Guest Blog: The Power of Music Therapy – Providing a lifeline for children and families

MAI Guest blog - Amelia ClaphamA blog about music therapy – by Amelia Clapham

The Covid-19 Pandemic has been a challenging time for everyone as we have had to adjust to the new normal and the word ‘social distancing’ has become part of everyone’s vocabulary. It is safe to say that the mental health of the nation has been affected as we have all had good days and bad days adjusting to seeing people over screens instead of face to face, working from home and home schooling.

For some, Covid-19 has been more difficult, particularly for those who have been forced to stay at home with children who are life limited and are unable to leave the house due to shielding. For parents and children who are often used to having carers in and out the house to support them, as well as school providing a brief respite, the struggle has been real.

Ace Music Therapy CIC provides music therapy services clients of all ages and abilities. A lot of our clients are life limited and have therefore been shielding due to the pandemic. Like many other organisations we have been forced to rethink our operations. A key part of music therapy is about being in the room with the client and working with how they are reacting and feeling during the session, therefore shifting sessions to online has meant thinking about how to work in a slightly different way. In May 2020 we moved to online sessions, providing music therapy via zoom.

There has been a high demand for our services especially for those families who are struggling to occupy their children as they cannot leave the house. We have found online sessions to be particularly successful as they have enabled us to work not only with our clients but also with the parents (who in the past would not normally be  in the school based sessions). This has meant that now the parents can take part in the sessions, learn more about music therapy and see the benefits of the sessions in real life instead of just reading a report about sessions. Children have begun to get used to this new way of working and they have often showed recognition and excitement upon logging on and seeing the therapist first hand.

We have found that having a weekly music therapy session at the same time has given children and families something to look forward to week by week and also helped provide some respite within their routine. Families are offered a minimum of ten sessions, and this is often extended depending on the therapist’s clinical opinion and assessment as to whether more sessions are required.

Switching to online sessions has naturally required innovation and it is a learning curve for us all. As music therapists we rely on being in the room with our clients and working with how they present in their environment in the therapy room. It has often been the case that clients have taken a few weeks to get used to using zoom as a medium to interact with the therapist instead of face to face. In addition to this there has sometimes been issues with internet connections and at times it has proven challenging to improvise together.

Improvisation is a key part of a music therapy session where therapist and client make music together and the therapist is trained to listen and respond appropriately to the music the client is making in order to have a shared interaction. We have had to adapt some of our methods and think about what we do in sessions due to these challenges. I have often found myself doing a lot more of a performance than I would normally i.e. singing and playing songs for the client to enjoy. However it has been great to see parents and siblings joining in and supporting their children in musical interactions.

So what exactly is music therapy? Music therapy is a psychological therapy delivered by highly trained allied health professionals who are registered with the Health Care Professions Council. We use music as a tool to engage clients and work towards therapeutic aims such as developing communication skills, providing an outlet for self-confidence and developing self-confidence to name a few. We work with client’s natural musicality and work in a client-led way. Music is a universal language irrespective of disability, race, language and cultural background. It is particularly beneficial for those who cannot speak as it not only gives them an opportunity to be in control but also allows them to express themselves in a non-verbal manner.

So who else have we been supporting over the pandemic? Well prior to Covid-19 we had set up a mum and baby music group ‘Cradle Rock’ which aimed to strengthen and develop bonds between parents and babies, promote good mental health in mothers and develop confidence in using music with children. We have started to run these sessions online using household objects as instruments as many do not have access to instruments at home. These sessions have proved very successful and helped give parents an opportunity to engage their children in these challenging times as well as demonstrating ways to have fun together as a family whilst at home.

Music is such a powerful tool, it has the power to unlock memories and remind us of special times, places and events in our lives. It can instantly change our mood and let’s face it, everyone is musical – from the moment we first hear our mother’s heartbeat in the womb to the moment we die, we all have our own tempo (speed) we walk at, pitch we talk at, and we can all be seen tapping our feet to a beat at some point. This is why we use music in our work as music therapists.

Amelia Clapham, music therapist and founder of Ace Music Therapy CIC has a passion for music therapy. She qualified from Anglia Ruskin University in 2015 with a Masters in Music Therapy and set up Ace Music Therapy in 2017. She has a particular interest in early intervention and enjoys working with the under 5s. Her clinical work is mostly focused in palliative care working in children and adult’s hospices. In her spare time Amelia enjoys raising her 10 month old son, 6 year old step-son and cycling.

For more information on ace music therapy have a look at our website www.acemusictherapy.co.uk

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