HB 1051 – Music Therapist Credentialing

Rep. Crouch has introduced HB 1051 concerning the certification of music therapists.

In the licensure world, there are three basic approaches: licensing, registration, and certification. Licensing generally prohibits an activity unless you have demonstrated certain qualifications and the state has issued you a permit to perform the activity. Registration says that pretty much anyone can do the activity, but you have to sign up and provide the state with certain information first. (This can bleed over into licensure inasmuch as you might have to jump certain hoops before you’re allowed to sign up.) Certification says that anyone can perform the activity but only people who meet certain qualifications can hold themselves out as “certified”; the idea being that the consumer can then decide whether credentials or price is more important.

This bill is an odd hybrid. It looks a lot like a certification bill – it says that you can’t call yourself a certified music therapist unless the “the individual holds and maintains the credentialing administered by the Certification Board for Music Therapists.” (CBMT). CBMT is apparently an outfit based in Pennsylvania.

On the other hand, it also simply prohibits people from practicing music therapy if they aren’t credentialed by CBMT. However, there is an exception for other credentialed or licensed professions to perform music therapy where that therapy is within the scope of their practice.

So, on reflection, I think this bill would be better if it referred to licenses instead of certifications.

As to “music therapy” it is defined in the legislation as, “the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship.” That’s a nice piece of jargon right there.

In any event, the motivation of these bills always has a mix of protecting consumers and the public as well as protecting professionals from competition. The first is a legitimate public interest. The second seems more likely to drive the sort of lobbying necessary to get these bills passed.


  1. Mark Small says

    I attended and graduated from college (DePauw University) in the 1970s. We self-administered “music therapy” on a daily basis. Led Zeppelin, the Beatles, the Moody Blues, and other groups guided us through altered states (or commonwealths) and led to enlightenment. Would we have been required to obtain licenses for such self-therapy? I say a pox on those who would seek government intervention on such matters. Colorado and Washington are on a better path. Wait—those ballot initiatives had nothing to do with music. They addressed what accompanied the “music therapy” we enjoyed.

    • Shannon says

      Mark, “music therapy” is different than music therapy. It’s great that you can use music in a positive way to influence your own life, but certified music therapists’ work is a lot more complicated. They work with people with disabilities, hospital patients, clients in assisted living facilities, children in school systems, and clients in mental health facilities. I think it’s very important that there is govermental regulation surrounding the profession. You can visit http://www.musictherapy.org for self-education on the profession.

  2. says

    Since music therapy is a fairly common Bachelor degree, I suspect holders of the degree might like the state’s help in determining who can practice the profession. I’m kinda glad that state monitors who can practice law after I spent tens of thousands on a J.D. While music can surely be therapeutic in many situations, I think this is a more specialized application.

    • says

      I think the dividing line between certification and licenses should have something to do with whether a less than competent practitioner is likely to actively make a person’s situation worse or merely to have no real effect other than to waste time and money.

      Not knowing much about musical therapy, this looks like a situation where certification is appropriate but licensure might be more restrictive than the danger really requires.

  3. Mary says

    I assume that music therapy is used wholly or mostly for certain mental health situations (“therapeutic relationship”). Why should mental health professionals be less regulated than professionals treating physical health? Seems like goofing up mental health treatments is at least as potentially damaging as goofing up physical health treatments. Mental health just does not get the respect it should on so many levels. As to whether incompetence results in harm (I have no idea if it can) or “merely … no real effect other than to waste time and money” — since insurance companies allow only so much time and money to be spent on therapies, the services obtained ought to be as good as possible, since more will not be obtainable whether they are effective or not.

  4. says

    Dear Doug,

    Thank you for your interest in HB 1051 and for highlighting it in your recent blog. I value your perspective, considering your experience with legislative matters in the LSA. As I read your blog (and subsequent comments) it reinforced to me that we really do have so much to do in the way of educating the public about the field of music therapy and the credentialed clinicians who provide music therapy services in Indiana. Sometimes when we are working in a field day in, day out, we don’t realize how mis-understood our individual profession really is.
    I know we’ve gained considerable recognition and respect on a national level, especially since Congresswoman Gabby Gifford’s story aired last year (http://abcnews.go.com/Health/w_MindBodyNews/gabby-giffords-finding-voice-music-therapy/story?id=14903987), but in Indiana we still have a lot of work to do!

    This, precisely, is why I, and a task force of other Indiana music therapists have been working with Representative Crouch, the American Music Therapy Association (www.musictherapy.org), the Certification Board for Music Therapists, and others to create a bill that will increase awareness of music therapy, the music therapy credential, and in so doing, increase access to music therapy services in Indiana. HB 1051 is actually NOT intended to be a certification bill, as music therapists are credentialed nationally, following the successful completion of a music therapy degree program (bachelor’s or higher), completion of a 6-month clinical internship, and the passing of a national board exam. Board certification is then maintained through continuing education requirements (100 CMTE Credits per 5-year cycle).

    The Certification Board for Music Therapists (CBMT) is the only organization to certify music therapists to practice music therapy nationally. It’s MT-BC program has been fully accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) since 1986. Over 5,500 music therapists currently maintain the MT-BC credential, and participate in a program of recertification designed to measure or enhance competence in the profession of music therapy. http://www.cbmt.org

    HB 1051 is intended as a bill that will serve to protect the practice of music therapy and the specific professional credential of a board-certified music therapist (MT-BC). (RMT and CMT are music therapy credentials that were grandfathered and are also recognized for a few more years.) This bill will help to ensure that music therapy services being provided in Indiana are provided by qualified and credentialed professionals. In this effort we also hope to avert any potential harm that may come from employers hiring untrained or unqualified staff to provide medical, mental health, or educational services to patients or students in Indiana. Again, we also hope to increase recognition for music therapy, while increasing access to music therapy services for those who need it.

    Music therapy referrals are often received through physicians, rehabilitation therapists, case managers, parents/family, or the clients themselves. Currently, the Indiana Department of Disability and Rehabilitative Services recognizes music therapy, provided by board certified music therapists, and approves this service as part of the Indiana Medicaid Waiver programs. Music therapy is now reimbursed by several private insurance plans and music therapists are working in Indiana hospitals, mental health facilities, nursing facilities, hospice centers, day programs, private music therapy practices and schools. Currently, music therapy degrees are offered in four Indiana colleges/universities. Since 2000, music therapy jobs in Indiana have grown over 250% and today there are at least 4 open positions for MT-BCs in our state.

    Thank you for taking time to explore more about music therapy! I would like to offer to be a resource to clarify some of the mis-conceptions and help to educate your followers on the practice of music therapy and the credential behind the music therapy professional. Let me know if you have additional questions!

    Casey DePriest

    Casey DePriest, MT-BC
    Senior Therapist/Owner
    Neurologic Music Therapist
    IN Music Therapy Task Force Chair
    AIMT Executive Board

  5. Tracey Jude, MT-BC says

    Well said, Casey. Since there is much discussion of mental illness, I might add that it was the music therapists who treated the unresponsive psych patients when other therapies failed. Additionally, music therapy was first used in this country to treat post-trauma WWII veterans back in the early 1950′s. These two events marked the beginning of formal, measured treatment using music in America. It was also music used in a prescribed way that awoke a coma patient when nothing else did. It was also that same treatment protocol that allowed us to learn that this particular patient CHOSE not to respond out of fear, until he heard the soothing, non-threatening voice of the board-certified therapist. The profession has repeatedly proven its value over the past 60+ years, and other states have already recognized that. To my knowledge, there have been no regrets reported in doing so.

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