by Jamie E. Gilliam, MTI
My name is Jamie Gilliam, and I am a 23-year-old native of Eastern North Carolina and a born-and-raised Pirate. I completed all music therapy coursework at East Carolina University’s accredited School of Music in May of 2016. To complete my degree, the American Music Therapy Association requires a six-month (or 900 hour) internship under the supervision of a nationally Board Certified Music Therapist (MT-BC). My internship began almost three weeks ago at Atlantic Music Therapy, LLC in Clayton, NC. Atlantic Music Therapy, LLC is a private practice which serves adults with neurologic illness or injury.
As I said, I graduated last spring. You might be wondering why it took so long to secure an internship. I am close with my family so I didn’t want to go out of state, and there are only five ‘National Roster’ internship sites in North Carolina. While searching the research triangle, I came into contact with Allison Hingley, a neurologic music therapist and the owner of Atlantic Music Therapy. After discussing the opportunity for an internship, she allowed me to observe her group for people with Parkinson’s disease. Through college, I thought I wanted to work with children, but seeing the impact music therapy was making on these patients’ rehabilitation and maintenance goals was inspiring.
In these first three weeks my internship, I have been reassured that this career is for me. I’ve been to the Southern Eastern Regional conference for the American Music Therapy Association, an entire weekend dedicated to expanding and sharing music therapy knowledge, networking with other therapists, and reenergizing your own therapeutic philosophy. At conference, I reconnected with classmates from ECU and made new connections with students and interns. For the first time, I was able to see the student AND professional side of operations, and was most inspired by the Music Therapy Association of North Carolina (MTANC) meeting.
MTANC is pushing for music therapy licensure in North Carolina to ensure board certified music therapists are the professionals providing quality services to healthcare consumers in the state. To help in this effort, my internship director and I went to the NC Legislative Office building in Raleigh to talk to representatives and senators about our bill (H192) and to help to gain support and awareness. This was an encouraging experience and helpful practice in explaining what our field does to help and why licensure is necessary.
Along with these opportunities for advocacy and field-strengthening events, I’ve had the opportunity to provide therapy again! Our patients at Atlantic Music Therapy are a lot different than a classroom of children with special needs, and I look forward to learning how to better serve a population with which I am less familiar.
I’ll be keeping a blog throughout my internship to share what I am learning as a future music therapist, keep track of my growth, and connect with music therapists and music therapy interns. Over the next six months, I hope to share inspiration and insight into what it actually means to be a music therapy intern and eventually, a Board Certified Music Therapist!
In America, music therapists are required to have at least a bachelor’s degree in music therapy, complete a six-month, full-time internship, and pass a national board certification exam to practice music therapy. Successful completion of the exam means these therapists hold the credential “MT-BC” (Music Therapist – Board Certified).
Music therapy national board certification is maintained in five-year cycles. During each cycle, music therapists must complete 100 continuing education credits. To put the intensity of this requirement into perspective, the incredible nurses serving patients in North Carolina hold state licensure which is renewed in two-year cycles. Their licensure board requires nurses to complete 30 hours of continuing education credits for renewal (please note: this is not an exhaustive description of the renewal options for nurses).
Unfortunately, North Carolina does not have licensure in place for music therapists. Why is this unfortunate? While music therapists’ national board certification credentials show how highly qualified we are, these credentials do not provide protection to consumers from those who practice without meeting our qualifications.
This gap in protection is where licensure comes into play. A license for music therapists in North Carolina would ensure that those practicing are qualified to do so. A license would require that a professional with specialized knowledge and skills provides the music therapy services consumers receive. Practicing without a license would likely have financial and legal ramifications; licensure would, essentially, make it illegal for someone to practice music therapy without the education, clinical training, certification, and state license that music therapists would hold.
North Carolina music therapists have been advocating for state licensure for a few years. As we continue to do so, we hope consumers seeking music therapy services will find a board-certified music therapist in their area. To get in contact with a board-certified music therapist in your area, please feel free to contact us (email@example.com) or search the online database on the Certification Board for Music Therapists website (http://cbmt.org/certificant_search).
Allison G. Hingley, MM, MT-BC
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