Who can call themselves Music Therapists?

An upcoming Music Therapy workshop came to our attention recently. While we are excited that such events can potentially raise public awareness and understanding of what Music Therapy is, what caused some concern is that the trainer presenting on “Music Therapy” is not a trained “Music Therapist”.

Music Therapists do not “own” music. We also no not claim exclusive rights to the practice of promoting health through music and musical activities. However, as Music Therapists, it is part of our professional responsibility to assist the public in identifying competent and qualified music therapists, and discourage the misuse and incompetent practice of music therapy (American Music Therapy Association Code of Ethics). Unfortunately, there are currently no laws in Singapore that protect the use of the title “Music Therapist”. Thus, it may be relatively common to come across untrained persons who call what they are doing “Music Therapy”.

Also, Music Therapy is different from sound therapy (e.g. Therapeutic Listening, listening therapy, SAMONAS). Unless the practitioner also is formally trained as a Music Therapist, s/he should not self-identify as a Music Therapist.

So, who can call themselves Music Therapists? Basically, only those who have completed an approved Music Therapy program and met requirements in the respective country where training was sought. In the U.K., Music Therapists hold the SRMT credential. Previously, postgraduate diplomas in Music Therapy were earned, but since last year, most U.K. universities have upgraded to the Master’s level. In the U.S., Music Therapists earn Bachelor, Master, and PhD degrees. Moreover, after completing an accredited academic programme, a six-month clinical internship and upon passing the certification exam, the Music Therapist is certified by the Certification Board for Music Therapists. Thereafter, the credential MT-BC can be used. Incidentally, these credentials (from respective countries) are recognized: MTA (Canada), RMT (Australia) and RMth (New Zealand).

The public is encouraged to seek the trainer’s specific credential in order not to be misled. Important questions to ask:

-Does the trainer have a degree in Music Therapy?

-Is the degree from an accredited programme?

-Is his/her certification status current?

For more detailed information, please refer to “Press Release: What is Music Therapy” on our blog.

Author: Ng, W.F. (2007).

Acknowledgement: Thanks to Loi Wei Ming for U.K. update, and Patsy Tan for proof-reading.

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