Music therapists use music within a therapeutic environment to help individuals of all ages who are experiencing physical, psychological, emotional or mental problems.
You won’t teach your clients to sing or play an instrument, but will communicate through music making and a shared musical experience to support them and facilitate positive changes in their behaviour and well-being.
Types of work
You’ll work with children and adults of all ages and social backgrounds with a range of issues, including:
- eating disorders;
- behavioural and emotional difficulties;
- communication disorders.
Employers of music therapists
- Local authority social services departments
- Day or health centres
- Residential homes
- Special schools
- agree therapy objectives with your clients;
- plan, review and assess therapy sessions to monitor their effectiveness and to help plan following sessions;
- take an active role in sessions by playing, singing and listening;
- encourage your clients to take part in the session and support them by responding musically;
- encourage your clients to use a range of accessible musical instruments, such as percussion and their own voice to express themselves;
- help your clients explore the world of sound and create a musical language of their own;
- improvise with music as a reaction to what your clients are communicating to enhance the individual nature of your relationship;
- record therapy sessions, with your clients’ consent;
- support your clients’ creative development;
- help your clients develop an increased self-awareness;
- assess your clients’ musical and non-musical behaviours;
- attend meetings with other professionals;
- write up case notes and reports.
You do not necessarily need an undergraduate music degree to become a music therapist. However it is necessary to complete a postgraduate diploma in music therapy.
- excellent communication skills to liaise with other medical and educational professionals, parents, relatives and care workers;
- personal maturity and emotional stability to deal with sad and stressful situations;
- the ability to empathize with children and adults of all ages and with wide-ranging needs;
- flexibility and adaptability – sessions can’t be rigidly pre-planned as you need to respond to the needs of your client;
- patience – music therapy is not exclusively results-based and progress may be slow;
- respect for client confidentiality;
- self-motivation, particularly if working for yourself.