What is music therapy?
Year on year, this question seems to get harder to answer. I am surer than ever that every individual can, and possibly needs to, define and evolve their understanding of it for themselves. So I both invite you to check the British Association of Music Therapy (BAMT) website for further info, and I will also give you my personal understanding of it here:
Music therapy is the lived experience of relationship between client and practitioner (and other clients in a group setting) that allows exploration, expression and processing of emotional material and insight into the self. Trust and integrity, and the practitioner’s authenticity, are essential to creating the safety for this process. Musical interaction such as joint improvisation, song writing and listening to music may allow a client to explore their internal world and share this safely. Talking is welcome where the client is able and it is helpful to them: as a practitioner I am open to all sorts of interactions, for example stories or role play may feature. Creative processes both allow unconscious or hidden experience to emerge and hold possibilities for new ways of being and relating and for new strengths to present themselves.
Music therapy may be suitable for adults and children of all ages. It does not require musical abilities and because it allows non-verbal relating it may be helpful for people experiencing severe illness or disability who find it hard or impossible, for a host of reasons, to access verbal interaction.
No two therapists or clients are the same, for everyone will of course bring their own complex mixture of needs, wishes, life experiences, culture, abilities and gifts. And therefore every therapeutic relationship is unique and so of course different therapists will suit different people.
My work since qualifying as a music therapist has focused on three main clinical areas: adoption, adult mental health and learning disability. The underlying threads for me within these areas are the understanding of trauma and attachment. I have worked for a number of health boards in mental health and learning disability services, including secure care and dementia services, and have worked freelance for an adoption charity since 2012 which is currently my main focus, working mainly in post adoption support with children and families. I also offer clinical supervision to music therapists. I am a member of the British Association for Music Therapy and registered with the Health and Care Professions Council.
My approach as a therapist
My work is primarily underpinned by psychodynamic theory, which holds that our past experiences of relationship, particularly in our early years, influence unconscious patterns of relating as we go through life. By becoming conscious of these patterns we may gain greater understanding and empowerment in our relating in all sorts of situations, and have the capacity to find resolution for material that belongs in the past but has a hold over us in some way in the present. Psychodynamic theory also allows us to consider and make sense of interpersonal dynamics in groups, whether they be families, work teams, communities or larger. Musical interaction is useful for allowing interpersonal dynamics to surface and be explored in the present, sometimes involving verbal exploration if this is helpful and possible for the client.
Alongside psychodynamic approaches I have always been interested in somatic approaches to therapy. I have been a client of Dance Movement Psychotherapy for ten years, and within this context I have learned to engage with Authentic Movement. The experience of this movement practice has informed my own approach to therapy work. I have trained in Level One Sensorimotor Psychotherapy and the basic level training in the Comprehensive Resource Model for the Treatment of Trauma, both of which integrate neurobiological understanding of trauma and attachment with psychotherapy.
I strongly believe that one’s capacity for play is essential to one’s health and wellbeing, and to one’s work as a therapist.
I offer clinical supervision to music therapists (I am on the BAMT Supervision Register) but would be open to working with supervisees from all arts therapies disciplines. I have recently undertaken a certificate in Creative Supervision and Reflective Practice.
Interests, present and future…
I am particularly interested in exploring the creative self, at the point where supervision, therapy and artistry meet. What is our own musical or artistic voice? Where is it being held back because of personal issues and how might more personal therapeutic explorations allow a shift in our artistic expression? How do we bring this artistic self into creative arts therapies work?
If you would like further information about my work, or are perhaps interested in collaborating in some way, please get in touch.