In music therapy both the client(s) and therapist actively engage in creative music making together. Clients can be verbal or non-verbal, diagnosed and living with conditions or still be undergoing their initial assessment.
Clients will be invited to choose from, and play, a selection of instruments. These can include tuned and un-tuned percussion, stringed and wind instruments and usually a guitar or a piano. There is no expectation of musical knowledge or skill and therefore no right or wrong way to play any of the instruments that are provided.
Clients are encouraged to explore the different sounds that can be made and the therapist will respond musically in order to foster and develop an emotional connection with the client. Sessions are run in a non-directive manner, enabling clients to use the therapy space in their own unique way. This allows the music therapist to get to know the clients individuality through their music, their responses and their interactions.
During the process of creating music together a relationship develops which enables the therapeutic process to take place and arising emotional issues and themes can be explored. The emphasis of the therapy is not on the end musical ‘product’, but on the process, the emotions and the underlying meaning that motivates the individual to create the sounds that they choose to make. These are understood and interpreted by the therapist.
In certain client groups music therapy sessions can combine the use of musical improvisation with the playing and singing of ‘known’ songs and familiar melodies, and occasionally songs specifically composed for or with the client. This can help reduce anxiety levels and offers clients the opportunity to experience the therapy with the comfort of something familiar and tangible to ‘hang onto’ during the sessions.
When working with more verbal clients, sessions can include reflective dialogue and the sharing of feelings, during which arising emotional themes can be explored.
Clients are typically seen on a weekly basis, but sessions are bespoke to the individual client needs. Below sets out the general guidelines for timing, structure and regularity of sessions: