Here at TINO we love music, especially how it can positively impact on your wellbeing – but what exactly is music therapy. Well, we took 5 with two great music therapists, Carmen and Cherry to find out more.
Hi, could you introduce yourself:
Carmen: Hi, I’m Carmen, I am a Music Therapist and I work in an Adolescent mental health unit in a hospital
Cherry: Hi, I’m Cherry, I am a Registered Music Therapist and I work the Orygen Youth Health Inpatient Unit and Outpatient Program
What is music therapy?
Carmen: Music therapy is about using music to “talk” about hard to talk things, feelings and thoughts. It can be listening to your preferred music together, writing a song, playing on drums or the piano. Yes, even when you don’t know how, a music therapist is able to help you make music on instruments. Some young people have said that even though they did not play the piano, they found it helpful to put all their anger or sadness into the piano in music therapy!
Cherry: In the environment that I work in, music therapy is about supporting and encouraging people to use music in ways that promote their health and wellbeing. The main difference between music as entertainment or an ‘activity’ and music therapy, is that in a music therapy session, you are working towards therapeutic goals within or through the musical experience.
Describe what a day at work can involve?
Carmen: First I catch up with the young people or meet the newbies in the ward. I let them know that I have youtube groupies starting in a few minutes. In this group, we take turns to listen to music on youtube, and also check out Tune In Not Out. The rest of the time I’m at work, I hang out with young people to listen to more music, play instruments, write songs, anything to do with music.
Cherry: I work across two different sites. At the Inpatient Unit, my day begins with the Allied Health handover meeting, followed by a meeting with the young people staying on the unit to discuss what’s on for the day and any issues they might be having. Then rest of the day consists of running individual music therapy sessions as well as a group session, writing up notes and doing reflection and future planning. The day is fast paced because young people are there all the time, so I spend a lot of time with them.
At the Outpatient Program, young people come in by appointment so I might have one or two individual appointments in a day, as well as a group in the afternoon. Then time for reflection, documentation and planning, followed by the staff clinical meeting.
Who do you work with?
Carmen: Young people, nurses, doctors, psychologist, occupational therapist.
Cherry: I work with young people aged 15-25 who are experiencing mental ill-health.
Young people are faced with many issues as we navigate life. Which ones can music therapy help?
Carmen: Anything that the young person is willing or wants to bring to a music therapy session. Sometimes it is simply to sit together to listen to a song. Some young people have said that listening to music their iPod with me is like letting me read their diary. So it is a pretty special privilege to listen to a young person’s playlist.
Cherry: Music therapy is so versatile, I think it can be helpful for so many things! Music has significant links to emotions and moods, so music therapy can be particularly helpful in helping young people to manage emotions related to other stresses, or helping people who are experiencing problematic mood patterns. Music is also great for connecting people, and allowing young people to explore and develop their identity; so music therapy groups can be helpful for young people who are isolated, wanting to work on areas of their social wellbeing or develop their own sense of self.
How can young people get to see a music therapist?
Carmen: Usually it’s a referral from school or local youth and health services. Or you can find a music therapist who has a private practice working with young people on the Australian Music Therapy Website.
Cherry: A list of Registered Music Therapists is available of the Australian Music Therapy Association website.
Does music therapy work for everyone?
Carmen: No it doesn’t work for every young person, as sometimes when one is not feeling so good, listening to music or doing anything musical might make the person feel worse! But on saying that, I have NOT experienced any young person who didn’t want to hang out with music!
Cherry: I think of music as being helpful to different people in different ways depending on what music means to them. I don’t think one strategy will work for everyone, but I think that music therapy can be beneficial to anyone who is interested in approaching their musical engagement from a health promoting perspective.
Can we use music therapy techniques at home?
Carmen: Intentional listening is one of the ways. Check out the Music and our Mental Health page for further information.
What did you study?
Carmen: I’ve played piano for a very very long time and after working in education for a while, I decided that I really wanted to be a music therapist. So I went back to uni to do a masters in music therapy.
Cherry: I studied a Bachelor of Music and then did a Masters in Music Therapy by coursework – both at The University of Melbourne.
What is your favourite genre of music?
Carmen: Jazz, most rock and indie music.
Cherry: I grew up listening hip hop and still love it. It’s such a versatile genre and encompasses a great variety of sounds/moods/messages.
Why not go and create your own playlist and submit it to TINO to appear in our music section. Just check out the music section on any topic page.
Also check the related topics:Music and our mental health