As Mental Health Awareness Week draws to a close we wanted to share an interview with a client, Lewis* who has been having weekly music therapy to get him get through difficult times following a period of mental illness in hospital. Lewis speaks honestly and openly about his experiences.
Therapist: So why did you decide to take up music therapy?
Client: I’ve worked with special needs children before in the area of music 3 years at a secondary school and I didn’t plan on ever getting a mental illness, it just came out of nowhere. My father helped me to network and to find you to help me with my mental illness. Having some expectations of what is was going to be like, I thought it would be good to try and help me to improve my mental state by having the sessions together.
Therapist: What did you expect from music therapy?
Client: I imagined playing in a group and doing some improvisation, talking through my state of mind how I am, to try and help me express my moods and general well being through means of improvisation. I suppose when you’re just concentrating on music, you can’t think about anything else and you get in the zone. I thought that doing music therapy would help me distract myself from thoughts that I had been having that were unproductive. So music helped me to break away from thoughts and habits. It’s nice to talk to someone and it’s priceless having that support.
Therapist: Did your expectations differ from reality? Was there anything that you did in music therapy that you didn’t think you might do?
Client: Working on projects, to begin with I thought we might just get to know each other and our musical abilities. But then we started to introduce projects I wasn’t expecting that to happen and it really helped me to focus because I started to write a composition for a drama therapist and I wasn’t expecting to be able to do that and working with you enabled me to do that.
Therapist: So you had increased confidence?
Client: Yes through doing projects. In my expectations I didn’t think I would get back to that place where I am happy to compose music. I think I was quite self-critical of myself and quite shy when we first were together [in music therapy] and my confidence has grown over these sessions and I am really pleased with the work we have done, the songs we have written and the drama therapy stuff as well.
Therapist: So have you enjoyed the projects as part of your sessions?
Client: Immensely. I liked the Phil Collins cover that we did, that was good, simply red covers. I am really enjoying now working on my own song and getting that creative streak back again. Somewhere along the line, being in that hospital, it does play with your confidence and you do worry about will I ever be able to get back to that stage again, but doing these sessions has definitely helped me.
Therapist: Could you tell us a bit more about what the music therapy sessions involved?
Client: To begin with we got to know each other and we started with improvisation. I really enjoyed this experience, in the moment there is nothing else you can think about than what you are playing or expressing. Doing improvisations sessions really helped me to zone out, but also I enjoyed the interaction with suggestions you may have given me. And really studying what my mind is doing while we are playing has been good. Music therapy has been a real benefit and focus. I have enjoyed just listening to and analysing music together as well, being critical. The song writing, I like some of the suggestions you make and editing the music and being creative.
Therapist: How have you found the sessions?
Client: Very beneficial to me. I found them very relaxing sometimes, especially after a working day, it is nice to unwind and do some music together at the end of the day. And it’s got me focused and back into composing again which is a real result for me and I am proud of what we have done together, the songs and all the improvisation that we have done and your guidance in helping me through a difficult time, being patient and getting good results. I really enjoyed it and I would recommend it to other people. It is a huge benefit to people.
Therapist: Any difficulties within the session, any challenges?
Client: We have had sessions where we have just talked, but they have been good because they have helped me to get over a hurdle that I was struggling with. Sessions where we have been editing have been more challenging because it is a long process, whereas talking and interacting and improvising is a quick way of expressing ideas. I like the balance that we have in a session. So I like the opening songs, closing songs, the improv that we do and the writing that we do, a good balance.
Therapist: Have you found the sessions beneficial?
Client: Definitely, 100%. They have really helped me to focus my attention and just my concentration has changed as well. Before when we first me, I was quite shyu and I had lost my confidence and that has been build upon. I can see a change. I was impressed that I wrote that music. You’ve helped me to have the courage to do it.
Therapist: Did you choose music therapy over psychotherapy for a particular reason?
Client: I know music therapy works, helps people. Having worked in special needs for three years I can really see the benefit of music. I know how much music can help people. When my father mentioned about a music therapist and you came to see me in hospital for the first time, you know, I liked everything you said and I thought yeh this is something I am not getting enough of in hospital and it could really help me.
Therapist: Anything else you wanted to say or share?
Client: I would recommend music therapy to anyone that is going through any mental problems or anything, it is really beneficial. It is a fantastic and powerful tool.
*Lewis’ name has been changed for confidentiality purposes.
If you know anyone who would benefit from music therapy get in touch.