Several years back, I was sat with my sister at the bedside of my dying grandmother as she entered her final stage of life. She had stopped speaking, was struggling to breathe and her movements were confined to a flicker of the eyes and fingers. Unsure of what to do, I decided to play her favourite piece of music. I streamed a version of ‘Mr. Wonderful’ sang by Bette Midler onto my iPhone, cranked up the volume (she was very deaf!) and held the phone to her ear.
The response I got was remarkable. My grandmother sat up in bed, opened her eyes and sang along with the song from start to finish. She then resumed her coma-type state and died the next day. This was my last interaction with her. As her lights to this world switched off, my lights to the extraordinary power of music in this world switched on. I realised how utterly deep music connects with the innermost part of our souls. This led me to some soul searching on how I progress and diversify my future career within music.
Shortly afterwards, I discovered that it was possible to qualify as a Music Therapist. Fortunately I had a degree in Psychology from Swansea University from my early 20s. This, combined with my broad experience as a musician, helped me access the three year masters degree training course at UWE in Bristol. This started in 2016 and I am due to qualify in November 2019.
Music Therapy is an established psychological and clinical intervention to help people of all ages whose lives have been affected by injury, illness or disability. Recognising the significant role that music plays in all our lives, Music Therapy offers a space that allows us to connect with and express important thoughts and feelings in a safe environment and in helpful and creative ways.
My training as been an intense experience. I have been spending one day a week back at ‘school’ (UWE), learning about the theoretical side to music therapy. The course was established by the eminent music therapist Leslie Bunt and works through the life-span starting at birth and ending at death.
I have also spent one day a week on placement. My placements have included experience at a special school working with children with autism, severe learning difficulties and downs syndrome. My adult placements have mainly been in secure and community-based mental health settings working with schizophrenia, dementia, Huntington’s disease, depression and drug and alcohol addiction. My work has taken me into corners of life locked away from mainstream society and has been humbling, harrowing, exciting and rewarding.
I have seen on many occasions how music can be used to help people connect, communicate and deal with issues that life has thrown at them. Sessions have been 1:1 or in groups and have involved free improvisation, jamming, talking, listening and song-writing. Music is used to allow clients to explore their inner feelings and emotions and the benefits can be physical, emotional and spiritual.
So, why post this now? Well, I qualify later this year and plan on making music therapy a significant part of my working life. I am open to exploring opportunities this year and am able to work with clients ahead of my qualification date providing they are aware that I am not yet fully qualified. If you have any questions about this work or would like to learn more, then please drop me a line on firstname.lastname@example.org.
For further information on Music Therapy, please visit the British Association for Music Therapy (BAMT). The title ‘Music Therapist’ is protected and regulated by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).
Thanks for reading,