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Can Music Therapy Support Social Change?

Social change is a concept many of us do not truly understand. What we know for sure is that change is inevitable and change is always happening.

What is Social Change?

Sociologists define social change as changes in human interactions and relationships that transform cultural and social institutions. These changes occur over time and often have profound and long-term consequences for society.

Can organizations/associations have a role in social change?

It seems all groups can have a collective power that can potentially influence social change.

As therapists who serve persons of diverse ethnicity, race, socioeconomic status, gender, exceptionalities, language, religion, sexual orientation, and geographical area music therapy associations and organizations like JB Music Therapy have a responsibility to hear the bigger needs and desired outcomes and do what we can to support and certainly not dissuade.

Organizations that care about the direction of social change can help shape it and foster the kind of “change we wish to see in the world.  To do that, we need to see and be the change we want in ourselves. Challenges in our lives and paying attention to other people’s challenges can often teach us how to deal with obstacles while revealing alternative paths. It is about our world view and being who we want to be as individual practitioners and as a collective group. Pick our path. Craft our character. Make our mark in life by being the change you know our world needs.

Measuring Social Change: Performance and Accountability in a Complex World by Alnoor Ebrahim describes how having a clear strategy can help leaders of social change organizations assess their achievements and boost their impact.

While businesses measure success with standard metrics like profits and market value, such measurements don’t fit most social change groups, Ebrahim said.

“Depending on what you care about, whether it’s health care or education or poverty alleviation or climate change, what’s relevant to measure will differ,” he said. “But what every organization needs is clarity about its strategy, which can then provide a roadmap to its most important metrics.”

So is there a #caseformusictherapy to pay attention to its role in social change?

In a contribution to The Canadian Association for Music Therapists publication Ensemble – fellow JBMT music therapist Jesse Dollimont suggests, “public health services which extend beyond the individual have the potential to be more successful at creating and sustaining positive results or change long-term.”

She goes on to say that this is achieved by the creation of networks, which are significant for the promotion of physical, psychological, social, and spiritual well-being of individuals and families – and are characterized by interaction and reciprocal responsibility (Mancini, Bowen & Martin, 2005).

Dollimont suggests that the work we do most naturally as music therapists can always be developed or explored in more depth by consistently asking ourselves the following questions:

  • Am I supporting my clients in creating or exploring further possibilities for participation? If not – how can I do so?
  • Am I consistently adjusting tempo, duration, and frequency to match that of my client(s)?
  • Am I offering up ways to include people who support my clients so they might experience these possibilities and learn to facilitate them as well?

Opportunities to affect social change occur every day, as we work with our clients and help them increase their engagement in their communities, creating concepts and experiences of community rooted in participation, agency, and identity. Our ability to further effect change lies ahead as we work with our clients to respond to changes happening around us, improvising new ways of embodying health and practicing community.

Although change is inevitable the strategy to best steer positive change is certainly possible within the music therapy community.  Please follow us as we continue to address a #caseformusictherapy and how it holds up.