‘You’re a music… what?’

Hello there and welcome to my blog- Living Music Therapy. Since I qualified as a music therapist earlier this year (2016) I have been working as a freelance music therapist. My experience to date includes working with people with learning disabilities, autism and in End of Life Care. Working in a person centred way and tailoring the sessions to the individual means that every session is different. I learn a lot from the people I work with. 

I feel very fortunate to work in this profession. Yes, being a music therapist can be challenging and tiring but this is far outweighed by using my creativity every day and seeing the people I work with grow as individuals.

A common response when I say I’m a music therapist tends to be ‘What is that?’.  A lot of people have sort of heard about it but aren’t sure exactly what we do. Some think I’m a music teacher or entertainer, whilst others think that I’ll play a magic note and hope my patients are healed… I know I’m not alone when I say that I find it pretty difficult to describe my work in an ‘elevator pitch’. It really does depend on who we are working with and this post would be several miles long if I tried to explain everything!

So in short…

It’s important to remember that we are therapists who use music to build relationships with the people we work with. This can be particularly helpful with people who find words difficult to use. Primarily using musical improvisation,  we respond to whatever the patients brings to the session. This creative approach to listening helps people feel acknowledged and build up the tools they need for emotional expression.

Music therapists work with lots of different people at all levels of cognitive ability. You might find us in: special needs schools and colleges, pupil referral units, mental health settings, hospices, care homes and supported living, prisons or hospitals… I’m sure I’ve missed some! Most music therapists specialise in one or two areas.

People who come to music therapy don’t need to know how to play an instrument, while others may come as experienced musicians. As music therapists, we’re not there to teach people how to make music, but we are there to offer emotional support and communicate in a creative way.

To become a music therapist you need to complete a Masters degree and be registered by the Health Care and Professionals Council (HCPC). We are all musicians, and have spent lots of time developing our improvisation skills to use in sessions. I use flute, piano, guitar, ukulele, voice and lots of percussion in my practice. We also spend lots of time reflecting on our work- writing process notes and having regular supervision to help us figure out what is going on in our sessions and how we can best help the people we work with.

Visit the website of the professional body for music therapists in the U.K. (BAMT)

I’m hoping that those of you reading this blog who don’t yet know much about music therapy will start to understand and recognise the benefits it can bring to people’s lives. As you peruse, feel free to contact me with questions and comments. To the music therapists and other health professionals reading- I hope you can gain some useful ideas from my posts and share your own perspectives.

That’s all for now!