Music therapists would need license under plan

Proposal OK'd for AZ oversight, formal guidelines for certification
2013-03-02T00:00:00Z Music therapists would need license under planHoward Fischer Capitol Media Services Arizona Daily Star
March 02, 2013 12:00 am  • 

PHOENIX - It may not be a question of knowing whether Beethoven is better for you than the Beastie Boys.

But some nationally certified music therapists contend the wrong music, or even perhaps the right music improperly used, can be harmful. So they want state legislators to limit who - besides them - can practice the discipline.

The proposal cleared its first hurdle this week when the Senate Appropriations Committee approved SB 1437.

It not only would have the state Department of Health Services license music therapists, but also make it a crime, with a potential 30-day jail term, for just about anyone else to use music therapy.

Only Sen. Rick Murphy, R-Glendale, was not persuaded that state oversight is needed to protect the public.

"We continue to add more and more licensed professions," he said. "I guess I'm not convinced that we need to license that profession.'"

But Barbara Else, a music therapist from Tucson, said a state certification process will help people identify who is properly trained. She argued that the public can be endangered by letting just anyone hang out a shingle and claim they can use their Bruce Springstein records to treat someone.

She cited one instance of a 7-year-old Tucson-area boy with multiple disabilities and epilepsy. Else said the parent said the child was having problems in school with the loud environment there.

Else said an examination showed the child was "zoning out and having a lot of difficulty with focus with certain kind of sound frequencies," with the conclusion these frequencies were causing petit mal seizures.

"Many people might not be aware or trained to observe that," she said. But someone with a specialized college degree, Else said, would know.

Else also cited a case of a child in a sedative-induced coma who was reacting badly when certain music was played. She said a certified therapist, after analyzing the situation, switched to a different style of music, and the patient's oxygen saturation and respiration rates returned to normal levels.

To get the state certification, SB 1437 would require someone to have a bachelor's degree in music therapy from a program approved by the American Music Therapy Association, at least 1,000 hours of clinical training and pass a national certification test.

But there's also an element of business behind the push for certification.

"Some entities do not allow music therapists to fully practice their trade," said Sen. Kelli Ward, R-Lake Havasu City, the sponsor of the legislation, which blocks therapists from some schools and hospitals "unless they're licensed practitioners."

Even if the therapists are successful in getting state licensure, the scope of what they could do would be limited. The legislation spells out that music therapists would not be allowed to actually diagnose any physical or mental condition but only be permitted to treat someone referred to them.

To get legislative approval and blunt opposition by other professions, proponents agreed to allow the "incidental use of music" by others who are regulated by the state as long as they do not claim to be music therapists.

The measure now goes to the full Senate.

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