The Certification Board for Music Therapists compared to other agencies: A study in bureaucracy

In August, I changed my last name through a legal marriage in Massachusetts. Marriage licenses in Massachusetts take anywhere from six months to over a year to become recorded at the state Registry of Vital Records and Statistics. However, the city or town will provide essentially a glorified photocopy of the form we filled out, complete with signature and seal and everything, as proof of marriage (and name change, if applicable). According to the Boston registrar, with whom I spoke last week, the document is accepted anywhere in the world for adoptions, purchases of property, and so forth. I have been able to change my name on everything (driver's license, mortgage, Social Security card, W-2) using either this copy of the license or a copy of my voter registration (I was able to get the voter registration immediately, but the marriage license copy took a week or so to get).

The Board of Registration of Allied Mental Health and Human Services Professionals changed the name on my Massachusetts counseling license without any documentation whatsoever. I just filled out a form, signed it, and received my new license. They apparently rely on my professionalism. Which really makes sense, given that they trust me to make professional judgments that impact people's lives; it would be a bit odd if they didn't also trust me to be honest in reporting my correct legal name.

The Certification Board for Music Therapists, however, is asking that I provide an actual registered copy of my marriage license in order to change my name. I had a lengthy conversation with a staff member there, who stated that they will not accept my driver's license, Social Security card, mortgage documents, tax documents, or professional license. I should mention that the MT-BC credential does require completion of extensive training and continuing education to secure and maintain, but is not a professional license by legal standards. Having the credential does not grant any sort of legal standing or privileges.

I just received a voice mail from a board staff member stating that she has talked to the board's lawyers, and I can fax over a copy of the marriage license from the city, and the board's lawyers would look at it and "decide if it is acceptable."

In the event that it is not, the board will effectively be asking me to use a name in a professional capacity that is no longer my legal name. They will be asking me to have a different name on my certification from the name associated with my private practice, tax documents, and state license. Actually, at the current time, they are asking that I use a name that is not my current legal name. How is this any sort of professional standard? I asked the staff member to whom I spoke if she could at least update their directory to include both of my last names, in the same way that one is free to choose whether to have a middle name or initial listed. She stated that this was also not possible without "a legal document." (Which, remember, doesn't include Social Security cards or tax documents, according to CBMT).

I should also mention that, for many therapists, the MT-BC credential is not "needed." The CBMT is not a gatekeeper for all therapists. With my master's in expressive therapies and license in mental health counseling, I am qualified to practice as an expressive therapist and to use music (and other artistic modalities) in my work to the extent to which I have appropriate training. I choose to maintain the MT-BC credential mainly because I value the field of music therapy and wish to do my duty to further it, but I'm starting to reconsider this.

Since this is a public entry and could be potentially read by clients and others, I will say here that I absolutely do not intend to discontinue practicing, and that this post is not intended to pass judgments on the field of music therapy overall. My intention is quite the opposite actually; I want to point out that if the CBMT is going to hold standards that are ridiculous arbitrary considerably higher than those held by state boards -- particularly in areas totally unrelated to professional practice, such as which proofs of name they'll accept -- they're going to lose good people. No one who is assessing the validity of the field is going to call the board and ask what methods they use for documenting name changes. They're going to look at standards of credentialing and standards of practice. While I continue to uphold professional standards as is my obligation, I will say that I have spent a lot of time over the past week on the phone with the CBMT and various state bureaus instead of putting extra energy into the treatment plans I'm updating.

This doesn't do the field any good.

UPDATE: They did finally change my name after having a meeting with their lawyers. Yes, a meeting with their lawyers. This is how the CBMT spends their money, apparently.


Lyss said...

That sucks. A debate recently ensued in my office about how you go on your honeymoon with a newly married last name, since married name changes to passports have to be done in advance of the trip, but need documentation proving that it is in indeed now your last name.

eeka said...

I can't even get a passport. The passport agency cites the defense of marriage act and claims that they don't have to recognize the Massachusetts marriage (therefore they don't have to recognize the name change either). The IRS has no problem recognizing my name and letting me pay my taxes though. Fuckers.

Doug K said...

My goodness, sounds like the CBMT needs a little education on this point. I am an MT-BC and am disappointed to hear about this. Generally I perceive the folks there to be helpful and not prejudiced toward queer folks. I know several folks on the board there and am just really surprised. Put it this way: where I live, nothing like this even arises, it's so conservative...

eeka said...

Thanks Doug. BTW, I'm checking out your blog...

I'm not entirely sure it's a queer issue per se, because it takes any couple in MA many months to have the marriage registered with the state. The stamped photocopy from the city or town is supposed to be valid for anything.

I think I'd need to know whether other people were able to change their name and with what documentation in order to ascertain whether it might be a discriminatory situation. I may ask around and see if I can find anything out from anyone.

It seems, frankly, more like they're wanting to be bigger and more powerful and more ethical than every other organization, as if this builds clout for them in some way. But what it really is going to do is lead them to lose some good people. If they hadn't changed my name, I would have let the credential go. I'm a licensed billable clinician, so I don't NEED the MT-BC.