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Proposed licenses for NC music therapists could grow the profession

blurry photograph of woman playing violin
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New legislation would create a licensing board to credential music therapists as well as reflexologists and naturopathic doctors.

State lawmakers are considering creating a licensing process for music therapists.

Both East Carolina and Appalachian State universities offer programs in music therapy. But Cheryl Stephenson with the N.C. Music Therapists Task Force says it’s hard for graduates to find employment in the state. About 100 people work in the field in North Carolina.

“Without licensure, music therapy is at a stalemate, we’re not getting any larger in our field, and we are graduating students from these universities who unfortunately economically are going to other states that currently have licensure, which some of our neighboring states do,” she said.

A bill that passed its first House committee on Wednesday would create a new Healing Arts Commission to regulate the profession. The commission would also handle licensing for reflexologists and naturopathic doctors in the alternative medicine field.

But some of those doctors aren’t happy that their license would require a degree from an accredited school. Robert Green of Raleigh says his degree wouldn’t count.

“I will no longer be able to call myself a naturopathic doctor and it will destroy the profession of thousands of naturopathic doctors who do not have this accredited certification from one of these seven schools,” Green said.

But the N.C. Association of Naturopathic Physicians disagrees with Green's view. The association's president, Dr. Amy Hawkins, says those practicing without appropriate credentials are "a danger to the public."

"Naturopathic doctors are required to have four years of graduate level academic and in-residence clinical training, pass a national examination, and complete 20 hours of continuing education," she said. "House Bill 557 codifies this standard in law and will protect North Carolinians."

Rep. Harry Warren, R-Rowan and the bill’s sponsor, said he decided to combine licensing and regulatory oversight for the three professions because each is relatively small. And his previous efforts to create a licensing process for music therapists in previous years hit a brick wall in the Senate, which has been opposed to creating more licensing boards.

“Healing arts” is something of an umbrella term, Warren told the House Regulatory Reform Committee. “Any other legitimate practice in the medical field would be able to be incorporated into this commission,” he said, adding that the approach has support from senators who filed a similar bill.

The Healing Arts Commission would include representatives from each of the three professions, with some appointed by the legislature and others appointed by the governor.

The bill now goes to the House Rules Committee.

Colin Campbell covers politics for WUNC as the station's capitol bureau chief.
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