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Music therapy

BMJ 2003; 326 doi: (Published 01 March 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;326:030376
  1. Rebecca Hughes, music therapy student1
  1. 1Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London

Rebecca Hughes explains music therapy, and how it is more than listening to music to make you feel good

An 8 year old girl stands rocking and staring into space. The few words she utters are obscene and random. She can be violent and spends most of her time alone. But six months later she interacts with other children in a group and vocalises appropriately. What made the difference? She has been working with a music therapist.

Music therapy builds a relationship between the patient and the therapist through musical improvisation. The patient can communicate without needing to use words. The therapist responds musically and provides support; the patient has the space to develop a sense of self. In this girl's case, the connection that was built through music with her therapist allowed her to show her true potential and to begin to learn basic social skills.

Music therapy is a rapidly growing discipline, which recently became a state registered profession in the United Kingdom. The Association of Professional Music Therapists had 490 practising members at the end of 2000 and, with seven postgraduate training courses in the UK the number is rising steadily.1 Most music therapists work, in close collaboration with the wider clinical team, in the NHS, …

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