Oregon Establishes Licensing for Music Therapists

A new Oregon law passed in July will establish state licensing for music therapists. The law makes Oregon just the fourth state in the nation to provide licensure for the profession.

Christine Korb, director of Pacific University’s undergraduate music therapy program, has been working with a task force for the past seven years to get such a bill passed.

It’s a tremendous victory, she said, for the future of the profession.

“This is really legitimizing the music therapy profession in Oregon and providing citizens access to services,” she said.

Music therapists are health professionals who use music interventions to help individuals who may be challenged with cognitive, physical, social, emotional, behavioral or communication needs. They might work with people with brain injuries, dementia or autism, those recovering from strokes, with chronic pain, or even end-of-life transition care.

Korb, who originally went to school to study sociology and social work, returned to college in the 1980s to become a music therapist. She received her master’s degree from Colorado State University and has gone on to practice, teach, and even write a book called The Music Therapy Profession.

She’s seen firsthand the impact that music therapy can have on people’s lives — from children with autism spectrum disorder to adults with dementia.

“It’s a wonderful way to serve other people and also be a musician,” she said.

Lack of licensure, though, has meant that access to music therapy services have been limited for many people. Few health insurance plans cover music therapy, and without licensing, music therapists have been unable to serve students in Oregon’s public schools.

Now, music therapists will be on the roster of services that Oregon’s schools can access for students, such as those in special education through an individualized education plan. And, state licensure for music therapy takes a step forward in possibly acquiring music therapy services with the Oregon Health Plan.

Licensure, she said, will expand access to music therapy services for Oregonians and ultimately will lead to more jobs for music therapists, in schools, hospitals and elsewhere.

That’s good news for Pacific University students, too. In Fall 2014, Pacific launched a bachelor of music therapy program, only the second such program in Oregon. This fall, about six declared majors will begin their third year of the five-year program and more new students will join the program.

Their curriculum will include studying guitar, piano, voice and music education, as well as coursework in psychology, neuroscience, anatomy, and healthcare ethics and philosophy. Students also complete 1,200 hours of clinical work under the supervision of a board certified music therapist — the reason for the fifth year of the program.

Students who complete the program will be eligible to sit for national board certification, which is required to receive the new Oregon license to practice.

Jul. 9, 2015