A Day in the Life of a Music Therapist

SINCE OUR FOUNDING IN THE 1970S, Nordoff Robbins have helped thousands of people of all ages around the UK to wellness – through music therapy

A recent article, published by The Telegraph to coincide with the Brits 2018, takes us through a day in the life of one of our amazing music therapists – Emily Grimes.

Talking to Emily Grimes, you get the impression that few of us find quite as much fulfilment in their daily work as she does. Four years ago, Emily began training for a master’s course in music therapy with Nordoff Robbins, the charity supported by The BRIT Trust, which provides music therapy services to adults and children in the UK. Nordoff Robbins is a longstanding beneficiary of The BRIT Trust, which is The BRIT Awards charity. Mastercard is proud to support Emily and Nordoff Robbins’s work through its 20-year sponsorship of The Brit Awards.

Now fully qualified, Emily leads up to six sessions a day with people from all walks of life, at the Nordoff Robbins centre in Highgate, London, at a school for children with autism, and a care home for neurological rehabilitation. “Every day is different,” she says. “Every person is different and every way you approach the therapy is very different.”

Musical benefits: as part of a rehab programme, therapists can achieve tangible results

Many of Nordoff Robbins’s therapists come to the centre via musical training, but Emily (who plays piano, saxophone, and sings) studied psychology at university before starting her first job at a charity for children with special needs and disabilities. “We had a music therapist running sessions there,” she remembers, “and working with this amazing woman, getting these results from the children, I thought that would be something I’d like to do.”

Emily says: “There are so many standout moments, because music therapy has that ability to reach into people. I worked with a young boy with autism, who was completely non-verbal, and through music and little steps he said his first words at one of our music sessions, and now he’s chatting away. It’s lovely to feel that music helped him in that way.”

She cites another powerful example of a young woman in neurological rehab who responded to music therapy when little else could make any connection. “She had very limited movement due to a brain injury, but through music, and being motivated by the music we did together, as well as work with other therapeutic teams, she was able to develop and has gone on to singing, talking and moving. It’s a privilege to be part of that journey.”

Universal success: the healing power of music can help children and adults alike

Music is a therapy she says works for everybody. Nobody is excluded. Who hasn’t turned to a favourite song or a piece of music in their hours of need? It’s why great music and great artists mean so much. It can help us through periods of depression and anxiety, can soothe us when we’re stressed, make us feel confident when we’re nervous. “It touches us all in different ways,” says Emily. “Music is a non-verbal medium – we don’t need words or that level of communication to enjoy and benefit from it. Music is for everybody. We speak to each other through music. When you’re not sure how to pick yourself up, music can hold us in whatever emotion we’re feeling.”

A music therapist’s approach changes for each client. “We work in a very non-prescriptive way,” says Emily. “If someone can make it into the room for 10 minutes and that is all they can manage, that is fantastic. We celebrate what people can do and the abilities they have. It can be one-to-one action and building a rapport, or in a group context, much more about social communication.”

Still, whatever the approach, the therapists at Nordoff Robbins are united over what the work can achieve. “To be able to reach into somebody and provide them with a different experience, that is what it’s all about for me,” says Emily. “It’s using music to invoke change. It’s about bringing people together and having that sense of community, belonging and shared experience.”

Perhaps thinking of the young woman with whom she worked in neurological rehab, who at first could barely move a muscle, Emily adds: “Music speaks to us when words fail. It can genuinely change lives.”

You can access the original article here