What happens in a therapeutic music session?

I will start out by saying I am NOT a qualified music therapist. To be a therapist requires 2 years of postgraduate training. I have only taken a short course in music therapy. If you are looking for in-depth psychological help for your child, please contact the Nordoff Robbins centre in Newcastle (https://www.nordoff-robbins.org.uk/locations/england/newcastle-and-north-east/).

However, I do have a degree in music and years of experience with children with learning difficulties (both as a support worker and foster carer) and my practise is very much based on the principles of music therapy, which I believe to be hugely beneficial and powerful, especially for people who have communication difficulties. Once a child enters my room, there is very little talking involved. So much of a child's experience today revolves around being told what to do, especially at school! The music session is all about learning together. Mostly we don't use pre-existing music … this is all about improvisation and making our own music to communicate with each other. The room will be set up with a piano and other instruments on a mat on the floor. I might start off with a short musical offering to the child and will watch for a reaction. Sometimes there will be none, but more often than not the child is drawn in and will want to play something back. And so the conversation begins! Sometimes I will instigate (with a short rhythm or melody), sometimes the child. There is nothing more satisfying than seeing a child who is so often seemingly in 'their own world', instigate an idea, and be delighted when you respond! You have heard them and want to communicate with them! You are listening! That's really powerful.

Using music is an amazingly safe and healthy way to express emotion. Sometimes those emotions are powerful and that's OK. This will always be communicated back to the parent/guardian at the end of the session (if they're not already in the room). More often than not those powerful feelings are dispersed simply through expressing and acknowledging them, and knowing they have been heard.

This little video gives a lovely glimpse into one of our sessions: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BrnP9DMca5s&list=PLak_3Y_IjjJKGH0D_dA0akMO5sOJUYXBe