woman playing guitar to patient in hospital

Betsy Hartmen was SPU’s first graduate of the Music Therapy program. She works with cancer patients and those with Multiple Sclerosis at Swedish Medical Center, Seattle.

On April 25, 2023, Governor Jay Inslee signed into law a bill that creates a music therapy license within the Washington State Department of Health. The bill also establishes a Music Therapy Advisory Committee to assist the Department with matters pertaining to obtaining music therapy licenses.

An estimated 16,000 residents in Washington benefit from music therapy each year. The therapy is used to facilitate healing and recovery. Music therapy has helped veterans suffering from PTSD and patients suffering from anxiety, depression, and substance abuse. Music therapy has been used to help children with autism regulate emotions, and it’s assisted children and adults with communication skills and cognitive function.

Requiring music therapists to be licensed by the state helps to ensure that practitioners are certified professionals and provides oversight and accountability of the profession to protect patients.

The bill, sponsored by Washington State Representative Julia Reed and Senators Noel Frame and Annette Cleveland, has been in the works for 16 years. Evelyn Stagnaro, co-chair of the Washington State Music Therapy Task Force led the work in getting the bill through both the House and Senate floors to Governor Inslee’s desk. Carlene Brown, director of SPU’s Music Therapy Program, and numerous students and alumni from SPU’s music therapy program helped lobby for support of the bill’s passage.

“Many of our music therapy students went to Olympia to meet with and lobby representatives,” Brown said. “And I very much appreciate the support our program has received from our faculty… Christopher Hanson and Bobbie Childers worked their own networks to send a message to senators to put the bill to a vote.”

Seattle Pacific University is the only academic institution in the state to offer an undergraduate degree in music therapy, accredited by the national American Music Therapy Association in August 2009.

Find out more about the music therapy major at SPU here.

Photo above: Betsy Hartman was the first graduate of SPU’s Music Therapy program. She works with cancer patients and those with multiple sclerosis at Swedish Medical Center, Seattle. (Photo by Mike Siegel)

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