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What to expect in music therapy

So you’ve signed up for a course of music therapy. You like the idea of being creative during therapy, using music to express emotions and feelings, and doing something slightly different than the traditional talking therapies - but you’re still looking for something that helps, and considers your issues deeply, on a longer-term basis.

But what actually happens during a session; what does a typical session look like?

The first thing to note is that there is no such thing as a typical music therapy session - it should be geared towards you and your needs. Since music therapy can include so many different components, your therapist will spend time at first talking with you about your needs and what you hope to get out of music therapy, which will start to inform the direction the work might take.

North London Music Therapy offer a series of assessment sessions before you commit to longer-term music therapy. For more details on this, and on the session content of a regular session, click here. This blog post will hopefully give a more emotional sense of what it’s like to be in the music therapy room.

You walk into the room. There is a piano, and several other instruments - xylophones, tambourines, drums, a guitar, a ukulele. Your therapist is there with you. It’s up to you whether you pick something up and play it, whether you’d prefer to sing, or to talk - or not to do anything at all. You are in control of the session; it’s your therapist’s job to listen carefully to what you’re communicating, in whatever form, and help you make sense of it.

This can feel a little daunting, and so can the feeling of expressing yourself (whether using music or words), talking about feelings and difficult areas for you - but the more honest and open you are, the more effective your therapy will be. If you feel able to tell your therapist what’s going on for you, they will be able to take it all into account.

If you don’t know how to play any of the instruments, that’s OK - you don’t have to know how. So long as you’re prepared to try them out, at a point when you feel ready, you’ll be able to work within music therapy. The music in music therapy is usually improvised - as in, it’s made up on the spot - with your therapist there to support and illuminate, whether musically, with words or both.

Like all similar interventions, your music therapy is a process which will develop and evolve over time. The relationship you are able to develop with your therapist is important, integral to the work. It’s hard work; this quote from a great blog post by Karabiner Studios sums it up:

Once you’ve made it through your initial session, you might experience feelings of being ‘drained’ or mentally exhausted; sometimes being open about your struggles and needs can leave you feeling a bit exposed. You may be tempted to give up – after all, who wants to feel worse after leaving a therapy session, right? It’s critical, however, that you stick with it. If you do feel discomfort, it will be only temporary, and if you’ve already taken the first step, you’re that much closer to making real, permanent progress!

To find out more information about how to receive music therapy, talk to someone at North London Music Therapy here.

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