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:

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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!