A day in the life of a Coram music therapist

I work in a mainstream primary school, nursery and children's centre and I will be there by 8.30am. I spend 20 minutes or so preparing my therapy room for the day, getting out the instruments and the video camera I’ll need for the first session. All our sessions are filmed (with parental consent) as a way to review and share progress with teachers and parents.

Children take the lead

Young girl playing insturments

The day starts at 9am. I will go and collect the child from their classroom for the first session of the day. The child always leads in terms of which instruments they choose to play and the sounds they want to make. It’s their opportunity to use the music equipment to express how they are feeling.

Afterwards, I will take 20 minutes to write up session notes. The second session follows, which is a parent and child session. Depending on the needs of the children, sometimes a parent joining in the therapy can be very helpful. Music therapy can help to strengthen the parent-child relationship where this may have been damaged for a number of reasons, including family trauma, ill health, or maternal depression etc. Music therapy can help the parent and child to build a stronger connection and to develop a more positive relationship without the need for words.

Break time is busy

Break time is 10.45am to 11am. I use this time to check an invite box where children can request to come to a self-referral lunchtime group session. Normally, children are referred by SENCos, teachers, social workers or parents for music therapy, but this posting-box system allows children to say themselves if something is worrying them. I also take the time to have conversations with one or two teachers to discuss individual children who have self-referred, as this is a time when they’re most likely to be free. For the rest of the morning, I write up more detailed notes or I might need to create and submit a report or attend an Individual Pupil Review.

At the children’s lunch time I will run the self-referral group for the older children. This is a more structured session. As well as picking up issues such as playground bullying or worries about school work, some deeper issues may well come out which can then lead to a child being referred for individual therapy.

Freedom to be a child
Children engage in music therapy

In the afternoon I will have one more individual session. This is with a little girl from the nursery who has recently been diagnosed with autism. For her, music therapy is a space to develop communication and relating skills in a less overwhelming setting. She has very little language and usually doesn't give much eye contact, but in music therapy she can hold good eye contact with me when I copy her sounds on the drum.

After that it’s time to pack the equipment away. I spend quite a bit of time cleaning instruments! Anything like a whistle or a recorder that has been blown needs to be cleaned well. School ends at 3.30pm. I catch up on writing my notes from the afternoon. I may well also have a meeting with teachers or parents reviewing video and discussing progress.

I sometimes walk almost all of the way home in order to unwind from the day's work. Days are hectic, but there are always moments in a school term that I can look back to a pivotal point in a child's development.They're really special. That's what keeps me motivated and what I enjoy most about my job.

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