At the end of February, I had the opportunity to attend Ohio Music Therapy Hill Day presented by the Association of Ohio Music Therapists and the Ohio Music Therapy Task Force in Columbus, Ohio. The purpose of this event was to provide attending board-certified music therapists and music therapy students of Ohio with information regarding music therapy state licensure in Ohio. Ohio Music Therapy Task Force co-chairs Erin Spring, MM, MT-BC and Edward Gallagher, MT-BC added an advocacy component to the event by giving a presentation to educate attendees on the importance of advocacy in gaining state licensure.
After the presentation, the Ohio Music Therapy Task Force hosted a lunch for Ohio legislators and their aides. This lunch gave music therapists in attendance the opportunity to speak with legislators about music therapy, advocating for the field in an attempt to spark interest and gain support for a state licensure bill that is currently being drafted.
During lunch, there was a panel of speakers that featured members of the Ohio Music Therapy Task Force, a mother of two sons who shared how their lives had been enhanced by music therapy services, and Senator Yuko, the sponsor of the state licensure bill currently being drafted. Senator Yuko shared his personal experience with music therapy, having observed a music therapist in an oncology ward, inspiring him to support the bill and become an advocate for music therapy.
Due to their demanding schedules, many state legislators were unable to stay at the event for long, but were very receptive to condensed “elevator speeches” informing them of the field of music therapy, the journey toward state licensure, and the senate bill’s need for support. After the exchanging of business cards and several photos being taken, music therapists and music therapy students attending the event sat down to write thank you notes to legislators in attendance, and “sorry we missed you” notes to those who were unable to make it to the event.
What is state licensure?
In order to practice music therapy, we must pass a board exam to receive a national certification through Certification Board for Music Therapists (CBMT.) State licensure is the recognition of music therapy as a profession in all 50 states, and a way to ensure that only those with the MT-BC credential are practicing music therapy in those states.
Why is state licensure necessary?
State licensure is necessary in order to protect potential clientele from receiving services from an individual who is not a board-certified music therapist. Being recognized by the state would also result in music therapy services being more accessible for patients, clients, and families. This is because some state agencies such as the Department of Education and Department of Disabilities and Special Needs only offer services whose providers are recognized by the state. The CBMT website cites the following as additional benefits of state recognition:
- Increases awareness of music therapy as a profession, resulting in increased service referrals, increased jobs, and increased enrollment in educational training programs
- Increases access to private and public funding streams as most of these programs require that providers have a state-recognized credential
- Provides additional validation of the contributions music therapists make as members of an educational or healthcare treatment team
- Aligns us with professional practice in comparable professions
To summarize, state licensure would provide greater access to our services, and greater recognition for the field of music therapy.
What has been accomplished, and what still needs to be done?
The Ohio Music Therapy Task Force has been working since 2006 to advocate for state licensure. Because it is very difficult for a bill to become a law, previous Ohio state licensure bills have “lost steam” throughout the process due to lack of interest and recognition. Ohio is among ten other states currently seeking state recognition. Connecticut, Georgia, Nevada, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, and Wisconsin have already reached state recognition.
As for Ohio, a senate bill for music therapy licensure is currently being drafted, sponsored by Senator Yuko. Members of the Ohio Music Therapy Task Force anticipate the senate bill to be presented very soon, and have been meeting with Senator Yuko’s staff to discuss a myriad of possibilities.
What would state licensure mean for Keys for Success?
State certification does not require any extra coursework, but recognizes the national MT-BC credential as eligibility for state licensure. Depending on the structure the state decides upon, state licensure may consist of a background check, some additional training, and a state licensure fee. Unfortunately, for music therapists employed at Keys for Success and any other music therapists in positions servicing two states (Indiana and Ohio), this would mean paying two state fees. Although we are a long way off from state recognition, some may consider this as a potential con of state licensure.
Making the move toward state licensure would mean the state of Ohio would have a roster of all board-certified music therapists. This would make Keys for Success’ music therapists more accessible for potential clients in the Southeastern Indiana and Southwestern Ohio areas seeking music therapy services.
Many other service providers that work with our clients, such as occupational therapists and physical therapists, are required to have state licensure. If Ohio requires state licensure for music therapists, not only will we be recognized among other healthcare providers, but we may be considered more seriously as an important component of our clients’ treatment team.
What can we do to advocate for state licensure?
A great way to advocate for state licensure is to advocate for the field of music therapy itself. Music therapists get a lot of practice advocating, as we often have to explain our profession on a daily basis! For music therapists and music therapy students who dread advocacy, or are not entirely comfortable with advocating at a higher, legislative level—start small. Consider attending a community event, speaking with family members and friends about music therapy, educating yourself on current research, emailing the Ohio Music Therapy Task Force about how you can get involved, or seeking guidance from another music therapist. For those of you who are not music therapists, but have received music therapy services or have observed music therapy in action, remember that anyone can be an advocate. Ensure that you have a clear understanding of music therapy, then provide an accurate representation by discussing your experience with others. A step toward state licensure is a step toward spending less time answering the question, “what is music therapy?”