What is music therapy?
As human beings, music plays a fundamental role in our identity, culture, heritage and spiritual beliefs. It is a powerful medium which can affect us all deeply.
Playing a musical instrument, being part of a choir or in a band, listening to music - these are all ways in which we can engage in music. They help us to connect with ourselves and others. Music can be exciting or calming, joyful or poignant. It can stir memories and powerfully resonate with our feelings, helping us to express them and communicate with others.
In music therapy, music therapists draw upon the innate qualities of music to support people of all ages and abilities and at all stages of life; from helping new born babies develop healthy bonds with their parents, to offering vital, sensitive and compassionate palliative care at the end of life.
Everyone has the ability to respond to music, and music therapy uses this connection to facilitate positive changes in emotional wellbeing and communication through the engagement in live musical interaction between client and therapist. It can help develop and facilitate communication skills, improve self-confidence and independence, enhance self-awareness and awareness of others, improve concentration and attention skills.
Central to how music therapy works is the therapeutic relationship that is established and developed, through engagement in live musical interaction and play between a therapist and client. A wide range of musical styles and instruments can be used, including the voice, and the music is often improvised. Using music in this way enables clients to create their own unique musical language in which to explore and connect with the world and express themselves.
Music therapy is an established psychological clinical intervention, which is delivered by HCPC registered music therapists to help people whose lives have been affected by injury, illness or disability through supporting their psychological, emotional, cognitive, physical, communicative and social needs.
Who can benefit?
Because musical participation and response does not depend on the ability to speak, music therapy is a particularly effective clinical intervention for people who have difficulty communicating verbally. For people affected by disability, illness or injury, working with music therapists can be life-changing. Children with autism can develop emotional, social and communication skills. Someone with an acquired brain injury as the result of an accident can be helped to regain their speech. An older person frightened by the isolation and confusion brought on by dementia can, through the powerfully evocative nature of music, connect with these memories again and share these with others.
Music therapists frequently work as members of multi-disciplinary teams in health, education or social care - or in private practice. Click on the links below to read more.
Children and young people
Autistic spectrum conditions
Mental health care
"Music therapy can help in many clinical situations, particularly where communication is difficult due to illness, injury or disability"