Music Therapy

What is Music Therapy?

Music Therapy is a psychological intervention which can support a persons health and well-being.  It can support the emotional development, communication, social interactions and also fine and gross motor skills for individuals.  Music is used to promote connections and relationships between therapist and client(s) by using a wide range of accessible musical instruments and voice.

Music Therapist’s approach their work in different ways, depending on the needs of the client and that of the therapists theoretical training background.

The British Association of Music Therapy describes the practice and profession as

an established psychological clinical intervention, which is delivered by HCPC registered music therapists to help people whose lives have been affected by injury, illness or disability through supporting their psychological, emotional, cognitive, physical, communicative and social needs.

BAMT Website 2015

The American Association of Music Therapy describes the practice and profession as

the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program.

Music Therapy is an established health profession in which music is used within a therapeutic relationship to address physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs of individuals.

AMTAWebsite 2016


Em Gordon as a Music Therapist

Every music therapist brings a particular orientation or approach to their work. My approach uses features from psychoanalytic theory, developmental theory and humanistic theory primarily but I also incorporate physiological, supportive and transpersonal theories within my sessions. There is a lot of cross-over.

The musical relationship I build with my clients is at the centre of any and all of my Music Therapy sessions. I use music as a non-verbal intervention, it is a tool for expression and communication in which there are no right or wrong ways for my clients to play; no right or wrong way to explore sounds; and no right or wrong way for them to be. As a Music Therapist I facilitate the unfolding and exploration of a client’s feelings, sounds and words. Similarly, to that of a Conductor facilitating a Band or Orchestra.

I provide a safe and confidential space in which my clients can explore. I maintain clear boundaries. These boundaries include the physical and time-based ones, professional and ethical ones, and the developmental boundaries.

People have varying needs, different goals in life and their own personalities. The clients I see in Music Therapy are no different. Everyone is an individual and therefore every ones Music Therapy sessions will be different.

I like to refer back to the mother infant relationship when describing how I work as a Music Therapist. I hold and contain my clients within a musical structure, recognising, accepting and understanding my clients’ feelings. I am able to stay with and manage what is communicated, no matter how difficult it may be. In a similar manner that a mother will hold her baby, physically in her arms but also emotionally by being intuitive, without judgement, words or interpretation. To contain the difficult and painful feelings her baby has whilst accepting that she is feeling them.

The following skills are important for myself as a Music Therapist and for the therapeutic relationship I will build with each client I work with.

  • Imagination – important to my Music Therapy practice, I support and enable clients to use their imagination through musical play, I support developing imaginative play for some clients, and I provide a limit and boundary on our imaginative play to maintain perspective and rationale.
  • Intuition – in creating a therapeutic relationship with my clients, I have a frame in which my knowledge of my client, our sessions and their needs can allow me to make intuitive decisions within sessions. I can adapt and develop songs/music, I can introduce new activities such as song-writing/lyric analysis, I can encourage a deeper connection between myself and my client musically. Maybe by intensifying the music improvisation, changing key, dynamics, rhythm or tempo.
  • Improvisation – Core to my Music Therapy sessions is improvisation. It can provide endless forms of music, different instruments, differing levels of connectedness. Together myself and client can role play, turn-take, call and respond, interrupt, listen, lead, follow, make decisions, listen, play and many more!