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Music Therapy

This blog post has been curated in collaboration with Claire Frazer Tytler. Claire is a qualified music therapist at Bristol Royal Hospital for Children, as well as being an early instrument specialist, and can often be found playing the French Horn. Her position within University Hospitals Bristol and Weston Foundation Trust is provided by the agency Live Music now and funded by the charity The Grand Appeal. 

For highlights of Claire’s work, check out these videos: 

What is music therapy? 


Music therapy uses music to address non-musical goals, such as physical, cognitive, emotional, and social needs. 


Using live musical interaction, music therapy aims to bring about positive changes in emotional wellbeing and improve communication. Music therapy is very much a collaborative form of bringing about positive change for a patient. The relationship with the therapist is therefore very important.


What instruments can be used? 


A wide range of instruments can be used, including the voice and singing. It’s actually really important to use music in a number of ways, including different instruments and improvisation (making music up). This helps to create a really unique musical language from which to explore and express yourself in a number of different ways. 


Do you work one on one with patients, or as a group?


The short answer is both. Therapists work one to one or in groups, depending on the needs of the client. It’s all about offering appropriate, sensitive, and meaningful interaction with music, and this can take place in a variety of ways and settings. 

Why use music, rather than talking about things? 


Music therapy can be particularly helpful when emotions are too confusing or difficult to express verbally. This could be because of communication difficulty, or when words are too much or not enough. 

Do you have to be ‘musical’ to benefit from music therapy? 


Not at all! Clients don’t need to have any previous experience playing a musical instrument, or even singing. You don’t have to be musically talented to get something from music therapy. It isn’t about learning to sing or play an instrument. It’s all about forging a unique relationship with music and your music therapist. 

What might you do in a music therapy session?


Music therapy sessions usually last between 30 and 60 minutes. The activities vary, you might:

  • Listen to music 

  • Move to music 

  • Sing

  • Make music with simple instruments

  • Write and discuss song lyrics

  • Use guided imagery alongside music 


Most importantly, you work with your music therapists to plan a programme that suits your needs. You decide together how often you should have the therapy and how long each session will be. 

What are some of the benefits of music therapy? 


There are many benefits to music therapy, and each client is different. Here are just some of the things we use music therapy to facilitate and improve; 


  • Communication skills 

  • Self-confidence

  • Independence

  • Self-awareness and awareness of others

  • Concentrations and awareness skills


Musical therapy addresses a variety of needs, from psychological, emotional, cognitive, physical communicative and social skills. 


Is music therapy useful to anyone? 


Music therapy is a really effective intervention for a lot of different people. It’s particularly useful for some clients who can’t speak due to disability, illness or injury. 


Music therapy promotes wellness and improves the quality of life for people of all ages, regardless of musical skills or background. 


How old do you have to be to benefit from music therapy? 


Again, the short answer is any age. Music therapy can be beneficial for individuals of all ages and physical abilities, from new born babies in terms of establishing the parent-child bond to those receiving end-of-life care. 

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