Arizona Bill Would Punish Music Therapy without a License with 1 Month in Jail

A new bill under consideration in the Arizona State Senate would make unlicensed music therapy a crime. (Though it’s not as ridiculous as massage a horse, go to jail.) Since the 1940s, music therapy in the United States has benefited patients, improving their cognitive functions and emotional well-being.

But if SB 1437 passes, anyone who wants to become a music therapist will face some onerous barriers: an applicant would need a bachelor’s degree in music therapy from a program approved by the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA), at least 1,200 hours of clinical training, and 900 hours of internship experience. Practicing or calling oneself a music therapist without a government permission slip would be criminalized, with violators facing up to a $500 fine and/or 30 days imprisonment.

After passing committee 7-1, SB 1437 is headed for a full senate vote. The lone no vote was cast by state Sen. Rick Murphy. Murphy was not impressed with the rationale behind the bill: “We continue to add more and more licensed professions. I guess I’m not convinced that we need to license that profession.”

According to the AMTA, only three states have licensed music therapists: North Dakota, Nevada, and Georgia. This form of licensing is recent: North Dakota passed the nation’s first-ever state licensing scheme in 2011. This licensing creep might not come as a surprise to most American workers. In 1950, only one in 20 workers had to have a government permission slip to work. Today one in three do.

Unsurprisingly, the biggest backers of the legislation are music therapists who have already been certified through AMTA. They claim licensing is necessary to protect the public and identify those who are properly qualified. But there is already an independent, non-profit certification process for music therapists, the Certification Board for Music Therapists (CBMT). A quick search on the CBMT site finds there are around 175 certified music therapists in the Grand Canyon State.

Despite being the home of Barry Goldwater, Arizona is the most broadly and onerously licensed state for low-and moderate-income workers. Adding yet another licensing cartel is clearly a step in the wrong direction.

— Nick Sibilla
Nick Sibilla is a writer at the Institute for Justice

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