Today and on the 25th of every month of 2012 I have invited 12 of the most influential people in my life to share a blog post with you!  Each has influenced me both professionally and personally. My hope is that the knowledge, kindness, creativity, and compassion they have shared with me will reflect through their post in a way that YOU will be encouraged, entertained, challenged and strengthened to continue to strive for excellence as a professional and as a person.

Does it ever seem that we are living in a world of continuously lowered standards?  People don’t return emails and phone calls, and when we receive excellent service in a retail establishment or restaurant, it stands out as extraordinary instead of the standard.

In a time when the field of music therapy is more prominent than ever, I have been thinking about raising the bar.  Watching 2+ weeks of Olympic events and the inspiring stories of the athletes have given me fuel to burn.  The discipline they exhibit on a daily basis for 4 years to reach their goal and compete for a medal is incredible to me.  Even those that win see room for improvement, have a plan in mind and can articulate it.

It’s time to dig back into the AMTA Professional Competencies; there exists a guidebook for professional change toward excellence.  I once had a music therapy student in my piano studio, who, as a way of explanation for her poor preparation each week, exclaimed that she would “never use piano” in her clinical work.   And she was not kidding.  Using the Professional Competencies helps us determine if we are setting a high enough standard for ourselves – and I believe there is always an area in which to work.

When I decide to tackle one of the competencies to improve upon (through assessment), I set a goal for myself and design my strategy (treatment plan).  Maybe I need to reread a book to refresh myself on a technique or population, maybe I need to learn a new chord shape on the guitar or understand the side effects of a particular group of medications.  Once I’ve decided on my plan of attack, I implement my learning process and evaluate whether I think I have advanced my competency.  As music therapists, we have a perfect model to follow to continuously create excellence in our practice (see italics).

As a child, my family sailed on a small sailboat.  Much can be learned about life from sailing.  Our little boat had a tiller, which is a handle in the cockpit attached to the rudder for steering.  Very small adjustments in the position of the tiller coupled with distance created a very different course and destination.  Big movements of the tiller were not necessary to create change; small adjustments were enough to make a big difference.  That’s how I look at the competencies.  I keep them handy, check them regularly, and make small changes that, practiced regularly, make a big difference in my destination (my practice).

I will continue to challenge myself to learn more and I invite you to join me!  “Do more than expected” was my directive to my children as they were learning competency with various tasks.  Shouldn’t we follow this missive as a way to enrich our clinical work and it’s outcomes as well as the whole profession of music therapy?

The benefits of disciplined course correction is a feeling of integrity plus increased competence leading to greater respect for us and our field.

Leslie Meadows, MA, MT-BC received her B.M. in Music Therapy from Baldwin-Wallace College and her M.A. in Music Therapy from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College.  She has worked with a variety of populations and currently works in an adult medical setting.  Leslie is an active community musician and considers her biggest and best accomplishment raising two awesome children.