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Adapting to the Unexpected: Joy Schneck, Executive Director, Certification Board for Music Therapists

Interview by Robert C. Shaw, Jr., PhD, National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC) 

Joy S. Schneck, MM, MT-BC, is the Executive Director of the Certification Board for Music Therapists (CBMT) and has been a long-time ICE member. We spoke with her to learn about the trajectory of her career, how her organization navigated through hurdles during her tenure with CMBT, what fuels her passion for credentialing and more. 

Robert Shaw: What is the story about how you became the Executive Director for the Certification Board for Music Therapists in 1993? 

Joy Schneck: I became the Executive Director of the Certification Board for Music Therapists (CBMT) after having worked as a music therapist in pediatric oncology until 1985. I then served as the Director of Professional Programs for the National Association for Music Therapy (NAMT) (now the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA)), which is our professional membership association. 

The Certification Board was launched in 1985 while I was employed at NAMT as an outgrowth of the professional association’s Task Force on Certification, so I was keenly aware of its development, its initial application for NCHCA (now the National Commission for Certifying Agencies, or NCCA) accreditation in 1986 and its overall importance to our developing profession. By working clinically as a music therapist and knowing the struggles therapists faced, I recognized the need for an objective measure of competence to solidify our professional goals in the health care arena. This made CBMT’s mission and purpose very central to me personally. When CBMT was searching for a part-time Executive Director for 10 hours a week, I was home with small children. I was approached to apply for the position by those who knew of my work at NAMT. I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to stay involved with the profession while my children were napping each afternoon. That thought was probably my biggest misconception about the position to date! 

By working clinically as a music therapist and knowing the struggles therapists faced, I recognized the need for an objective measure of competence to solidify our professional goals in the health care arena. This made CBMT’s mission and purpose very central to me personally.
RS: What was your onboarding or training experience like when you started as executive director?

JS: I owe a tremendous amount of gratitude to the previous executive director, Anne Parker, MS, MT-BC, and to the initial CBMT board and committee members for building such a strong foundation from which to administrate the program. The program was developed to meet NCHCA/NCCA Standards from its inception. We were supported by an extremely informed and committed testing vendor, Applied Measurement Professionals (now PSI). CBMT has been fully accredited by NCHCA/NCCA since 1986. With those policies in place, such capable vendor support, and an invaluable staff, it’s been easy to navigate and manage the program through the years. 

When I was hired in 1993, CBMT supported my working remotely, which was not a typical working arrangement at that time. The CBMT Office was in Tucson, Arizona, with one full-time staff person on site, while I was in Richmond, Virginia. There were new forms of communication (email, fax) evolving which made staying in touch so much easier. The former executive director left a Policy and Procedure Manual detailing all operations of the board, committees, staff and the executive director. She included a thorough calendar of every task that needed to be done in each month by each group.

It should have been smooth sailing. However, no one can predict the unexpected, and very, unfortunately, after being in the position for only three months, the full-time staff member in Tucson developed a very aggressive terminal illness. The office moved very quickly to Virginia leaving me on my own with all aspects of the business. The Policy and Procedure Manual became my survival guide. I am so grateful to Anne Parker for compiling that manual! At the same time, the first recertification cycle ended with only 48% of the certificants renewing because of backlash from the implementation of the recertification program. Recertification requirements were a major change for the profession at the time and seen as an additional requirement that certificants didn’t feel was necessary. Certificants expressed their discontent by not recertifying. CBMT was in a major crisis for survival. The board made critical decisions at the time to enable us to rebound from the combination of these two difficult situations, and we have shown increases in our overall number of certificants in every year since then. We narrowed the focus of work to what was truly important and remained fiscally prudent while addressing those essential key program issues. 

Anne continued to serve as an extremely valuable resource and mentor as she went on to become an NCCA Commissioner and then Chair of the Commission. I learned so much from her because of her knowledge and involvement with ICE and NCCA. Bill Hogan, retired, former vice president of marketing from AMP, also served as a valuable resource and mentor. He led strategic planning sessions with our board to help solidify our position and gain strength through those difficult years. I would be remiss to not mention all I learned from my colleagues from AMP. They taught me so much about the testing industry in general, but also about integrity, respect and accountability in the way they provided services. We were fortunate to engage them as our testing vendor for so many years. 

RS: If you were to describe unexpected things a new executive director ought to know, what would you list?

JS: These may not be unexpected things, but rather may be things learned through experience or thoughts worth considering:

  • Always plan for the unexpected; it can and will happen.
  • Budget conservatively.
  • Value your staff, they are the organization’s biggest asset.
  • Everyone makes mistakes; own them and move forward with a plan to fix them.
  • There will always be new questions and surprises; it’s what keeps the job interesting.
  • Pace yourself; the work will never be completed.
  • Most importantly, integrity matters in every aspect of the program. 
RS: What notable changes have you observed over your career in credentialing?

JS: Computer-based testing was the most notable change for CBMT because it revolutionized our lives. The increased availability and flexibility of testing, along with instant scoring, made a major impact on accessibility to the credential for a small profession. I appreciate the community of credentialing professionals that has grown to be more collaborative and available to each other which makes sharing knowledge and resources much easier. The world has become so much smaller with the accessibility of travel and increased workforce mobility. Finding ways to measure and assure competencies are equivalent for exam eligibility is an increasing challenge. Regulatory trends have fluctuated over the years to require more regulation or less regulation without settling on a consistent pathway. 

I appreciate the community of credentialing professionals that has grown to be more collaborative and available to each other which makes sharing knowledge and resources much easier.
RS: Where do you turn when something novel pops up?

JS: ICE and the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) are the logical choices, but I also research externally to see how a larger audience is reacting to issues outside of the certification and membership communities. I also rely on our testing experts, vendors and our legal counsel to be resources on the edge of new or novel information. 

RS: CBMT is accredited by NCCA through 2021. Why has the board sought accreditation?

JS: The Board sought accreditation in 1986 from NCHCA/NCCA and has maintained it for over30 years because it understands that NCCA accreditation provides recognition that the Music Therapist-Board Certified (MT-BC) program meets the highest standards available for national certification programs. Accreditation demonstrates that an impartial, objective commission has reviewed the MT-BC program and that it meets or exceeds the standards to which licensing or certification boards adhere in test development and administration. The impartial objective review is critical to independent organizations like ours that have the protection of the public as part of its mission. It serves as a check and balance for our board of directors to assure its program reflects the most current principles in the field of credentialing. 

RS: What has fueled your passion to work for 26 years as a credentialing professional?

JS: I love my job and the incredible staff of six with whom I work each day; I couldn’t do it without their commitment and support. I have made so many invaluable friends through the years for which I am also truly grateful. As a credentialed member of the profession though, my biggest passion is the power of music to affect and change people’s lives. It is imperative to me that a competent and qualified professional use this modality with the knowledge and training it requires. Measuring and assuring competence within the profession of music therapy to assist the public in making informed healthcare choices is what continues to keep me passionate about my career in credentialing.

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