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  • Carolyn Thomas

Welcome to Thrive!


Welcome to Thrive Music Therapy! My name is Carolyn Thomas and I am a Registered Music Therapist (RMT) in Perth, Western Australia. I graduated from my Masters of Music Therapy in 2021 and am now launching my private practice, Thrive Music Therapy.


Thrive is a music therapy practice that aims to work with clients to maximise their health and wellbeing through musical interventions in a client-directed manner. Using your goals and personal resources, we will aim to work through whatever challenges you may be facing together. As a therapist, I believe that your personal health and wellness goals are of paramount importance in your therapy journey, and will aim to meet these goals through our work together.


The purpose of this blog will be to educate about and advocate for music therapy in Perth. Music therapy is a long established profession in many countries, as well as on the east coast of Australia. In Perth, though, it's relatively new. Part of Thrive's mission statement is to bring awareness in Perth to the benefits of music therapy and to help, even in some small way, to grow the field further here in Western Australia.


So let's get started.


First things first, what is music therapy? According to the Australian Music Therapy Association (the governing body for music therapists in Australia), music therapy is defined like this:


"Music therapy is a research-based allied health profession in which music is used to actively support people as they aim to improve their health, functioning and well-being. It can help people of all ages to manage their physical and mental health and enhance their quality of life."

- Australian Music Therapy Association


Basically, music therapists use musical interventions (e.g. playing instruments, songwriting etc.) to help clients reach their health and wellbeing goals. For example, a client struggling with anxiety may be working toward their goal of coping with day-to-day anxiety by expressing their feelings through instrumental improvisation or singing. A client with Alzheimer's may be working toward decreasing their agitation and increasing reminiscence through playing and singing their favourite songs from their youth.


But what does a music therapy session look like?


Music therapy, like any therapy, uses a range of interventions and exercises to work to meet an individual client's particular goals and needs, so naturally each person's sessions will look very different. However, some things you may experience in a music therapy session include:


  • Instrument play

  • Instrument learning

  • Improvisation

  • Songwriting

  • Therapeutic singing

  • Mindfulness through music

  • Guided Imagery through music

  • and many more

You may look at that list of interventions and feel intimidated or worried that you may not be musically experienced enough to participate. I want to reassure you now that music therapy is for everyone who wants to engage, no matter whether you are a professional musician or have never touched an instrument in your life. Music therapy is not about being "good" at music or performing to a certain level of musical ability. Music therapy is about expression, function and wellbeing. This means that there is no "right" or "wrong" notes you could play or sing, and there is no standard you have to meet. In our society, being "good" at music has become something that is celebrated and revered, but throughout history and in most cultures, music was a community based activity in which everyone engaged, not an elite activity for people deemed to be "gifted". In music therapy, this attitude is simply not relevant. Music is for anyone who wants to engage with it, and everyone who wants to has the potential to receive benefit from it.


However, there are some caveats to be stated. There are some schools of thought that attribute healing powers to music, stating that "music is medicine" or similar mantras. While this may be true for some people, this is not the widely-held belief of the music therapy field. Music therapy does not see music as a healing medium or a medicine of sorts. Rather, music is a tool that we can use in order to increase wellbeing and health in certain ways. This is an important distinction.


Additionally, there is a difference between music as therapy and music therapy itself. Music as therapy refers to the therapeutic attributes of the music. For example, you may notice that when you listen to a particular song, you feel less anxious and soothed by the music. In this case, the music itself holds the therapeutic benefits. In music therapy, the therapeutic benefits come from the process of using musical interventions within the client-therapist relationship. Music therapy uses music as a tool in the therapeutic journey, rather than the music itself being the therapy. Often, these two ideas do go hand in hand but the therapeutic relationship is of utmost importance.


Lastly, music therapy can only be practiced by a Registered Music Therapist, who is registered with the Australian Music Therapy Association (AMTA). The AMTA is our governing body and sets out our code of conduct, ethics and other important policies. With those caveats aside, I want to finish off this post by answering some common questions about music therapy.



Who can be a music therapist?

In order to become a Registered Music Therapist (RMT) in Australia, you must first have a Bachelor's degree in music or another relevant degree (e.g. Psychology) with additional qualifications in musical performance. Then you must be accepted into and complete a Masters qualification in music therapy, which includes 640 hours of clinical practice. Currently there are 2 Masters of Music Therapy courses in Australia, one in Western Sydney and the other at the University of Melbourne. After completing your degree, you must then be registered with the AMTA and complete yearly CPD points and clinical hours in order to maintain your registration.


Who can benefit from music therapy?

Anyone who has an interest in music therapy and who wants to improve their health and wellbeing in some way can benefit from music therapy. Music therapy has shown to be helpful in many areas of health and wellbeing including mental health care, speech and language, developmental delays and disability, autism, motor function, neurological function and more. If you have specific questions about how music therapy could benefit you, please feel free to contact me at carolyn@thrivemusictherapy.com.au or subscribe to this blog for future posts.


Do I have to be musical to engage in music therapy?

Not at all!


Is music therapy available through the NDIS?

Yes! The wonderful advocates at the AMTA worked tirelessly to get music therapy included and it is included in the support cluster Capacity Building - Improved Daily Living. Thrive is not currently registered as an NDIS provider yet, but can provide support to those with self-managed plans or plan managers. Thrive is aiming to become registered with the NDIS in the near future.


Where can I find more information about music therapy?

Firstly, you can sign up to this blog to be notified about monthly blog posts and secondly, you can head to the AMTA's website for further information.

https://www.austmta.org.au/



Thank you so much for reading my first blog post, and I hope you will follow along for future posts. If you want to connect with Thrive on social media, please follow the social links on the blog home page.


Until next time!


Carolyn





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