Esther’s Story

Music therapy helps refugee Esther to be heard and gives her relief from the traumas she has experienced. 

Esther* is from Southern Africa and her musical heritage is a strong force within her. She faces uncertainty in her life surrounding her health, when she will be able to return to her family and what the future will bring.   

Nordoff Robbins music therapist Toni has been working with refugees through the Revive drop-in centre in Salford, using music therapy to help them gain confidence and to provide relief from the traumas they may have experienced

Toni said: “Music therapy can provide opportunities for people like Esther to be heard – this is a fundamental human need and one that many refugees arriving here after fleeing danger and turmoil in their own country feel they have lost, along with everything else.    

Many of the refugees who come to the Revive drop-in centre in Salford have been imprisoned or tortured in their home countries, and a lot of the women have experienced domestic violence, forced marriage, or female genital mutilation. It is not uncommon for people to experience mental health difficulties and many have suffered loss or trauma and can feel a sense of isolation in a new and foreign place.     

Toni said: “Esther has little control or certainty over whether she will even be allowed to travel home and life is a continual wait for news.  But there is certainty in her voice as she sings – and she too can hear it when we listen back to our sessions. In music therapy Esther is no longer a lone voice.  

  Esther’s experience of herself is increasingly confident when navigating new and untrodden melodic paths, not only supported by my voice but constantly invited to explore and being subtly challenged to take risks. It is a different experience of herself, and one that highlights her own strength, both in voice and spirit.    

Steering her voice around mine requires Esther to be in the present moment – a momentary relief from thinking about the past or the future, and in a space where she can focus on the support she encounters in music therapy. In music therapy, Esther can be adventurous, explorative, confident and physically strong. The music therapist can invite, challenge and nurture this strength. In music, Esther is well.  

*Esther’s name has been changed for confidentiality reasons