I am a qualified music therapist and started working at Richard House in January 2016. I take part in family activity days, and provide both individual and group sessions at home and in the hospice.
Before joining Richard House, I studied music and German at Lancaster University and did a two year Masters in Music Therapy at Anglia Ruskin University. I joined Richard House in December 2015 and as well as working here I work with the young adults at St Francis Hospice and work with individuals with life limiting conditions, learning disabilities and mental health issues. I have a passion for music therapy and also manage a team of three other music therapists.
Music therapy is about helping the children to express themselves through music and often, with the children here at Richard House, it’s giving them a chance to do something, which they can’t normally do. Our children here, they often have everything done for them: they have people changing them and feeding them. Music is something they can access directly – they can actually take control of something in their lives so they can play an instrument and it’s about building the relationship with that child.
Music is also a way for children to show their feelings. They might be feeling frustrated or happy or angry or excited – it’s about expressing those emotions because they may be non-verbal so they don’t often get a chance to express themselves. And let’s not forget that is a way of having a little a bit of fun.
Each music therapy session is different and the preferences of each child are taken into account. We always have a ‘hello’ song and a ‘goodbye’ song to structure the session and then, if there’s a parent there, I will ask the parent what the child particularly likes. If there is a song that they like, a nursery rhyme – in that case, we’ll sing that song. Or, if the child just wants to explore the instruments that I’ve brought with me, they can just have a play with the different instruments and I’ll play the guitar to accompany what they’re doing. Or I might offer the child a choice of two different instruments and let them decide which one they’d like to play and then, again, just have an interaction. Or the child hasn’t got much energy then we might share an interaction with vocalising – so singing – and that can be really powerful and also really nice for the staff to see, because sometimes the care team don’t get a chance to see this side of the children. So it’s nice for them to see: ‘Oh, that child can do that.’ so it’s really nice for them as well.
I think the main benefit of music therapy is that the children can have control over something in their lives – it’s something that really makes them feel empowered and helps build their self-confidence. And also just to let them have a bit of fun because these children, they tend to be in and out of hospitals; they might not have a chance just to have some fun and play some music like other children – these children might not get the opportunity to go to music groups because they’ve got so many medical needs that a normal music group wouldn’t accept them.
Richard House is a really lovely, friendly place. I felt instantly welcomed and a member of a great team. Everyone was really supportive and coming up to me and introducing themselves straight away so it’s nice to instantly feel part of a team that is really passionate about its work. It’s a lovely place to work.