By Daniel Thomas, managing director at Chroma Therapies

Within the realm of Arts Therapies, Music Therapy (MT) has been recognised as an effective form of therapy for many years, yet, has only come to be more widely accepted within the confines of mainstream therapy in the present day. Its visible benefits displayed ubiquitously via news stories, viral posts and tweets, all of which demonstrate the power and most importantly, the connection music has upon the body and mind.

In 2017, STEPS partnered with Chroma, whose like-minded approach to rehab and belief in the importance of Arts Therapies, matched their own. Together, they have been able to deliver effective rehabilitation to clients recovering from serious brain injuries, spinal cord injuries and complex trauma.

Chroma music therapists work alongside other therapists in the STEPS team using music therapy techniques to enhance rehabilitation goals & objectives. Motivation towards rehab is a key factor into its success. Clients facing life-changing injuries, for instance following an ABI, TBI or amputation, can find their condition hard to accept which can hinder rehab. Music Therapy offers a unique, safe space to allow people to express their emotions regarding their condition, providing them with a way to process and begin to accept it. Ultimately, it puts clients in a better mental space to partake and engage in their functional rehab sessions.

Working within the STEPS multidisciplinary team ensures rehabilitation is as effective as possible resulting in the best possible outcome for the client.

In some cases, verbal communication may be difficult for the client – whether that be due to a brain injury, a condition like Huntington’s or trauma. MT provides a way to communicate without a voice. Playing musical instruments as a group, singing, and improv provide great alternative tools for self-expression, which is important for those whose communication abilities are limited.

Group music therapy also offers a unique sensory experience to clients who are physically impaired. They show signs of engagement and awareness through their body language. Some may seemingly relax, open their eyes, look around, make eye contact with others or exhibit deeper breathing by the end of the session. Music therapy is inclusive to all.

After all, MT is concerned with self-expression, and lends itself to help clients express themselves and their emotions through playing instruments. Music Therapy in groups often brings with it a sense of cohesiveness and trust between participants, which can often lead to clients being more willing to open up about their experiences, allowing them an outlet to explore and process their emotions.

In groups, MT allows participants to address issues such as their own awareness and attention, providing a safe space to recognise others around them and to understand how they themselves interact with others. It essentially offers an effective technique to help tackle issues such as loneliness felt by residents within establishments such as care homes, residential homes and so on, as it promotes bonding and encourages interaction between participants allowing for an opportunity to build trust and develop relationships.

The future of MT is bright. With an increasingly diverse range of therapists coming through the training courses, and issues around inclusion at the forefront of the profession’s response to BLM, commissioners and MT clients can be confident about finding an experienced therapist who understands their unique medical, psychological, cultural, religious and diversity needs.

MT continues to develop excellent practice along the traditional lines of face to face delivery. But increasingly face to face is being augmented and supported by a hybrid model where online sessions run alongside face to face. For example, Chroma and one of the leading London oncology hospitals have recently begun talks to develop a hybrid music therapy and art therapy service.

In the USA, Medrhythms have been developing a digital app based approach to gait rehabilitation for post-Stroke patients, which has recently achieved “angel investor” funding of $25million. Furthermore, they have just struck a partnership with Universal Music Group, the world’s largest record company that will provide the world’s first digital music “prescription subscription” enabling Stroke survivors to listen to their favourite music whilst using Medrhythm’s app – amazing.

Music therapy assessment continues to be at the forefront of best practice, and is consciously and sensitively addressing complex issues around developing cultural, diversity and inclusion issues; IMTAC the International Music Therapy Assessment Consortium, of which Chroma is a founder member, believes that many of the current assessments commonly used do not always take into account a person’s culture or background when assessing them for a music therapy intervention. At the 2022 European MT conference (EMTC2022) in Edinburgh IMTAC will be presenting the first global survey of the use of assessment within MT.

In 2022 the long await first book on mistakes in music therapy will be published. To be published by Artez University Press, the book starts to explore what is a music therapy mistake, what are the range of mistakes that are made within the profession, and importantly how do therapists, and clients, start addressing these issues, which range in levels of seriousness. Chroma MD and music therapist Daniel Thomas has written a chapter looking at the common business mistakes that music therapists may make, and highlights the RAILE context as outlined in the ‘The Economics of Therapy’, 2017, as a way to support therapists to overcome their responses when things go wrong.

At the heart of music therapy now and into the future is our shared belief in the power of music as a treatment modality to create best outcomes for clients and services users, as well as a commitment to reflective practice and an openness to learning and developing as a profession.

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