Music has an important role to play in our heritage, identity and culture. Throughout history, it has remained a powerful medium that affects people deeply.
From our childhood, we can engage in music in many ways, such as being in the school choir, playing in a band, or listening to music at home. As we become adults, we listen to music as we drive, go to nightclubs, listen to live bands, relax at home with our favourite songs, or make music ourselves through learning to play an instrument.
The healing benefits of sound are recognised by the health profession. It is such a powerful phenomenon that the British Association for Music Therapy has been established to help children and adults to express their feelings and communicate with other people through music.
What is music therapy?
Music can affect us in many ways. It can be calming, uplifting, poignant and joyful. It resonates powerfully with our feelings, stirring memories and taking us back to earlier times. It can help us to express ourselves and communicate how we’re feeling to others.
The BAMT was established in 2011 following the merger of two existing organisations, the British Society for Music Therapy and the Association of Professional Music Therapists. Its aim is to promote the art and science of music therapy for the benefit of the public.
Trained music therapists work with other health service professionals to use and develop music therapy to benefit children and adults who have a wide range of needs.
The Society for Music Therapy and Remedial Music is a registered charity that was founded by Juliette Alvin in 1958 – at a time when little was known about the health benefits of music. Its founder and her colleagues had a shared goal of developing music therapy to benefit everyone.
Music therapy was in its infancy and was barely recognised as a profession, although music’s healing qualities had been recognised by society for thousands of years. The charity supported the endeavours of the early pioneers, ensuring the profession gained the respect and status it has today.
Its name was later changed to the British Society for Music Therapy. The organisation grew over the years, reaching people across the world and culminating in its formal link with the Association of Professional Music Therapists in 2011.
Formed in 1976, the APMT was open to trainee and qualified music therapists. It was granted State Registration in 1999 and worked closely with the Department of Health and the Health and Care Professions Council. When the BSMT and the APMT merged in 2011, the British Association of Music Therapy was seen as the way forward for the profession.
Today, music therapy is a psychological clinical intervention that is provided by therapists who are registered with the Health and Care Professions Council. Music therapists often work as part of a multi-disciplinary team in health, social care and education, or in private practice.
Skilled therapists use music to help people of all ages, from helping babies to develop a greater bond with their parents, to offering compassionate and sensitive care for elderly patients to improve their quality of life. Everyone, no matter what their age, can respond to music – prompting positive changes in their well-being.
A live musical interaction will develop someone’s communication skills, improving their self-confidence and helping their independence to grow.
Listening to music can also improve people’s concentration, enhance their awareness of other people (and their own self-awareness) and improve their attention skills.
How does music therapy work?
The relationship between the therapist and client is therapeutic, as they engage in live musical interaction. Many musical styles, instruments and the voice are used, and sessions are frequently improvised. This enables clients to explore and connect with others through their own musical language, letting them express themselves in a different way.
Music therapy can assist people who are affected by disabilities, illness or injury, or those who have differing emotional, psychological, physical, cognitive, communication and social needs.
Children on the autism spectrum can develop their social, emotional and communication skills, while someone who has an acquired brain injury following an accident can be assisted to regain their speech. People who have dementia can be helped to reconnect with their memories through music, reducing their feelings of isolation.
The BAMT charity has a long-standing relationship with the Brit Trust, the charitable arm of the Brit Awards, dating back to 1991. Extra funding was provided by the trust for Nordoff Robbins, the music therapy charity that helps change the lives of isolated and vulnerable people across the UK.
The Brit Trust continues to support the Nordoff Robbins Development Scheme, enabling people in need to benefit from music therapy. It also funds the Nordoff Robbins’s MA programme to train qualified music therapists.
The BAMT presents an annual Lifetime Achievement Award to recognise the work of the UK’s leading music therapists who have made an outstanding contribution to their field. The 2018 award winner is Katherine Sobey, who studied at the Royal College of Music in the 1950s.
She went on to undertake voluntary work in music therapy, continuing her training at Roehampton and qualifying as a music therapist in 1986. She has excelled in the profession for the past 32 years and has provided clinical work for adults with profound learning disabilities, children with special needs and adults with mental health problems.
Today, UK-trained music therapists have been instrumental in developing international organisations to promote music therapy across the globe, including the World Federation of Music Therapy.
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