The healing sound

Want to be a music therapist? Patricia Mascarenhas give you a low-down on what it takes to get and keep the job

American rapper Macklemore once said, “Music is therapy. Music moves people. It connects people in ways that no other medium can. It pulls heart strings. It acts as medicine.” Music has an effect like no other form of art. Unlike paintings or sculptures, music affects almost everyone in some way or the other. So, if you really want to put your money where your musical abilities and love of humankind are, and if your dream of becoming a professional musician didn’t pan out, a career as a musical therapist could be the job for you.

Music therapy is all about helping people with all sorts of disabilities, problems and issues to get better through music. “Music therapy is an internationally recognised health care profession which helps people of all ages who have physical, psychological, learning, behavioural or emotional difficulties to overcome challenges and lead a quality life,” says Dr Margaret Lobo, clinical music therapist, FRSA, director, The Music Therapy Trust (India/Nepal). This form of cure is based on the understanding that the innate ability to respond to music remains unimpaired by any disability, injury, illness or trauma. “All sorts of musical experience can be integrated into music therapy, from listening to music to playing music to writing music,” Lobo explains adds.

A music therapist’s training is fairly unique. It incorporates a background in and love for music , psychology and therapy, anatomy and physiology, the biological, social and behavioural sciences, and disabilities. The essence of music therapy involves establishing caring and professional relationships with people of all ages and abilities. “Empathy, patience, creativity, imagination, an openness to new ideas, and understanding of oneself are important attributes,” advices Pandit Shashank Katti, head of music therapy programme, MET.

It is important to have an understanding of what music therapy is and what is essential before starting. “Applicants must have a high level of practical musicianship, good communication skills, relevant work experience and the desire to work with children and adults with a wide range of learning difficulties and mental health problems,” says Somesh Purey, qualified clinical music therapist.

The Music Therapy Trust, Delhi, offers a Post Graduate Diploma in Clinical Music Therapy. The course is run by Indian and international tutors and is supported by the Otakar Kraus Music Trust, UK. The course is based on the UK standards of training and is examined by the Head of Music Therapy at Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge. It also has links with the University of Melbourne, Australia. “Graduates of this course will be registered as members of the Indian Association of Music Therapists (IAMPT),” informs Lobo.

This is a comprehensive training programme in Clinical Music Therapy. “It covers theoretical approaches and practical training with a special focus on children and adults with special needs, mental health, cancer care, HIV and palliative care,” informs Lobo. They conduct lectures on psychology, psychotherapy, counselling, rehabilitation, other art therapies, family therapy, personal therapy and speech therapy. “Supervised clinical placements in hospitals, NGOs and care homes are provided to the students,” she adds.

MET College, Mumbai provides a six month part time certificate programme that will equip you to use unconventional method of music therapy to cure ailments.“It is based on the therapeutic understanding of traditional classical music, ayurveda and modern technique of sounds,” informs Katti. The programme covers historic events about musical miracles and its conclusion (about Tansen, Vikramaditya), modern inventions, mood elevation theory, sound waves, binaural beats, entrainment of brain, concept of sur, primary knowledge about functioning of brain and mind, coordination of ayurvedic and principles with Indian classical music. “Students get to learn about the scientific background as well as experience the practical application of music therapy in this programme,” he adds.

In the UK and US music therapy is a recognised profession, related to the health service in the same way as speech therapy, art therapy, psychologists or other health professionals. “For this you have to have completed one of the approved college music therapy curricula. It also includes an internship,” informs Purey adding that after completion one take the national examination offered by the Certification Board for Music Therapists. “If you meet the educational and clinical training standards you are qualified to practice as a state registered music therapist,’ he adds.

After completing training and acquiring work experience, graduates are eligible to practice as a clinical music therapists in medical and psychiatric hospitals, rehabilitative day care treatment facilities, palliative care centers or open their own private centers. They can also work with NGOs, schools and other community settings.

The profession provides a unique blend of art, science, creativity and service. It satisfies and addresses all aspects of life which includes financial rewards, job satisfaction and creativity. “A fresher can earn Rs 20,000 per month and based on capability and competence can reach upto Rs 60,000,” says Lobo. This is not a regular desk job and so is not monotonous, every session with a client promises to be a new experience. “Music has been an integral part of my life. Teaching children music is my way of giving back. I aspire to be a music therapist as it give me great satisfaction knowing that I have been able to engage others through music and bring joy into their lives. This is a unique blend of passion with profession,” concludes Astrid Pereira, pianist, Songbound.

Institute Watch

The Music Therapy Trust, Delhi —

Chennai School of Music Therapy —

MET, India Association of Music Therapy —

NADA Centre for Music Therapy —

Indicative listing

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