SOP 11: Education and Clinical Training Requirements

“A qualified music therapist must have graduated with a bachelor’s degree (or its equivalent) or higher from a music therapy degree program approved by the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA), and must have successfully completed a minimum of 1,200 hours of supervised clinical work through pre-internship training at the AMTA-approved degree program, and internship training through AMTA–approved National Roster or University Affiliated internship programs, or an equivalent. Upon successful completion of the AMTA academic and clinical training requirements or its international equivalent, an individual is eligible to sit for the national board certification exam administered by the Certification Board for Music Therapists (CBMT).”


SOP 10: Music Therapy Governing Bodies

Music therapy in America is governed by two separate organizations: the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) and the Certification Board for Music Therapists (CBMT).

AMTA is our professional association responsible for establishing education and clinical training standards, supporting music therapy research, upholding ethical standards, educating the public about music therapy, and increasing access to quality music therapy services. Among many other initiatives to advance music therapy and support music therapists, AMTA organizes annual conferences and publishes the Journal of Music Therapy and Music Therapy Perspectives.

CBMT is an “Independent, non-profit, certifying agency fully accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA).” “The purpose of board certification in music therapy is to provide an objective national standard that can be used as a measure of professionalism and competence by interested agencies, groups, and individuals. The MT-BC credential may also be required to meet state laws and regulations.” CBMT is responsible for assessing the knowledge required for safe and competent practice, for issuing the music therapist credentials of Music Therapist – Board Certified (MT-BC), and for maintaining high standards of continuing education or recertification.


Repertoire Challenge 04: Songwriting

This fourth challenge concludes our first month of Repertoire Challenges. Today, or this week, or whenever you read this post, remember the many genres and populations you have memorized repertoire for. Think of the musical attributes, the lyrics, the clinical applications. For this final Challenge, have fun piggybacking a familiar song with new lyrics. Experiment with blues songwriting. Cut and paste quotes with song lyrics and compose a new poem to freestyle, improvise, or compose a song. Write an entirely original song. Facilitate a group chant, or go for an a cappela body music drum circle. The Challenge today is to consider the many different approaches to songwriting and the eclectic musical styles that can influence your product in order to plan out some new sessions that will be perfectly tailored to your unique clients.


Non-Profit Organization (NPO)

The Rhythm & Reason Blog has examined various business legal structures common for music therapy private practices: Sole Proprietorship, LLC, Corporation, and will now discuss Non-Profit Organizations (NPOs). These brief introductions are for educational purposes only and do not substitute for rigorous research and expert legal counsel.

NPOs are often associated with service and charity. Whereas the previously discussed business structures ultimately seek to increase profits or dividends, non-profits are dedicated to addressing community needs or advancing a social cause. After covering all costs of running the business, surplus revenues must be used to further advance their mission.

Every business can benefit from a well-crafted mission statement. Perhaps no other legal structure demands a more thoroughly investigated statement of purpose more than an NPO. If you aim to build a non-profit, you must pinpoint a need for your new organization, research whether there are any pre-existing organizations serving similar needs, plan how you will ensure start-up plus sustained operational funding, and whether a non-profit is truly the best legal structure for your situation. A non-profit has the best chances of success when board members are judiciously selected, volunteers are motivated to support, and additional resources and supports are utilized. This team should craft a detailed business plan, including marketing and fundraising strategies. You will need professional guidance, preferably from an attorney or accountant with prior experience helping non-profits, to best navigate all of the required paperwork.

Once your team is ready to move forward, you will need to incorporate at the state level, apply for tax-exempt status first with the IRS, file for tax exempt status next on the state and local level, and then submit all applicable annual reports. The IRS recognizes 29 different types of non-profits, but the most common NPOs are categorized under Section 501(c)(3): those whose purposes are charitable, religious, educational, scientific, literary, testing for public safety, fostering amateur sports competition, or preventing cruelty to children or animals.

There are many decisions an aspiring business owner must make. Research, reflect, and seek counsel when selecting which business structure best fits your unique situation and vision. Whether working as a sole-proprietor, building an LLC, founding a corporation, or inspiring an NPO, remember that legal distinctions are just the beginning. Your business will only grow as big as you’re willing to go. Get out there! Live organized, be smart, work hard, study, meet important people, provide excellent service, keep effective records, develop lasting relationships, expand your network, advocate for music therapy, innovate, research, WORK, and flourish. Realizing your potential takes compassion, a willingness to ask for help, courage, commitment, and your own maturing combination of “intangibles.” Get out there and OWN IT!

Internal Revenue Service. (n.d.) Tax Information for Charities & Other Non-Profits. Retrieved from

U.S. Small Business Administration. (n.d.). How to Start a Non-Profit. Retrieved from

Wikipedia. (n.d.). 501(c) organization. Retrieved from


Repertoire Challenge 03: Memorization

The Rhythm & Reason Blog’s Repertoire Challenge continues every Sunday this April. While driving from session to session,  sitting down to practice guitar, or watering the garden, keep song lyrics in your mind! You’ve thought of different genres, listed songs from each, and now – how many of those songs can you perform from memory? Which genres do you need to work on? Are there any clinical populations that you would like to be musically better prepared for? Are there specific techniques that you’d feel more confident about if you were more familiar with song lyrics or themes? How many songs can you memorize this week? How many do you want memorized in three months? Challenge 03: How many do you have memorized right now? What do you need to do in order to reach your memorization goals?


SOP 09: Potential For Harm

Music therapists are uniquely trained to implement evidence-based treatments that will serve and not harm their clients. Although the possibility of harm through music seems counterintuitive to some individuals, well-intending musicians without the required knowledge, skills, training, and experience may pose risks to vulnerable populations, such as premature infants, children with special needs, veterans of war with post-traumatic stress, or family members in hospice. “Music therapists, therefore, participate in continued education to remain competent, know their limitations in professional practice, and recognize when it is appropriate to seek assistance, advice, or consultation, or refer the client to another therapist or professional… To protect the public from threats of harm in clinical practice, music therapists comply with safety standards and competencies such as, but not limited to: Recognize and respond to situations in which there are clear and present dangers to a client and/or others; Recognize the potential harm of music experiences and use them with care; Recognize the potential harm of verbal and physical interventions during music experiences and use them with care; Observe infection control protocols (e.g., universal precautions, disinfecting instruments); Recognize the client populations and health conditions for which music experiences are contraindicated; and Comply with safety protocols with regard to transport and physical support of clients.”


Repertoire Challenge 01: Genres

Sundays are normally the Rhythm & Reason Blog’s day to evoke curiosity, to ask questions and reflect on our profession and the wondrous world around us. Throughout April, these Sundays are going to be serialized to find out how well you know your repertoire. First challenge: Can you name at least ten different music genres?



This brief introduction is for educational purposes only. For those considering incorporation, please seek legal and financial counsel. You dreams are stronger with a well-crafted team.

Unlike a sole-proprietorship or LLC, a corporation is an independent legal entity. The corporation is separate from, and owned by, its shareholders. The corporation itself is held legally responsible for all business actions and debts. Business stock can be sold to attract financial investors or offered to entice premier employees. If you are just starting out or planning on a very small business, corporations may be too complex and expensive for your needs. This business structure is best for larger, well established practices with more employees.

State laws will vary and you should seek legal help when forming a corporation. You should consult legal and financial professionals before making any large decisions. However, to understand the general process, incorporation requires registration of your business name, filing of required documents, and obtaining licenses or permits as needed.

Before building your brand, think and research business names. Most states will require you to include one of the following terms: Co., Company, Corp., Corporation, Inc., Incorporated, Limited, or Ltd. For more information on selecting a business name or fictitious name (DBA), see R&R’s text from earlier posts in this serial.

Before incorporating, the initial owners will appoint directors. Directors must make policy and financial decisions. Owners often appoint themselves to be the directors, but may select people who are not owners. A corporation will also appoint officers; there should be a president and a secretary, but any other positions may be developed as well.

You must file Articles of Incorporation (sometimes referred to as the Certificate of Incorporation, Certification of Formation, or Charter). Your Articles may be short and simple, which will provide your more flexibility, but they may also be more elaborate to enumerate various powers and functions. You will need to state your business name, principle office and mailing address, the number of shares (and designations of different classes of stock if actually applicable), and the name and address of the Registered Agent. Single-owner corporations can be completed by a single person, but co-owned ones will need to be signed by all owners. Every state will be a little different, and may require additional information. Depending on state fees, filing your Articles may cost several hundred dollars. Some states may require additional fees or documents.

An organization should develop bylaws in order to govern how the corporation and those involved within it will operate. Once directors have been appointed, Articles have been filed, and bylaws have been written, an initial board meeting will be held. Shareholders must meet at least once per year and record minutes. The first meeting should address company finances, adoption of bylaws, issuances of stock, and more. The directors may also decide if their “C” Corporation will instead elect for “S” Corporation status.

With ordinary C Corporations, the business itself is responsible for taxes on business profits and owners responsible for income taxes on what they received in personal salary, bonuses, and/or dividends. An S Corporation is taxed more like a sole-proprietorship, partnership, or LLC; business profits pass through to the personal tax returns of the owners. S Corps have stricter requirements than LLCs, but offer tax benefits as your revenue increases. Whereas members of an LLC must pay self-employment tax on all business income, S Corps must pay reasonable salaries and deduct payroll expenses such as Social Security and Medicare taxes, but can split any additional profits as dividends among the owners at a lower tax rate.

Start researching how to prepare for employees by visiting In brief, you will need an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS, worker’s compensation, employee eligibility verification, records of employment taxes withheld, and more.


SOP 08: The Bigger Picture

Music therapists maintain a vision of the bigger picture in order to best serve an individual client. This not only means engaging the whole person across all domains rather than just a diagnosis or limitation; it means more than holding the patient’s history and potential future in mind while guiding their present therapy, but indeed minding their total environment. We must minimize any barriers to ensure they receive service in the least restrictive environment (LRE). We collaborate not only with other healthcare professionals, but with the family, caregivers, or any other appropriate persons in the total social environment. We educate them on which objectives music therapy is working on, how we’re working on them, and what more can be done outside of the session to best generalize and maximize outcomes.