not uniform across Australia and in some states, RMTs do not have the same career structure and opportunities that exist in the Allied Health Professionals awards of other states. Difficulties with career structure and awards may be even more pronounced for music therapists who work in education or community sectors.
- Public exposure. Risk of good news stories not getting to general public – i.e. the national initiative ‘Making Music Being Well’ risks being a “closed “ event resulting from many music therapists not having time in their work load for promotion of their music therapy events.
- Limited availability of work and competitors. Difficulties in finding music therapy work with RMTs often having to source work for themselves and create their own business. This provides challenges, especially for those who may not have existing skills in that area. Music therapists also face the threat of employers employing community musicians over a Registered Music Therapist citing that music therapists can be “too expensive”.
Music therapy – a vision for the future
- Music therapy will be recognised by Government, the health professions and the community as a legitimate allied health intervention.
- Music therapy will be recognised in the list of approved health services under the Medicare Allied Health and Dental Care Initiative and Enhanced Primary Care (EPC) plan.
- Music therapy will be recognised and subsidised through the Government’s mental health intervention initiative.
- Music therapy will be incorporated into mainstream and special needs schools to assist in the social and educational development of all students, and complement any Government initiatives in terms of music in schools nationally.
- Music therapy will be an integral component of the arts and health agenda (State and Federal Governments).
- Music therapy will be eligible for GST exemption.
Ann Emily Lehmann, Catherine Threlfall, through feedback from the AMTA National Council and Assembly of Chairs.