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Why Music as Therapy

Historically people have come to associate the phrase “Music as Therapy project” with a specific six-week skill-sharing and training initiative undertaken in Romania.  Actually our activities have been wider than this for many years now and are set to become a whole step wider still with the launch of Music as Therapy International (MasT) in October 2008. 

What makes a Music as Therapy project distinct is not its structure, but certain parameters, values and principles of good practice:

Music as Therapy projects are never about what we can do in the moment, but about what our Local Partners can do in the future.  They have a sharp focus on the role of the project within the wider context of a developing community.  This means that not all our decisions are clinical. Many of them are operational or strategic with one eye carefully kept on the bigger picture of life in the community in which we are working.

Every Music as Therapy project will always contain an element of training or skill-sharing and critical to this is ongoing support for Local Partners who are developing new skills.  This is unsurprising, perhaps, given the fundamental emphasis we place on sustainability and the lasting impact of any such training.  At the same time we know that support is also very important for the professional music therapists who deliver any such project.

Willingness to explore innovative practice and to value Local Partners’ potential, whatever their starting point, is fundamental to any Music as Therapy project.  In the early days our approach challenged opinions within the profession as we explored the extent to which aspects of music therapy can be taught to low-level workers, who have minimal education or even literacy, who work under isolated conditions for poor pay, and definitely do not consider themselves to be musicians.  We have discovered there is enormous scope for making therapeutic music-making accessible to people where the more traditional UK clinical model is a long way from being available. 

A further characteristic of a Music as Therapy project is its ability to be responsive to the community to which the project is going.  Whilst every project has clear aims and structure, its implementation and the design of the structure needs to be flexible.  It is no use doggedly imposing a project just because we had planned it in a certain way, if we discover it clashes with the existing approach or concerns of our Local Partners.  We need to work in partnership with local people to shape our collaboration to really suit their needs.  The ability to revisit the structure and method of delivery time and time again ensures the maximum success of any project.