If there is one question that a music therapist is asked on a regular basis, and therefore the one that we all ought to be able to answer in one sentence, it is...
So, what is music therapy?
Like many other music therapists, though, I can’t really answer this in one sentence. That's because the range of applications and forms of music therapy is so varied. There’s a whole page on this website dedicated to trying. I mean, technically I can do it but, much like any elevator pitch, it can quickly feel reductionist or misrepresentative - and anyway, isn’t it much more interesting what you as the client/patient (see, we can’t even agree on this word) think music therapy is?
I asked some other music therapists what sort of questions were frequently asked of them, and offer you my take on how we might answer these questions…
Is that for kids?
Yes, but also for adolescents, adults, the elderly and the newborn. If you are a human, you have some sort of concern that you would like to work with a professional on, and you like the idea of expressing yourself creatively, music therapy may be for you.
Oh yeah, isn’t that like with gongs and things?
I mean, whatever we can get our hands on, to be honest. There is usually a variety of instruments laid out for people to use: a piano, a guitar, some drums, large and small percussion. There should be enough of a variety that you can make lots of different sounds without needing lots of technical knowledge about how each instrument works.
Do you have to be able to play the instruments, or sing?
Not at all - you just have to be willing to make a noise with what’s available, at whatever point you feel ready. The point of music making in music therapy is to enable greater self-expression, to communicate things that are important to you without having to use words.
Is that for autism?
Yes, but also for pretty much any physical or mental condition you can think of, however it manifests. Music as a universal language can transcend usual communication boundaries, meaning anyone has the potential to express themselves more freely and be understood by the person working with them. North London Music Therapy specialises in working with mental health; you can view a list of the conditions we’re especially good at working with here.
So you teach music for special needs?
So music therapy is not the same as a music lesson. If you come for music therapy you won’t be working on performance goals; instead, the music you make will tell you and your therapist something about yourself that we can think about more deeply together, using music and words.
It’s also not just for people with special needs. If you have a concern about your mental health, whether it’s been diagnosed or not and whatever form it manifests in, you could benefit from music therapy.
So, how do you do it then?
Is there much work in that?
Yes! You can find music therapists in the NHS, schools, community settings, prisons, hospices, working for charities and in the private sector. If your organisation would like to benefit from a music therapy service, or if you are considering music therapy for yourself, get in touch with North London Music Therapy here.
So, does it actually work? Like, how? What does it do?
There is an emerging body of evidence that points to music therapy’s positive effects with many different groups of people. Coupled with major studies in similar fields, such as the Tavistock Adult Depression Study, we can increasingly say that we know long-term therapies drawing on the psychodynamic model, including the type offered by North London Music Therapy, have positive effects for the people that receive it. Music therapy can:
Increase confidence and self-esteem
Improve communication and relationships at work and at home
Help with stress, anxiety and depression
Parent Lyn Samuels contacted me on Twitter to talk about the positive effects music therapy had for her daughter:
As a parent that has seen the wonders I tell others about the gained self-confidence, flexibility, emotional support, reduced OCD tendencies, attention expanded, piano skills, social skills…
To find out more about how music therapy could benefit you, contact North London Music Therapy here.