What is Music Therapy?
Music plays an important role in our everyday lives. It can be invigorating or calming, joyful or thought provoking, it can stir memories and powerfully resonate with our feelings, helping us to express them and to communicate with others.
Music therapy uses these qualities and the musical components of rhythm, melody and tonality to provide a means of relating within a therapeutic relationship. In music therapy, people work with a wide range of accessible instruments and their voices to create a musical language which reflects their emotional and physical condition; this enables them to build connections with their inner selves and with others around them.
Music therapists support the client’s communications with a bespoke combination of improvised or pre-composed instrumental music and use of the voice.
Individual and group sessions are provided in many settings and the therapist’s approach is informed by different theoretical frameworks, depending on their training and the health needs which are to be met.
Who is the Music Therapist?
Music therapists are highly trained allied health professionals, providing treatment that can help to transform people’s lives.
Music therapists hold a Masters degree in music therapy and have a high level of musicianship and skill. Many, though not all, will have studied music at a university or a conservatoire. Like other arts therapists (such as art and drama therapists), qualified music therapists must be registered with the Health and Care Professions Council.
This national regulator holds a Register of health and care professionals who meet their Standards of Proficiency and who are bound by their Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics. The British Association of Music Therapists (BAMT) is the professional body in the UK.
What do Music Therapists do?
Music therapists use music to help their clients achieve therapeutic goals through the development of the musical and therapeutic relationship. The role of the music therapist is not to teach clients how to play an instrument and there is no pre-requisite to ‘be musical’ in order to engage in music therapy. Music therapists work with the natural musicality styles and genres including free improvisation to offer appropriate, sensitive and meaningful musical interaction with their clients.
Music can be about engaging with others, but it can also provide the sanctuary of a more private experience. Depending on the individual needs of the clients, music therapists offer individual or group music therapy sessions. The work of a music therapist takes place not only in sessions but also around the sessions. In thinking about a client and their needs, music therapists will liaise with other professionals working with the client to provide a holistic, joined-up approach to their care. This can include offering assessments, attending meetings, weekly telephone calls with the client’s family or carers, providing joint sessions with other professionals such as speech and language therapists, writing reports, and making recommendations for further treatment.
Children and Adults Can Benefit from Music Therapy
Music therapists work in hospitals, schools, pupil referral units, day centres, hospices, care homes, therapy centres, prisons and in private practice across the UK. They often work within a multidisciplinary team alongside other professionals such as speech and language therapists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, doctors, paediatricians, teachers, social workers, consultants, psychologists and psychiatrists.
Providing music therapy to infants and children with autism, challenging behaviour, special needs, learning disabilities, neurological conditions and communication disorders. Music therapists also support adults experiencing: learning disabilities, mental health issues, dementia, bereavement, addiction and eating disorders, anger management issues, and stress.
Music therapy is an established psychological clinical intervention to help people of all ages, whose lives have been affected by injury, illness or disability through supporting their psychological, emotional, cognitive, physical, communicative and social needs.