On the 5th of June 2008 the strenuous and enduring efforts to obtain a 'music therapy law' in Austria found a happy ending. The Austrian Parliament passed unanimously a law governing the practice of music therapy in our country, which will come into effect on the 1st of July 2009, after a period of hard and intensive work undertaken predominately by the Austrian Association of Music Therapists (ÖBM).
Since this Association was founded in 1984, the achievement of state recognition of music therapy was a defined aim. But even in the decades before, professional policy was a highly relevant topic for music therapists. A short glance into the history of the Austrian music therapy shows us that Editha Koffer-Ullrich was already in contact with the Austrian ministry for social affairs to negotiate the legislation of music therapy as early as 1959! At that time music therapy in Austria had only existed for two years. Well-established theoretical foundations for clinical practice are essential for the development of professional laws leading to state recognition, and therefore at that point, the application was very ambitious and perhaps premature. The Austrian Government? referred to this lack of theoretical background but also mentioned the small size of the occupational group (Mössler, 2008). Even though theory building grew and music therapists established their own professional guidelines, political representatives did not think that state registration was viable for our profession. This argument was a serious obstacle in the following decades.
In the nineteen nineties music therapists started again to work vigorously on developing a professional law. Since that time they have had to fight more than one round within the bureaucratic framework of policy and law. During this period, the campaigning group more than once were in sight of completing the legislation, only to be sent right back to the beginning again because the government changed due to elections. . It seems all the more remarkable that the law was finally passed within the legislation period of the current government. After only an 18 month term, which is the shortest term of a government in the Second Republic, Austria is facing re-elections. And just before the domestic struggle was getting serious, they completed the legislation for the following music therapy law - and all music therapists involved in this exciting process were breathing a sigh of relief.
The music therapy law is an autonomous law, mainly based on the theoretical framework established by the "Viennese School of Music Therapy" and partly influenced by the laws for psychotherapists and clinical psychologists in Austria, which were passed in 1992.
Here is a short summary of those contents, which could be also interesting for music therapists from other countries including the topics:
To gain a deeper insight into the law, the MuthG and its explanations can be retrieved from the homepage of the Austrian parliament. (http://ris1.bka.gv.at/Appl/Authentic/SearchAuthResult.aspx?page=doc&docnr=1).
Within the MuthG, music therapy is defined as an autonomous, scientific-artistic-creative and expressive therapeutic approach. It is the conscious and intentional treatment of people suffering from emotional, somatic, mental or social behaviour disorders and diseases, by employing musical media within a therapeutic relationship between one or more clients and one or more therapists with the following aims:
Music therapy is indicated in the fields of health prevention, treatment of acute and chronic diseases, rehabilitation, encouragement of social competences including supervision, as well as training and research.
The relevance of all these areas refers to the theoretical framework of the "Viennese School of Music Therapy", which has been established in different clinical fields from its very beginning. The specific thinking about and the work with the relationship between therapist and client using music can be seen as a long theoretical and methodical development within this music therapeutic approach, which is especially related to humanistic and psychodynamic concepts.
The music therapy qualification is related to the two established music therapy training programmes in Austria, situated at the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna and the Institute of Ethno Music Therapy in Rosenau/Lower Austria, which conform to the Bologna Standards. Two different types of occupational qualification are defined:
Music therapists who have completed their training with a masters degree at an Austrian University or at a College of Higher Education are qualified to work autonomously both as freelance professionals and within an institution as employees. If music therapy is indicated to treat an acute or chronic disease or for rehabilitation, a referral is necessary by the second music therapy session. The referral can be given by a doctor, a clinical psychologist, a psychotherapist or a dentist.
A master training must contain theoretical and practical subjects especially including clinical-psychological, medical and psychotherapeutic-scientific basics. At least 200 units of self experience, 60 units relating to institutional settings, topics related to healthcare policy and psychosocial frameworks as well as 60 units concerning ethical issues are required.
By finishing the music therapy training with a bachelor degree at an Austrian University or at a College of Higher Education, music therapists are qualified to work as employees on recommendation of a doctor, a clinical psychologist, an autonomous music therapist, a psychotherapist or a dentist. They are required to have ongoing supervision with another suitably qualified music therapist.
The bachelor training requires similar contents to the master training. There are just differences in the units of the mentioned theory subjects, which comprise only 30 units each instead of 60.
The Federal Ministry (current name: Federal Ministry of Health, Family and Youth) will be responsible for administrating the list of music therapists. Every music therapist working in Austria has to be registered on this list. Three pre-requisites have to be achieved:
Music therapists who have not completed their music therapy training in Austria are allowed to work in Austria after a positive evaluation of the equivalency of their qualification by a music therapeutic expert of the responsible ministry and of course after registration on the list of music therapists. If there are essential differences in the qualification, compensatory measures are required.
Due to the freedom to provide services across national boundaries within the European Union and the Swiss Confederation, music therapists who are practising professional music therapy and are settled in one of those countries, are allowed temporarily to work as music therapists in Austria without being registered in the list of music therapists. What they have to do is:
The law includes duties which represents both ethical issues and the responsibilities a music therapist bears towards his or hers clients.
There are some more paragraphs within the law concerning sanctions applied in the case of malpractice and specific interim regulations for all the music therapists already working in Austria (Musiktherapiegesetz, 2008).
It should be mentioned that music therapy is not going to be funded by the social security system, through the introduction of this law. It was a main interest of the government (especially the financial ministry) that the legislation of a music therapy law would not cause further financial implications for the state. In fact, nobody knows what will come in the next few years. The fight for a specific music therapy law, including all the historical events, lasted 50 years. Hopefully this does not predict the duration of potential negotiations with the social security system! This could be a next step in the political future of music therapy as a supported therapeutic approach within the public health system.
The passing of this law is not only the acceptance of about 200 music therapists in Austria. Furthermore it represents the recognition of a well-established theoretical framework which is worthy and required to be protected by law. As this is a relatively small group of professionals, a substantial political success has been achieved and hopefully it will act as a a helpful model for other European countries to establish state recognition for this unique profession.
For the moment we are happy and proud to have achieved this law here in Austria and we would like to share our knowledge and experiences with all who are still working on this issue. For further information please have a glance on the homepage of the Austrian Association of Music Therapists (www.oebm.org).
Mössler, K. (2008). Wiener Beiträge zur Musiktherapie: Wiener Schule der Musiktherapie. Von den Pionieren zur Dritten Generation (1957 bis heute) [Viennese Contributions to Music Therapy: Viennese School of Music Therapy. From the Pioneers to the Third Generation (1957 until nowadays).] (Vol. 8). Vienna: Edition Praesens.
Mössler, K. (2008). Update on Music Therapy in Austria. Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy. Retrieved June 10, 2013, from http://testvoices.uib.no/?q=country-of-the-month/2008-update-music-therapy-austria