Music therapy

Music therapy is based on the understanding that all human beings are able to respond to music, irrespective of musical ability. It involves the use of sound, rhythm and improvised music in order to form a musical relationship between the child or young person and the therapist.

Music therapy sessions can offer people a different experience of shared play, interaction, learning and understanding, through verbal and non-verbal modes of communication. In practical terms, this may involve music making with instruments, song, music technology, sound, talking, listening, and opportunities for client led play.

In this therapeutic relationship, the child or young person can respond and discover a sense of self. In this respect, we explore the client's individual potential and identity within a therapeutic process that's designed especially for them in a safe and creative environment.

Professional Manager for Music Therapy, Sarah Hadley, says: "The Music Therapy Service is accessed by children and young people up to the age of 19 who are experiencing complex emotional, psychological, social, behavioural, communication or interpersonal difficulties.

"Therapists are highly trained - we all have a degree in music and have undertaken further post graduate training in music therapy. We use music as a therapeutic language which is very different from traditional music making. We work on the assumption that people are innately musical - that is that rhythm, melody and harmony are a natural part of each of us and we use sound, rhythm and improvised music to form therapeutic relationships with our clients. This offers them a different experience of shared interaction and aims to develop their awareness, understanding and robustness in their role in relationships."

Sarah points out that the most natural rhythm is our heartbeat, and that we all have a natural tempo in the way we move and speak. Therapists pick up on this and respond musically - this could be through singing and piano playing for example - to the rhythms they perceive in their clients. Sarah again: "Every conversation has a melodic line. Even the non-verbal sounds made by toddlers have pitch and music therapists are trained to pick up on this rhythm and pitch and use it to create a musical dialogue with the client."

According to Sarah, we all respond naturally to music. This is not a cognitive process so therapists work in an improvisational way and gradually build up trust and communication with their clients. The therapy takes place in a special music therapy room equipped with a variety of instruments that clients can freely use during their session. Sarah says therapists are trained to use harmony to reflect what they observe in their clients: "We become emotional sounding boards for our clients. It's all geared to creating a musical blueprint of what we're experiencing with them and that's just the start!"

Sarah stresses that music therapists are committed to a multi-professional method of working and links with schools and other health professionals, particularly the paediatric therapy team, are extremely important to successful outcomes.