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Music therapists are highly trained allied health professionals (AHPs), providing treatment that can help facilitate positive changes in emotional wellbeing and communication through the engagement in live musical interaction between client and therapist.

Applying theory gained from their Masters degree in music therapy, music therapists use music to help residents achieve therapeutic goals through the development of the musical and therapeutic relationship. The role of the music therapist is not to teach clients how to play an instrument, and there is no pre-requisite to 'be musical' in order to engage in music therapy.

The title 'music therapist' is a protected title by law and only those registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) can use it. 

The British Association for Music Therapy (BAMT) is the professional body for music therapists and a source of information, support and involvement.

Music therapy at MHA

MHA is proud to be one of the largest employers on music therapists in the UK working with people living with dementia. Speaking about what inspired them to become a music therapist and the special moments that happen when working with residents, here's what MHA music therapists had to say:

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Chris Wilson

Chris became a music therapist after wanting to combine his musical skills and the desire for a vocational role and confirmed to him when he came across a ‘careers with music’ day while unsuccessfully training to be a primary school teacher.

He said: “I enjoy seeing the power of music therapy and music upon people living with dementia the most. This may be a reduction in someone’s anxiety so that they are able to relax or someone who is in ‘low’ mood become stimulated by music therapy and their confidence increase.

“There are lots of inspirational moments and it is difficult to choose one. The most is probably an occasion when someone I had been working with during individual work who ‘appeared’ to be disengaged. They took their first tentative steps to dialogue with very small taps of the fingers on some hand held percussion. It was inspirational as it shows the often overlooked side of music therapy work. That is, the small effects of several weeks of building a therapeutic relationship.”

Learn more about MHA's music therapy service >>

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Mike Fulthorpe

Witnessing the effects music had on his grandparents who developed dementia led Mike Fulthorpe into a career as a music therapist, enabling him to combine his love of music with wanting to have a role which directly helps people.

He said: “Working as a music therapist you witness how you can enrich the lives of the residents using the medium of music.

“Its powerful effects can instantly be seen and it is wonderful to see what resident are still able to do rather than what they cannot do. It can also be heart-warming to witness the effects on close family members who sometimes participate in music therapy group sessions with their loved ones.

“My most inspirational moment came seeing a man living with dementia and Parkinson’s disease who was quite physically disabled play the drum with great enthusiasm and gusto during a music therapy session. Staff were amazed at the transformation in his demeanour and mood and how happy he seemed after the session.”

Learn more about MHA's music therapy service >>

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Lori Standen

Music has always been part of Lori Standen’s life and became aware of the power of the medium when she would play music to her grandfather who was living with dementia and noticed how it seemed to relax him.

Lori enjoys that music helps find an alternative way to communicate with MHA residents who are living with dementia. She said: “It give them the opportunity to communicate their feelings and emotions with me when they might not be able to articulate the words.

“The music often acts as a trigger to open up a part of their memory which involved misic and this, at times, enables them to share memories, stories and reminisces about their past.

“For some who are usually non-verbal, it can bring back their ability to verbalise and they find the words to sing the lyrics or the melody to hum along to. This in itself brings them a sense of belonging and acknowledgement as they connect with who they are and share this with the therapist.”

Learn more about MHA's music therapy service >>

To find out more about becoming an MHA music therapist, please email music.therapy@mha.org.uk


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