‘How Music Therapy Changed my Life’

We all know a song that lifts us up and makes us feel good, but music is also a powerful therapeutic tool that can reach deep inside us and transform lives

A recent article published in The Telegraph explores the impact that Nordoff Robbins music therapy had on Elizabeth, who suffers from severe depression and anxiety alongside dysphasia and autism.

“When words fail, sounds can often speak.” So wrote Hans Christian Andersen in his fairy tale What The Moon Saw and it’s a simple truth that is now making a serious impact. Because this idea, that music can help us connect and heal when other forms of communication cannot, is part of the ethos of music therapy. Music and all of its facets ‒ physical, emotional, mental, social, aesthetic, and spiritual ‒ helps clients improve their physical and mental health.

Music has always been with us. It is the soundtrack to our lives, to our love affairs, our friendships and our adventures. Helpfully, scientists have shown how music releases a magic little ingredient called dopamine in our brains – if this stuff was on the street, it would be banned – but whenever we play a piece of music that moves us, that dopamine starts to fill us with feelings of pleasure, motivation and reward.

Which more or less explains why we use music to get up and go, to console and support us, to set a romantic mood, to relax or to help us exercise. It’s a force for the good that flows through every part of our lives, and science has discovered that it can be used to alleviate and cure a whole range of conditions, too.

In fact, when it comes to qualifications that really make a difference, the Nordoff Robbins Masters in Music Therapy is up there near the top. Music therapy has been used to treat a range of conditions for decades and Nordoff Robbins is a world leader in its field.

The charity have a longstanding relationship with the BRIT Trust, supported by Mastercard through its 20-year sponsorship of The BRIT Awards, going back to the 1991 fundraising concert at Knebworth and the setting-up of the BRIT school which led to extra funding for Nordoff Robbins. The BRIT Trust also supports the Nordoff Robbins Development Scheme, ensuring that more people in need can benefit from music therapy and the work of therapists who have graduated from Nordoff Robbins’s MA programme.

That means people like Elizabeth, a 23-year-old who lives with dysphasia and mild autism. Dysphasia is a condition that affects comprehension and communication through language. “I have real trouble reading people’s facial expressions and voice tone,” says Elizabeth, “and that often makes me very confused and very frustrated.”

“People struggled to understand me, and this led to severe depression and anxiety,” she says. “At times I have felt like I just can’t go on with life.” One thing she could turn to at home was her guitar and songwriting, and it was her mother and sister who steered her towards Nordoff Robbins – “somewhere where I could be supported and where I would be able to make music with other people, and just fit in,” she says. She was, in her own words, completely blown away by the experience.

“That was six years ago, and today I would be lost without Nordoff Robbins. Music therapy helps me in so many ways; for me it is a safe place where I can forget my problems and just be happy. Without Nordoff Robbins, I would probably still be struggling every day. But when words fail me, music speaks and it’s made a huge impact on my life; I just feel so privileged for that.”

As Elizabeth points out, making music with other people makes life better. It’s the panacea beyond words, it’s that simple. It can step into our lives and turn them around with a rhythm or a melody when words fail us.

The neurologist and writer Oliver Sacks once said that “music can lift us out of depression or move us to tears. It is a remedy, a tonic for the ear. But for many, music is not a luxury, but a necessity.” So it is at Nordoff Robbins, where music therapy is about interaction, engagement, being a part of a bigger whole, about breaking through barriers, whether they are in the mind or the body.

“Just by picking up an instrument and joining together in music, it helps to heal people, whatever pain or trauma or problem you have been through,” says Elizabeth, who has since become a volunteer at Nordoff Robbins, assisting in a parent and toddler group. “I would love to train in the profession myself one day so that I can help others like they helped me.”

You can read the original article here