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Why Music Therapists Want To Be Licensed in Florida

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Music is often part of some of our biggest moments. From singing happy birthday to your favorite song that you always sing along to, music can help you connect and remember. Studies have shown that music can also become a form of therapy.

Only seven states require a license for music therapists. Florida isn't one of them. But some music therapy professionals in the Sunshine State are trying to change that. "Hello my friends, hello my friends. Hello my friends, it's good to see you today", sang Julie Martin. 

She says she uses the song to introduce herself to her patients.

"Sometimes I'll just approach the person and start to sing and try to make that connection as soon as possible", said Martin.

Martin is a Board Certified Music Therapist. She works with Alzheimer's patients at Suncoast Hospice in Clearwater. She uses song to convey information to her patients and sometimes she uses music to help them reminisce or relax.

"One of the best responses that I often see is good eye contact and a sense of awareness that another person is there, and then followed by sometimes smiles, sometimes being able to say hello or speak again", Martin said.

Family members of music therapy patients can also experience secondhand benefits.

"I am the son, my father, who is in a nursing home, and Julie is his musical therapist", Vincent Gianpapa said.

Vincent Gianpapa says that musical therapy gives him the chance to connect with his father, who has Alzheimer's disease.

"Whenever there's a glimmer of life it's very important to us and what Julie brings, what Hospice gives us, is very important to us because it brings that little glimmer, that slight chance of recognition", Gianpapa said. "It's very helpful."

Right now, music therapists like Julie Martin are not required to be licensed to provide services in the state of Florida.

Al Bumanis is the Director of Communications for the American Music Therapy Association. He says state licensure is the next step up from board certification.

"More needs to be done to recognize the profession and whether that is to get referrals, direct referrals from agencies to get insurance reimbursement where that's possible", Bumanis said.

He says having a state licensing program protects the public by making sure only trained professionals are allowed to practice. Some music therapy professionals in Florida are working on a bill to require state licensure, but they haven't found a lawmaker to sponsor the proposal yet.

In the meantime, Board Certified therapists like Julie Martin will continue their work with patients.

Copyright 2020 WGCU. To see more, visit WGCU.

Megan Milanese is an intern with WUSF’s health reporting project Health News Florida.