Music therapy is an established profession in the US since the last century. The American Music Therapy Association and the organizations that came before it helped shape the world of music therapy in the USA. The purpose of the AMTA is the “progressive development of the therapeutic use of music in rehabilitation, special education, and community settings.”.
American Music Therapy Association
The AMTA sets as its goals to improve and advance the use of music, in both its breadth and quality, in medical, educational, and community settings for the betterment of the public health and welfare. It also seeks to serve as the primary organizational agency for music therapy professionals and to develop, maintain, and seek continually to improve an organizational structure for the self-governance of the members of the music therapy profession.
If you are not a music therapist, maybe you have never heard about the AMTA. Yet its role is crucial for the advancement of music therapy. In fact, if you have ever interacted with a music therapist, in a hospital or otherwise, they were probably trained in a program approved by the AMTA and they have constant contact with the Association.
A 15-member Board of Directors governs the AMTA. Fourteen standing committees represent areas including Academic Program Approval, Internship Approval, Continuing Education, and Government Relations, among others. Over 3,800 individuals hold a current AMTA membership.
History of the American Music Therapy Association
In the early 20th century there were already some glimpses of interest in the field that would later be known as music therapy. Eva Augusta Vescelius, Isa Maud Ilsen, Harriet Ayer Seymour, and Willem van de Wall all developed personal philosophies concerning the use of music in therapy. Vescelius was the first to try to form an organization in 1903, the National Society of Music Therapeutics. Then in 1926, Ilsen founded the National Association for Music in Hospitals. Seymour, an accomplished author, would also establish an organization, the National Foundation of Music Therapy, to promote music therapy.
More and more institutions employed music therapy and taught it at universities. In other places around the world like Australia and the UK, musicians and physicians were more were accepting and embracing of music therapy. By the end of World War II, momentum was gathering toward creating a professional association in the United States that would assist in the development of the rigorous standards needed to assure that musicians were adequately trained to work in hospitals and schools as music therapists.
Predecessors of the AMTA
The initial meeting to found the National Association for Music Therapy (NAMT) took place in June of 1950. It took place at the annual Music Teachers National Association conference in New York City. The NAMT spent the next two decades working to standardize the training of music therapists. The American Association for Music Therapy appeared in 1971, initially called the Urban Federation of Music Therapists. It had differences in philosophy, education, and approach to the NAMT and by 1997 it had grown to 700 members.
In 1998 the National Association for Music Therapy and the American Association for Music Therapy unified to form the AMTA. This marked an important step in further formalizing education, training, certification, research, and dissemination of music therapy. Another independent organization, the Certification Board for Music Therapists, is in charge of certification.
A national association represents an important step for an emerging profession. The AMTA works hard to increase the reputability of music therapy and its reach. Thanks to the AMTA, music therapists face the challenges of being a music therapist with a better training. The AMTA is an example for the many countries around the world that do not yet have music therapy associations. To learn more, visit their website here: http://musictherapy.org/.
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