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An introduction to Music Therapy for children & families

Wed 28 Jul 2021 - Ray Travasso

Ray Travasso is a Music Therapist and trained at the Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy Centre, London and graduated with a Masters in Music Therapy in 2002.  Ray works part-time at The Treehouse, East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices and is also Director and co-founder of Suffolk Music Therapy Services, an organisation that provides Music Therapy to children and adults across East Anglia. Ray manages an amazing team of 15 highly skilled and trained music therapists and is keen to increase access to Music Therapy to more organisations and individuals across the region.

Over the last 18 years, I have worked mainly in paediatric and adult palliative care. The model of care in hospices encompasses the whole family and this approach has helped to define and focus my own ways of thinking about the power and scope of music therapy. My understanding of music therapy and ways of working is a broad church that welcomes everyone.  This is fundamental to my own views of music therapy and how I view the service that I manage.

Working with families

In my own work as a Music Therapist, I often work with children and parents. While my work is always focused on the child, or person referred, it is really important that the parent or carer is also supported in the session. I have seen at first hand the pain and loss that parents experience when losing a loved one. I have also had the privilege of working alongside some children and families for many years, journeying with them through a rollercoaster of challenges and opportunities.  Working with the whole family unit is vital to caring for the child.  However, for me, this can only be done through a relationship that includes, creativity, trust and compassion.

BBC project - Tiny Happy People

Back in January 2020, I received an email from a BBC researcher asking if I would be interested in helping to produce a short film about Music therapy.  It sounded interesting, so I replied and said that I would like to be involved.  What I didn’t realise was that I had to be interviewed for it and needed a screen test! The film was to be included in a new BBC webpage and resource called ‘Tiny Happy People’. The purpose of the ‘Tiny Happy people’ campaign is to educate the general public (mainly parents and carers with babies and young children) on a range of different topics. These include: feeding, sleeping, bonding, etc.

The ‘Tiny Happy People’ website is full of resources, tips and ideas for families. There is also a section on ‘meeting the professionals’. This section includes an overview of what the different health professionals do when working with babies and children. The short film that I made has been used to help families understand what music therapy is.

Where next?

Over the last 6 months, the impact of the national lockdown and further restrictions has impacted greatly on the most vulnerable and needy families in our communities.

Music therapy is even more vital than ever before. But we need to adapt and find ways of working that will enable us to meet the needs of the children and families that we work with.  We can’t do this on our own. We need to work together, share ideas, resources and be compassionate.

For the first time at Suffolk Music Therapy Services, we have started a Facebook Live Music Singing session, facilitated by a Music therapist. This session is free and now receives several hundred views a week by families. In addition, our online music therapy sessions have enabled parents to see music therapy and helped them to get involved in the sessions in ways that they never could when their children were at school. Our therapists have innovated so many new and diverse ways of working.

Conclusion & Links

The last 12 months has been an incredibly difficult time for the music therapy profession.  However, during this time, I have seen incredible growth in the team I work with and I feel that we are a stronger because of it. The online sessions have energised me and I have experienced a new wonder about the power of music and how we can work as music therapists.  Many of us have developed skills that we never thought would be useful!  We have made new friends (thanks BAMT Providers meeting buddies!) and found new ways of working that will transform the way we work forever.

BBC Tiny Happy People Weblink


Suffolk Music Therapy Services – Facebook Page


Suffolk Music Therapy Services - Website