Professional Identity

Last week I ran a workshop on Music Therapy for a group of parents who all have children with learning disabilities and autism. This was the second time I’ve been invited to speak for this particular organisation and those who came were enthusiastic and eager to learn about the benefits of music for their children.

The workshop consisted of group discussions on what music is, how we use it in our lives and what it might mean to people, the therapeutic benefits of music, what Music Therapy is, ways we work, music and brain development, lots of case studies and video examples and finally a practical session to help parents tap into their own musicality and give them lots of ideas and tools to use at home with their children.

I felt like I gave them a lot of information and different experiences and the feedback was very positive. Parents said they felt they had learnt a lot, what I was saying helped them feel they were doing the right thing when they sang to their children and my passion for the subject was inspiring! I think one of the great things about Music Therapy is that we’re always looking for potential and responding to what children can do. We’re meeting the children where they’re at and working with them, responding to them in the moment.

An interesting discussion was had afterwards with the coordinator of the group who felt it was a shame there were so few parents present at the workshop. She wondered if the word ‘therapy’ had put people off. If it was advertised as a workshop called ‘Benefits of music for your children’ rather than ‘what is Music Therapy and how can it help your child?’ would this have attracted more parents? Although we did mention a practical workshop to give parents musical tools, did this need to be at the forefront? Perhaps due to financial restraints, families want to be given things they can do themselves without needing to pay for a professional, when their children already have so many different services working with them?

Or is it the word ‘therapy’? Here in the UK, there are ongoing debates about Music Therapy being known as Music Psychotherapy in some settings and different therapists wanting to use alternate titles. The HCPC registered title is ‘Music Therapist’ and many therapists believe families would not want their children receiving ‘Music Psychotherapy’ as that implies different things. Although we are working on an emotional level with children, that may not be the most important aspect for parents – they want their child to be interacting and communicating.

Perhaps there is something off putting about the word ‘therapy’ in itself or people are unsure of what it means as it is used so often these days. I would have to think long and hard before removing it from a description of a workshop I was running as I am trained as a Music Therapist, have worked hard to gain that title and believe in what I do. It’s a difficult dilemma and one I’m sure comes up time and time again for Music Therapists and will continue to do so.

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