Everyone has their own special relationship with music and most of us use music in some way to complement or help shift our mood. Music works at a very deep level in the human psyche and there is scientific research to show that music offers healing properties.
In recent years, music therapy has become an area of growth, with several prominent universities now offering courses for those students who have a foundation in music and psychology. There has been considerable focus recently on how music benefits those suffering with dementia in particular. It is now widely accepted that the focussed and considered use of music can help individuals at all stages of life.
The primary aim of music therapy is to bring out the creativity of an individual in order to develop positive changes in behaviour, emotion, physical well-being and communication. Music therapy provides a space for an individual to translate their emotions and psychological processes into expressive music in order to release supressed feelings, repair them and heal.
Music can offer an alternative way of communication or expression where words are not an option or are inadequate. Some feelings are just too heavy for words to carry – but music can find a way to express them.
In the UK, the British Association for Music Therapy (BAMT) is the professional body for music therapy. They provide both practitioners and non-practitioners with information, professional support, and training opportunities. It is also a charity committed to promoting and raising awareness of music therapy, and providing information to the general public.
No such thing as ‘typical’
We are all unique and, as such, any person with a psychological disorder may be deemed to need some form of help (therapy). Assessment by health care professionals often recognises that the trauma of a particular client needs to be addressed by an indirect approach because normal interventions are not working. Each client has to be treated individually with a bespoke series of sessions, which initially seeks to find a route which will allow the client to express themselves.
This is why the music therapist will initially be equipped with a large toolbox of media, from percussive devices to guitars, piano, whistles, harmonica and of course, the human voice.
After some initial exploration, the therapist will judge the best way to proceed. This will almost certainly include a collaborative element with singing or song-writing, plus the client’s engagement in a chosen instrument. An important skill is the ability to adapt and play in a wide range of styles which will engage the client.
West Country Music Therapist Will Lawton is one of the new breed of music therapists who practices throughout the West of England. His clients may be of any age and often are suffering from illness, injury or impairment. Drawing on his personal skills as a singer-songwriter, Will often uses song-writing in a therapeutic context to help clients process and express particular feelings and experiences. Visit his website for more information.
• The Rhythm Practice – Corsham, Wiltshire – www.therhythmpractice.org
• British Association for Music Therapists (BAMT) – www.bamt.org
• Will Lawton – Music Therapist www.willlawton-musictherapy.co.uk
• University of West of England (UWE Bristol) – Master’s Degree in Music Therapy https://courses.uwe.ac.uk/B99942/music-therapy#coursecontent