Belinda Lydon
Music Therapist

Frequently Asked Questions

What happens in a Music Therapy session?

At a Music Therapy session there will be a wide range of musical instruments available. The sessions are largely client-led meaning that the therapist responds to and supports whatever music or sounds the client makes. The session is based on the client and therapist improvising together. This can either be a completely free way of playing or may be based on a discussion, feeling or anything else that the client brings with them to therapy. Over time and through playing together, the client and therapist will develop a relationship which can help them work through their difficulties. Although the session is based on active music-making, the client can use the space in a way they feel comfortable. If there is a time when they need to talk or be silent, the therapist will support this.

With children, the Music Therapist would provide some structure to the session such as 'hello' and 'goodbye' songs and perhaps some familiar nursery rhymes to help engage the child. What happens in a session depends very much on the individual client and what their needs are.

Do I need to be able to play a musical instrument?

No. In Music Therapy the instruments used are accessible for all. There is more of an emphasis on improvisation and being able to express yourself through the music.

Will I learn musical skills?

Learning musical skills is not the aim of Music Therapy. However, it is possible that musical skills may develop over the course of therapy as you become used to playing with another person. You may develop more of a sense of rhythm or pitch as time goes on. However, this is secondary to the main aims of therapy.

How often do Music Therapy sessions take place?

Sessions usually take place once a week at the same time and in the same place.

What might be the aims of Music Therapy?

The aims of Music Therapy will vary depending on the client's needs and difficulties. They will be established following an assessment, taking into account the original reasons for referral to Music Therapy.

Here are a few examples of typical aims a Music Therapist might be working towards with a client:

  • To develop social skills such as turn-taking, sharing and listening to others through music-making
  • To encourage use of voice for self-expression and in interaction with the therapist
  • To develop the client's self-esteem and confidence
  • To develop vocalisations into more meaningful communications through imitation and the experience of being heard
  • To motivate the client to use their hands to play a variety of instruments in order to encourage motor skills
  • To provide emotional support during a difficult time in the client's life
  • To encourage the client's spontaneity through musical play with the therapist
  • To encourage non-verbal interactions within a trusting relationship with the therapist

This list is endless but hopefully the above will have given you some idea of what the aims of Music Therapy might be. The above are quite general whereas they would be more specific and tailored to the individual on their assessment report. Some of the above are clearly intended for clients who might be non-verbal or physically disabled whereas other aims may be applied to many of the clients Music Therapist work with.

What training is required to become a Music Therapist?

A Music Therapist is a highly skilled musician who has taken postgraduate training in Music Therapy. There are currently seven institutes throughout the U.K that offer this training as a Masters qualification. Once qualified Music Therapists have to register with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). The professional organisation is The British Association for Music Therapy (BAMT).

Music Therapists are trained to a high standard of musicianship, particularly through developing their improvisation and clinical skills. Their training also includes modules in psychology, child development, theory and history of Music Therapy, counselling skills, Music Therapy in different clinical settings and with different pathologies and movement and body awareness. During training they will have undertaken a variety of clinical placements in different settings such as schools, psychiatric units and child development centres to develop their experience as a Music Therapist.