Music therapists use music to promote positive changes in health and wellbeing. They work with individuals or with groups of clients of all ages and abilities, encouraging them to interact with others, releive stress and anxiety, and help build confidence.
You could be:
listening to and discussing problems with your clients
using music to stimulate or relax clients
helping clients who have addiction problems, challenging behaviour, eating disorders, emotional and behavioural difficulties or mental health problems
encouraging your client to use musical instruments, for example percussion instruments, to sing, compose, improvise, move to music or listen to music
supporting clients as they listen to or play music, which may release distressing feelings, to help them understand their problems, develop greater self-awareness and move on positively
supporting clients to build their confidence and enhance their self-esteem
working with other healthcare, social services or education professionals, to help diagnose emotional or psychological disorders, identify problems and work out treatment plans.
As a music therapist with the NHS on the Agenda for Change salary scales, you would start on Band 6, £35,522 to £43,286 a year. Senior therapists are on Band 7, £43,422 to £50,506 a year.
Outside the NHS your income would vary according to whether you were freelance or employed.
You would work across a range of health, social care and educational settings.
Working hours are normally regular, but you may need to do some evening work.
You need a degree (in any subject) (SCQF Level 9-10) followed by a postgraduate qualification in music therapy (SCQF Level 11) accredited by the British Association for Music Therapy (BAMT).
In Scotland there is a two-year postgraduate MSc in Music Therapy at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh. Entrance requirements include a degree and a high level of musicianship on at least one instrument (this includes voice).
Some prior experience or involvement with children or adults with mental health or learning disabilities is required.
Entry requirements for a degree course in music are usually 4-5 Highers including Music.
You will require a satisfactory criminal record check from Disclosure Scotland to show that you are suitable for this type of work. Contact Disclosure Scotland for details on the type you would need.
When you complete your postgraduate course you gain UK state registration with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC), which you must have to work in the National Health Service (NHS) or with a local authority.
For some entrants it is a second career, after working in the performing arts, teaching or social care.
A driving licence can be useful and may be necessary.
This is a small profession and self-employment is common. Some music therapists work in the NHS but some work for local authority social work departments or voluntary organisations. Others are freelance and are paid fees rather than a regular salary.
What Does it Take?
You should have:
excellent musical skills and a good sense of rhythm
a friendly, caring and empathetic manner
good communication skills
patience and sensitivity
the ability to put clients at ease and to encourage them
a non-judgemental approach
willingness to persevere, as not all clients will respond quickly to treatment
the ability to cope with clients who may be depressed or anxious.
Once you have gained state registration you can join the BAMT.
Training is on the job alongside an experienced music therapist.
Throughout your career you will undertake a continuous professional development (CPD) programme by attending training courses and seminars. This is required to stay on the state register.
You will have to undergo regular supervision with senior music therapists throughout your career.
With experience and further training you could specialise in a particular area such as neuro-disability or palliative care.
You may move on to lead a team of music therapists.
You might do research work.
You might become a teacher of music therapy.
You could take further training to become a psychotherapist.
The Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) is the UK-wide regulatory body responsible for setting and maintaining standards of professional training, performance and conduct in the following health care professions: Arts Therapists; Audiologist; Biomedical Scientist; Chiropodist and Podiatrist; Clinical Scientist; Dietician; Dramatherapist; Occupational Therapist; Operating Department Practitioner; Orthoptist; Paramedic; Physiotherapist; Practitioner Psychologist; Prosthetist and Orthotist; Radiographer; Speech and Language Therapist. (The HCPC may regulate other healthcare professions in the future.) The HCPC website contains a register of all approved courses in the above professions.