It’s that time of year of again-time to renew your America Dance Therapy Association (ADTA) group membership and credentials. Each year dance/movement therapists (or any individual who would like to join) must pay an annual fee for membership. Also, if an individual is a Registered-Dance/Movement Therapist (R-DMT) or a Board Certified-Dance/Movement Therapist (BC-DMT) there is a fee to maintain each specific credential. Although I have already paid for both my membership and credentials, I have been mulling over my payment. This year my payment comes with some reflection on what the payment actually provides me and what exactly I’m buying into.
Although you can find a list of membership benefits here, I want to reflect on what I personally like about being a member of the ADTA as well as maintaining my BC-DMT credentials. One of the major reasons why I continue to be a member of the ADTA is having full access to the American Journal of Dance Therapy (AJDT). Not only do I have full access to the journal online, but I also receive a hard copy in the mail. I also appreciate that the ADTA monitors national legislation that impacts dance/movement therapy or other aspects of mental health. I have to admit in my busy day-to-day schedule I am not good at keeping up with this (and sometimes the thought of keeping up with it makes me want to hide under a rock), but I can certainly find time to forward a letter to my Michigan representatives that was formulated by the ADTA.
While I do go back and forth about renewing my BC-DMT credentials, ultimately I have decided that maintaining my credentials is homage to the hard work I have done to achieve them. Those five little letters mean a lot: hard work in graduate school, writing a master’s thesis, working full-time as a professional dance/movement therapist for two years, and heaps of supervision. Those five letters showcase my hard work and dedication to the profession of dance/movement therapy and as one of my former supervisors said, “my credentials speak to my experience.” By renewing my credentials, I am ethically allowed to list those letters behind my name, and although they are just letters, they mean a lot.
However, when you live and work in a mental health community that doesn’t know or truly understand what those letters mean, it has me wondering what is the point? Why do I maintain those letters behind my name when it may or may not open doors for me professionally? This is particularly true when you shell out close to $300 dollars (let me repeat, three hundred dollars) a year to renew your membership and credentials.
Which leads to me to my biggest gripe of renewing my ADTA membership and credentials- it’s expensive! It’s expensive, it’s expensive, it’s expensive! While $300 dollars a year is expensive in its own right, I also know this comparatively. My counseling license (a license that is legally recognized by the state of Michigan, allows my employer to bill through insurance, and will one day allow me to open a private practice) is one-third of the price. On top of that, when renewing my license this year they pro-rated the price. As in, I received my license in September and when renewing it in May, I only paid a portion of the price since I only had my license for a portion of the year. I have also spoken with my social work friends, and in some cases their license is also one-third of the price and is renewed every other year.
So why is the ADTA group membership and credential renewal so expensive? Is it listed somewhere on the ADTA website where my money goes and I just haven’t found it yet? Is there any possibility that the ADTA membership/credential could be less expensive if enough people spoke up or they were able to budget in a different way? Or, if there is no way to modify the cost, is it possible for the ADTA be more transparent with what the money is used for?
Let me be clear, I am NOT advocating for anyone to not become a member of the ADTA or to not renew their credentials. That is a personal choice. I do believe in these things because I have already paid the $300. What I am wondering is, however, is what do these things truly provide for me? While there is a comprehensive list on the website, when you live in an area where these letters do not mean much the list starts to feel arbitrary. In fact, sometimes it feels like I merely pay this money to be included in a specific group. It is almost like theses letters are a status symbol and give me access to a group, rather than provide anything for me as a professional in the mental health field. I guess I’m calling for more transparency from the organization itself about where this money goes or why it is so expensive. I’m also calling out to see if any other dance/movement therapists feel the way that I do?