Post image for The Music Therapist’s Guide to State Recognition

The Music Therapist’s Guide to State Recognition

by Kimberly on January 19, 2012 · 4 comments

I am writing today’s post with my “CBMT Regulatory Affairs” hat on.

This month’s Social Media Advocacy project is an off-shoot of a larger, national initiative to get state recognition of the music therapy profession and our MT-BC credential.

State recognition can be a tricky concept to wrap our heads around. “Do you mean licensure?” “Why isn’t our MT-BC enough?” My hope and intention with this post is that it will answer some of your questions and address some of your concerns.

What is state recognition?

As the name implies, state recognition refers to the policies and processes by which state governments and agencies recognize a particular profession. It is genuinely state-specific as each state recognizes and/or regulates professions differently.

What’s the point of state recognition?

As with everything we do, this is for our clients. We want our clients to be able to 1) access our services easily from 2) a qualified individual. Put in another way, it’s about recognizing quality services and allowing state citizens to know they are available and to be able to receive them.

How does state recognition work?

There are several ways state recognition can occur:

  • Regulatory Changes. Regulations refer to the rules that run a state and that are written to implement state laws. For example, a particular state agency (e.g. Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Education, etc.) have written into their regulatory code what professions (e.g. PTs, OTs, etc.) are eligible to provide services to citizens that department covers. In some states, this is very specific and in other states it is not. Some states include music therapy in their regulations and some do not. In some states, getting added to the regulations may be enough for state recognition and in other states, you need another form of recognition before you can be added.

The next 3 options require legislation be passed to create this type of recognition.

  • Registries. A registry is basically a list that says “the people included here have met X, Y, and Z, requirements and are allowed to perform ___ services in the state.” There are no boards and not much quality-control oversight, but a registry often provides title protection and does offer state recognition.
  • Certifications. A state certification is a step up from a registry and a step down from a license in terms of quality control oversight. Some states still maintain state certifications, though is seems that most do not.
  • Licenses. This is the “gold standard” of state recognition. A state license generally includes a board that oversees (e.g. regulates) the profession and there many be state-specific training requirements before one can apply for a license (e.g. a mandatory reporting workshop). A state license offers the most in terms of title protection and public protection. It is not uncommon for a license to be the only way a state recognizes a particular profession.

Who is working on this?

From the beginning (i.e. since 2005), the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) and the Certification Board for Music Therapists (CBMT) have worked jointly and collaboratively on this initiative. About seven years ago, representatives from each association got together and crafted the State Recognition Operational Plan.

Now, Judy Simpson (Director of Government Relations for AMTA), Dr. Dena Register (Regulatory Affairs Adviser for CBMT), and I (Regulatory Affairs Associate for CBMT) work together to facilitate the implementation of this Plan. We work with task forces from each state to implement the Plan and determine what is the best way for music therapy to be recognized in that state.

Why isn’t our national MT-BC enough?

Although there are many factors that contribute towards why we are focusing on state recognition, one of the primary reasons is due to a shift in government. Over the past 10-15 years, state governments, as opposed to the federal government, have taken more control over the oversight and regulation of professional occupations. The Plan is our attempt to take a proactive approach to get states to recognize our national MT-BC credential.

Will it cost me money?

This depends on the state in which you live, but any registry, state certification, or license will cost some money to cover administrative fees. We do not know how much because, again, that is determined at the state level and each state operates and functions differently. Just know that those working on this Plan are working for you and in your best interests.

Do I get a say in this?

Of course! All the task forces work hard to communicate regularly with the music therapists in their state. Most of this correspondence happens through email, so be sure to read what your task force sends! Nothing moves forward without the consent of the membership.

If you want to be more involved, I invite you to visit the CBMT State Task Force map, click on your state, and contact your task force to see how you can be involved.


In conclusion, here’s more information about the State Recognition Operational Plan:

Since 2005, the American Music Therapy Association and the Certification Board for Music Therapists have collaborated on a State Recognition Operational Plan. The primary purpose of this Plan is to get music therapy and our MT-BC credential recognized by individual states so that citizens can more easily access our services. The AMTA Government Relations staff and CBMT Regulatory Affairs staff provide guidance and technical support to state task forces throughout the country as they work towards state recognition. To date, their work has resulted in 35 active state task forces, 2 licensure bills passed in 2011, and an estimated 10 bills being filed in 2012 that seek to create either a music therapy registry or license for music therapy. This month, our focus is on YOU and on getting you excited about advocacy.

P.S. If you haven’t been reading these already, there are music therapists writing some FABULOUS articles about advocacy. I am blown away by their knowledge and by the diversity in posts. I’ve been keeping this page updated with new advocacy articles and invite you to do some reading yourself.


{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Rachel Rilinger January 21, 2012 at 8:13 am

This is a fantastic post about a *really* important topic. Thank you for being a part of this integral part of our career . Thank you also for posting this as it helped me clarify some of the terms!

sarki dinle January 26, 2012 at 6:21 am

good post
sarki dinle´s last blog post ..Katy perry – firework türkçe sözleri

Tameka October 13, 2017 at 8:02 am

I think many people should get involved with music therapy. It helps many people which made me want to do more research on it. I stumbled across this article about addicts and alcoholics and how music therapy helps.

Should anyone else be interested to see how this would help others here’s the page I looked at

I hope this can assist with someone else as music therapy is very beneficial!

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