What exactly is music therapy?

7th September 2023

Music is part of all of us – in our heartbeats and movements, our laughter, crying and singing. Music Therapy uses music to help children and their families live creatively and resourcefully in the face of illness, disability and trauma. Music Therapists know that being in hospital or living with a long-term health condition might bring up lots of different feelings and can be difficult and scary. Music therapy is an amazing way to help both children and their families explore and express their feelings without having to put them into works – and it can also be lots of fun!

For children who have life threatening illnesses or disabilities, music therapy can be an extremely effective way of helping them to communicate their thoughts, feelings and worries during difficult and stressful times.

Our qualified and HCPC registered Music Therapists are a safe person for children; they only bring a trolley of instruments and a caring smile, no needles, medications, or painful procedures.

The aim of music therapy is to create an interactive musical connection and build on this to achieve longer term goals. Goals can include helping a child or young person develop their coping skills, work on their communication, cognitive, fine or gross motor skills through music, or increase their ability to express how they’re feeling. Our music therapist is trained to assess patients with a variety of medical conditions to support them in the following areas: 

  • Reaching and maintaining developmental milestones
  • Rehabilitation and recovery of cognitive, sensorimotor, and communication deficits due to neurologic injury or disease
  • Emotional processing and expression
  • Coping with stress and anxiety surrounding diagnosis and medical treatment
  • Pain management and relaxation techniques
  • Psychological wellbeing related to short- and long-term effects of medical diagnosis and hospital admission
  • Normalising the patient’s environment and supporting positive family experiences
  • Increasing patients’ engagement in other therapies

Sometimes the Music Therapist will spend time just with one child, and sometimes with their siblings, parents and other family members, or other children in hospital. Every child and family is different, so every music therapy session is different.  

Music Therapy sessions follow the child’s lead as much as possible, but they usually involve: 

  • Making up music together
  • Singing songs
  • Musical games
  • Song writing
  • Listening to music

Music therapists understand that some days you might feel like doing loads of playing, and other days you might just sit and listen. Either of these is a great way to engage in music therapy, as is everything in between. No musical experience at all is required and there are no right or wrong ways of being involved! Music therapy sessions in hospital give children a chance to express and explore the emotions, anxieties and fears that being in hospital brings in a child centred, creative approach without needing the words that they may not be able to express.

“Music therapy is an established psychological clinical intervention, which is delivered by Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) registered music therapists, to help people of all ages, whose lives have been affected by injury, illness or disability through supporting their psychological, emotional, cognitive, physical, communicative and social needs.”

– British Association for Music Therapy 

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