The Journey to MTA (Music Therapist Accredited)
by Jennifer Lam – Canadian Association for Music Therapy member and newly accredited music therapist.
Being a newly accredited music therapist in Canada is staying late at the long-term care centre to run extra programs while waiting for the snowstorm to pass – gone are what used to be the snow days used for catching up on practicing, papers, and sleep.
After what seemed like a lifetime and what all the work as a music therapy student was meant to lead up to, I was ecstatic to be able to call myself an music therapist accredited (MTA)! As a student at the cusp of the change in the Canadian accreditation system, I found myself travelling down both the old and new paths of becoming accredited. Regardless if I had to write a case study or the CBMT exam post internship, I was determined to attain MTA status ASAP (impatience or efficiency?). In the end, the new method proved to be “new and improved”; I wrote my CBMT exam and streamlined my MT-BC to MTA. Et voila, that is how we Canadians can now become accredited music therapists! May I point out that we also receive the benefit of being both board certified and Canadian accredited?
Upon receiving notification of being granted MTA status, I felt as happy and relieved as a musician at the end of a successful performance. This email meant that I could finally check off “get MTA status” on my to-do list. In my mere few years of being involved in the music therapy scene in Canada, I have experienced a strong network of support, opportunities to be involved in changing music therapy in Canada, and many opportunities to stretch myself as a music therapist.
Although the Canadian family of music therapists is stretched across this great country, the supportiveness of the members with the aid of technology have helped make it feel as if we were all next-door neighbours. While navigating the accreditation process, my impatient self loved that all my questions were responded to within a day. I can only hope that to be as efficient as these other MTAs in doing my own day job and helping candidates. After the CAMT newsletter announcing new MTAs was sent out, I immediately began receiving congratulatory text messages and emails (Some text messages also included screen shots just in case I was confused as to what they were congratulating me on!). Lastly, I even received a discounted membership rate for my first year as an MTA! Talk about receiving all kinds of support to get me on my two feet as a brand new professional! On a side note, this gift is extra lovely as membership renewal happens just before the spending season (Christmas).
Changes in the Canadian music therapy scene have never been as prominent as they are today. From increasing work place settings, to the coming of regulation of psychotherapy in Ontario, it can sometimes feel like trying to keep up with the newest fashion trends. I imagine that a slew of nuances are attached to the word “change” – improved, exciting, uncertain, annoying, and the list goes on. Regardless of how you or I feel about change, it is a privilege to be a part of this change with opportunities to shape Canadian music therapy. Besides, I think that the successful change in the Canadian accreditation system is point and case that the changes happening are for the better!
Alongside taking part in the growth of music therapy in Canada, being a new MTA means numerous opportunities to grow as a therapist. After graduating, I realized I deeply missed going to school. They weren’t lying when they told me my school years would be the best years of my life. Luckily, it was not hard to find courses, conferences, and workshops to be a part of to keep my mind sharp. In addition to many classroom-like learning opportunities, I am also continually challenged to apply my expertise into various settings. My biggest challenge so far? Preparing a workshop on music therapy for the visually impaired in a second language. Attempting to explain “improvisation” and other clinical terms in Chinese proved to be a much greater challenge than I thought. My favourite “that’s amazing!” moment? Applying a technique I learned in a course about pairing movements with music and seeing it at work in one of my workshop demonstrations. In the demonstration, an elderly man with Parkinson’s disease overcame his freezing episodes with the aid of beat therapy! These experiences have shown me that I have truly underestimated the number of times and the extent to which I could be mind-blown, inspired, and challenged by the power and versatility of music therapy.
After four or so years of studying, practicing, and practicums, I am happy to say that my accreditation journey has come to an end and my career as an MTA has just begun. Interweaved between meeting deadlines and proving competencies, this journey produced many lifelong friendships and much valuable life experience. I’m so proud and excited to be part of this amazing profession in Canada!
Jennifer Lam, MTA, MT-BC