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What happens 'behind the scenes' in Music Therapy?

In the last few posts, I covered some of what I do with clients within Music Therapy sessions - we sing, we play, we cry, we laugh and we create. However, what most Music Therapy services don't talk enough about is what we do behind the scenes to allow these 'magical' and 'scientific' moments to happen. (Some would argue it's all science no magic, or vice versa. I believe it's a bit of both.)

Committing to therapy is a huge decision for a family. You deserve to know what to expect from therapists behind the scene so you can make informed decisions on how much value you put in therapy.


Before therapy begins

1. Learning about our clients before assessment

Therapists from different settings have varying approach to this. Some therapists read up on past reports, some offer an initial meeting prior to the start of therapy. I offer a 30 minutes consultation with parents, a phone consultation with other professionals involved in my client's care and to read recent reports before conducting the Assessment Sessions.

2. Risk assessment

There is an inside joke in one of the Music Therapy services I work in that we will soon be seeing our clients in space suits to prevent any risk of infection. Jokes aside, risk assessments are particularly important nowadays. A thorough risk assessment, inspecting potential hazards in the room where therapy will be conducted, clients' risk of self-harm, cyber security, risk of being exposed to infectious disease etc., must be completed prior to the first session.


Once therapy starts

1. Note writing

Music Therapists will take notes of significant events and their insight after each session. This provides an opportunity for therapists to reflect on their experience in the sessions and evaluate their clients' progress over time. These notes are also useful in supervision and inform therapists' approach in future sessions.

2. Session preparation

The other day, a young client requested 'Supercalifragilisticaexpialidocious' for the next session so now I know how 'atrocious' and 'precocious' the word might seem. Apart from learning songs, I plan each session ahead of time. Choosing the appropriate musical activities is crucial to helping some clients to achieve their psychosocial goals. I also create downloadable materials for nursery rhymes (feel free to download them) for parents prior to online sessions because I've found that some young clients find it easier to engage when visual inputs are available.

Old MacDoanld's Printable
Download PDF • 2.47MB

10 Green Bottles printable
Download PDF • 527KB

3. Supervision

Music Therapists, like other therapists, receive regular supervision from qualified supervisors. Supervision sessions allow us to be supported by experienced therapists and provide a space for us to review, re-adjust and check our approaches.

4. Meetings and reports

A typical week at end of term

This was my schedule a few weeks ago at the end of term. Children engaging in Music Therapy often receive other support as well, such as Occupational Therapy and Speech and Language Therapy. Attending EHCP (Education, Health and Care Plan) meetings provides an opportunity for professionals to exchange their insights on a child's progress so our work will continue to compliment each other. I also offer annual review meetings with parents and meetings at times of emergency.


Continuing Practice Development

1. Further training

Clients and our society bring up new opportunities and challenges everyday. As a Music Therapist, I am never content with the knowledge and experience I have. In the last year, I have completed 3 levels of Makaton training, Neurologic Music Therapy training, Outcome Star training and several online Music Therapy trainings. Sadly, many Music Therapy conferences are cancelled due to the pandemic this year. I'm very much looking forward to connecting with fellow therapists in person again soon!

2. Discovering and experimenting with new ideas

If you look closely, you'll notice that I engage in a WOL (Working Out Loud) group during the week. This is a career development peer support group where my teammates and I encourage each other to share ideas and develop and improve as practitioners.

3. Administrative work

A Music Therapist working with children can easily be juggling the timetables of 10-20 families at the same time. I regularly liaise with schools, day centres, hospitals and family members to find the most suitable time slots and environment to maximise my clients' engagement. On top of that, I also take time to ensure documents, session materials, notes and reports are securely stored to protect our clients identity.

4. Last but not least ..... eat lunch, do yoga and rest

I cannot emphasis how important it is for therapists to have lunch.

As rewarding as it is being a Music Therapist, it is also physically and emotionally demanding. I feel that this is true for carers, teachers and other healthcare professionals.

Let this be a reminder for all of us that in order to provide the care that our children, students and clients deserve, we must actively look after ourselves!


How are you looking after yourself when caring for your children, students and clients? Let us know in the comment!


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