#MTAdvocacy and the ISO principle 2


SM Advocacy Badge 2012_150x150 In my previous post for 2016’s Music Therapy Social Media Advocacy Month, I shared a guest post from Dr. Dena Register on the three different roles music therapists might find themselves in when advocating for their profession.

While I definitely agree that awareness of one’s strengths and weaknesses is helpful in determining the best way to serve as an advocate, I would also note that (for me at least) these roles are somewhat fluid. My role as an advocate of music therapy changes, depending on the situation, the goal, and the person(s) with whom I’m speaking. And this, my friends, is where the ISO principle comes in.

The “ISO principle” is one of the first things I learned in my music therapy education. The basic idea is that you assess the state of the person you’re working with and use music that matches that state, then move the music gradually towards where they want to be. For example, to slow down breathing rate, you use music that matches their current rate/quality and then gradually slow it down. In this way, you create a sort of “musical empathy” – you meet the person where they are.

So what are some ways that, as music therapists, we meet the person where they are when we advocate?

  • We consider the background of the person (or group of people we’re speaking to). Does this person come from a medical background?  An administrative or financial background?  Is this person an elected official?  If a group of people, what is the link that brings the group together?
  • We consider the things they may know about music therapy already (or things they may believe incorrectly).
  • We don’t present music therapy in a “cookie cutter” format – rather, we try to view music therapy advocacy through the unique perspective of the person/group of people in question, and we craft advocacy materials that make sense through that lens.
  • We start where the person is, and we gradually move them towards the advocacy goal (whether that is legislation, recognition, support, etc.) in a logical and convincing manner.

If this sounds like hard work, that’s because it is!  A discussion with your local Congressperson should look very different than an inservice given to doctors at a hospital, etc., and you may have to play different advocacy “roles” depending on your assessment of the situation.  HOWEVER – I’ve found that using this approach pays dividends many times over.

What are your thoughts, music therapists (and other professionals who find themselves in the position of advocating for their profession)?  Do you find yourself taking on one role consistently, or do you find yourself changing based on the situation?  Let me know in the comments!


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