We spoke with Ellie, Music Therapist at Chiltern Music Therapy, to find out more about how music is used as a form of therapy in their organisation and also about her own music tastes!
Ellie: We are a non-profit organisation that provides Music Therapy and Community Music sessions to individuals, groups, and beyond! We are based in Buckinghamshire but cover the surrounding counties and London, and we specialise in neuro-rehabilitation, disorders of consciousness and neonatal care and provide these specialist services nationwide. We believe that everyone should have access to music, whether that’s Therapy or DJ lessons, attending a community singing group or a mental health jamming session.
This is regardless of age, illness, ability or disability. Or musical ability! We fundraise throughout the year and have wonderful organisations that fundraise for and donate to us, and this means we can make sure no one goes without access to therapy or music sessions if they don’t have the funds. We also run training events, corporate days and special fundraising days, like our annual Golf Day which is taking place on the 12th May this year.
Ellie: It’s important to start by saying that the way we work with people depends entirely on their reason for referral, their individual needs and their musical tastes, so each session is very different. The key element is that music is used to bring about positive change, either emotionally or functionally (or both). Music Therapists usually use different combinations of music making, music listening, musical tasks and often use music technology, such as recording programmes and apps too. We use evidence-based techniques where possible, and we also use standardised and validated outcome tools to measure development and track change.
In our Music Therapy sessions, we generally work in four key areas: communication, emotion & behaviour, cognition, and motor skills. Therapy aims are individual to the client, but goals are usually non-musical. We have a holistic approach to the way we work, so we will often have many therapy aims and goals we’re working towards at once. Our community music services will often be more about bringing people together and providing them with a space to enjoy music and take part in musical activities rather than specific therapeutic goals. These groups are led by our team of Community Musicians.
Ellie: The simple answer is: everyone. Working with such a diverse range of people and ages means that we have to be flexible in our approach. As with all therapy or medical interventions, there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ and that’s why it’s so important to us to be able to offer a range of Music Therapy approaches to suit each individual or organisation that we work with.
Ellie: Having worked across the public, private and third health and care sectors, our experiences have shown us the challenges and benefits in each area. As an independent organisation we are able to remain dedicated to putting the needs of our clients first. We have seen the damage done by clients being discharged from services without continuing input so we place great importance on proving ongoing services including our community Music Therapy services.
We ensure that any client being discharged from our in-patient or one to one services has access to our community services, where people of all ages enjoy music-making and the positive benefits it brings. The adults and children who access our services remain the most important people in the organization. We listen to them, we learn from them, we help them to make the changes that are important to them.
Ellie: I’ll answer this one individually as there are so many people within CMT that I represent and would hate to get it wrong for the whole organisation! So, I speak as a Music Therapist and a musician, and a general lover of music when I say that – quite literally – my life would be vastly and horribly different without music. It’s one of the most important things in my life.
Every area of my life seems to revolve around music, whether it’s listening to it for pleasure, composing new songs as a way of processing my feelings and expressing myself, and then using it as a treatment tool with my patients for my job, or using it to interact with my little boy, who is 10 months old and responds so strongly to singing, musical instruments and songs. Music brings people together, it gives us meaning, it helps us express ourselves when we have no words, and I feel privileged to be able to use it to bring about positive change for other people.
Ellie: This is an impossible question! We are comprised of 25 Music Therapists, 6 Community Musicians, 5 Volunteers and 6 office staff, and then of course all of our clients and the organisations we work with… so it’s interesting to think about what one song or artist could encompass all of that and represent us as an organisation! I would have to pick Abba: Thank You For The Music. Because without the music, we wouldn’t exist!
Ellie: As I am answering these questions, we are listening to an 80s playlist in the office and it’s going down well! We listen to all sorts depending on who’s in and what kind of mood we’re in. Typical music would be upbeat, familiar and sing-along.
Ellie: Rolling Stones Jumpin Jack Flash 2) Fleetwood Mac Go Your Own Way 3) Prince Purple Rain 4) Ed Sheeran Sing 5) Aretha Flanklin Respect
We would name the session ‘Sing your heart out!’ because they are classic songs that you can’t resist but sing along (and sometimes dance along) to.
Records OR CDs? CDs for more resources; although records are cooler
Downloads OR streaming? Streaming
Albums OR singles? Albums
Human curation OR algorithmic curation? Human curation, it’s personal.
Host OR listener? Listener, we’re interested in other people and what they want to host!
Popular playlist OR your own playlist? Popular playlist, might find something new
Play in order OR shuffle? Shuffle, mix it up
Headphones OR speakers? Speakers – we can all listen then!
Tupac or Biggie? Tupac, purely for the lyrics in ‘Changes’
Lead singer, guitarist, OR drummer? One person doing all of those things – Jack Garrett!
You can help support the charity by donating here.
For more information about all of their services and events coming up visit their website here.
If you have a spare iPod, why not donate it to their iPod Pharmacy! Find out more here.
This interview was answered by one of our Music Therapists, Ellie Ruddock – read her bio here.
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