What is Music Therapy?
‘Music plays an important role in our everyday lives. It can be exciting or calming, joyful or poignant, can stir memories and powerfully resonate with our feelings, helping us to express them and to communicate with others.
‘Music therapy uses these qualities and the musical components of rhythm, melody and tonality to provide a means of relating within a therapeutic relationship. In music therapy, people work with a wide range of accessible instruments and their voices to create a musical language which reflects their emotional and physical condition; this enables them to build connections with their inner selves and with others around them’.
From the moment your baby is born he is hard-wired to be looking and listening for you. In those early days he tracks your face, looking specifically for your eyes and mouth, and listens for your voice. For all those months that your baby is in the womb it is you and those close to you that he has heard. It is you he wants to hear for reassurance, for quiet words when he cries and for laughs and smiles when he coos and squeals with delight!
Music is an inherent part of us as human beings, from the rhythms of our breathing and our heartbeats to the lullabies that we thought we’d forgotten that come back to us as parents. We all create music and it is part of us. That is why singing is an effective way to bond, interact and play with your child. Your child adores your voice, even if YOU think it’s best kept behind closed doors while singing in the shower.
In my music therapy sessions I often meet parents who are embarrassed or too shy to sing in front of me or others, but I remind them: ‘Just whisper at first, they’ll be listening out – they don’t want to hear me – just you!’
So be brave. Try it at home first if you’re nervous doing it in front of others. By singing, vocalising, matching and responding to your child’s sound you are helping them make connections with you, and helping them to learn about what is around them, building those blocks for social interaction and language development.
In what ways is a session with a Music Therapist different to the many other music sessions out there?
Music Therapy is a protected title – it means that you cannot call yourself a Music Therapist unless you have trained and registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). All Music Therapists complete rigorous and intense postgraduate training. This is focused on musicianship as well as in-depth clinical knowledge, including child development and theory around attachment. During the training there are various clinical placements that might include working in the NHS or in education settings.
I offer Music Therapy sessions for groups of parents and young babies in the comfort of your home, where you can fully relax and I can fit in with you and your baby’s schedule. I also work with groups at Children’s Centres and various private organisations.
During the sessions I use music to encourage bonding, communication, play and development with your baby. The sessions focus on areas of development such as looking, listening, waiting, sharing, choosing and turn-taking. I will show you and your friends how to offer your baby something that is playful, stimulating and fun, leaving you with the confidence to try it in your own time.
I also use musical ideas to encourage physical development – tummy time or reaching for objects – and to encourage shared attention with your child. I will use some songs that may be familiar, such as a nursery rhymes, and some songs of my own. I bring small percussion instruments for the babies to explore as well as using my voice too.
As a Music Therapist, I will be able to use the music created together to support and develop the emotional, social, physical and developmental wellbeing of your child. Also I will be available to answer any questions you might have about your child’s social or physical development.
We also have time at the end of the session for parents to reflect. It’s a wonderful but sometimes really TOUGH job being a new parent, and this bit of space to listen and support each other is often really helpful.
Music Therapy is a fun and innovative way to encourage bonding and development with your baby. I also offer specialist sessions for children with additional needs or mothers struggling with Postnatal Depression or finding it difficult to bond with their baby. But ultimately Music Therapy can benefit everyone and I encourage parents as well to explore the instruments and their voice and have FUN together with their baby.
Christina Lydon is an experienced Music Therapist working in the NHS as well as mainstream and special education.
She runs a private Music Therapy and parenting practice throughout London, Surrey, Hampshire and Sussex. She recently ran a session for Mothers Collective in West Sussex, and was invited to blog about her practice at motherscollective.com.
Christina also founded Balloons and Tunes parties – an exciting and innovative music service including bespoke parties for children with special needs.
She is taking bookings for Music Therapy groups starting in August, so please get in touch if you as an individual or as a group of friends or organisation would like to discuss some sessions.