Music Therapy considered for higher level program

Wartburg is one of only two colleges in Iowa that offer music therapy programs and there’s a possibility the school could trade its bachelor entry level program for a master entry level degree. Melanie Harms, assistant professor of music therapy, said students don’t have to worry about the program being changed any time soon. 

“It would be 2020 before any of this ever came down to us. We would have years to get ready,” Harms said. “I’ll let my students know when to worry.”

Right now, the American Music Therapy Association is simply discussing the idea of changing the program. By doing this, music therapy would be similar to other therapy programs that are master entry level only, like occupational and physical therapy. As a member of the AMTA, co-chair of the standards of clinical Practice Committee and an alternate to the Assembly of Delegates, Harms has been involved in the recent discussions about music therapy education.

The Education and Training Advisory Board is determining if switching to a master entry level program will benefit the music therapy profession. Their information was presented at the AMTA Assembly of Delegates in November. No decisions have been made yet; discussions have simply moved from the national level down to local town hall meetings on the topic this spring, Harms said.

Dr. Fred Ribich, interim vice president for academic affairs, said Wartburg doesn’t currently offer master entry level programs for any degrees. “In order to offer any masters level degree program at Wartburg we would have to go through a special accreditation process with our regional accrediting body, the Higher Learning Commission,” Ribich said.

Harms said rumors about Wartburg’s music therapy program being eliminated or changed any time soon are false. “I encourage all students to be informed and not get overly excited about social media postings on this matter,” Harms said.

“At present, none of these discussions impact the education or future they have as music therapists.” Ribich also said Wartburg isn’t making any changes to the program right now. “Until something happens at the national level, Wartburg will continue to offer its existing program in music therapy,” Ribich said.“This is not a decision that Wartburg is making; we would be in the position of having to decide what to do in response to the national professional association’s action.”

Harms said the profession’s main focus right now is not switching to a master entry level program, but obtaining state licensure for music therapists.  Harms is a member of the Iowa Task Force advocating for music therapists’ state licensure.

“That recognition is the most important thing for our field right now,” Harms said. “This would mean the state recognizes music therapy as a health care profession.” There are currently 44 music therapy majors and an incoming class of an estimated 26.

“We already have such a strong program that’s evidenced by our number of students and our 100 percent job placement rate in music therapy,” Harms said.

While the idea of a master entry level program is being discussed, Harms said more research and questions are pending. “I think that the odds of music therapy disappearing from the Wartburg landscape are very, very slim,” Ribich said.


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