What strategies can one implement to overcome language and other cultural barriers?

Americans are very lucky, because they speak English.  English is used all over the world, and learning this language can open up a lot of doors.  For those who already speak English, I encourage you to learn another language, so that you can experience what it is like to be unable to express yourself.  It will help you be more empathic to those who are unable to communicate.  Language is much easier face to face, because you can read the nonverbal language, the gestures and so forth.  These are not always the same, though, because gestures mean different things in different parts of the world.

Cultural barriers can be overcome by just connecting with people from different cultures and exchanging ideas and ways of living.  Travel to other countries, and listen to music from other countries.  Read the news from other countries, and get another perspective.  I have learned that there is not one truth around the world, so what is right in this country is not right in another country.

I can understand, though, why Americans do not travel abroad as much.  You have everything here.  Mountains, the ocean, tropical areas…everything you need.  You don’t need to travel to another country for a vacation.  But I still think it’s valuable to do that, to experience not knowing the language, and needing to figure out transportation, and eating food you’ve never seen before.  You learn to adapt and be flexible.

Music Therapy as a formal discipline in the United States is only 50 or 60 years old, and it is even younger in other parts of the world.  It’s important that as the field grows here in the United States, it also grows in other elsewhere.  We need to be learning from each other as we all figure this out together.

Yes, and that is what we are seeing.  Many of our Asian students are going back to their home countries and practicing music therapy.  In Korea, there are now about eight music therapy programs.  They have 600 members in the Korean Association of Music Therapy.  Japan has over 6,000 members, including psychologists and medical doctors, and over 1,000 credentialed music therapists.  Music Therapy is rapidly growing all over the world, because people are going places, or going home, and establishing it there.  There are places where it is not developed, but we are starting to see conferences in places like India and Thailand.

Now I speak as a researcher and an educator: we need more research!  We need to be able to back it up and provide the evidence in order to make our profession strong and prosper.  This is a message to my generation and the next generation of music therapists to make a science out of our profession.  Yes, it is already a science, but we often fall into the category of “emerging practice”, and that is because we just don’t have enough data. That being said, research needs to be priority so that we can honestly and ethically tell professionals, students, clients, and parents, that music therapy works.

Thank you, Dr. Kern, for taking the time to do this interview.  I know that it will be very informative to the readers!

Thanks, Matt, and I wish you good luck as you get this site off the ground.  I am always open to innovation and new ideas, so come back to me when you have new ideas in mind!