My name is Neil Eaves and I have provided music therapy at Birch Wood school since it opened. As well as Birch Wood I have experience in working in numerous schools for students with Autistic Spectrum Conditions as well as Child and Adolescent Mental Health (CAMHS), child and adolescent palliative care, bereavement and in mainstream education settings to support students in need. I am the national coordinator for music therapy and technology and am state-registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (AS02020). This registration is a lawful requirement and proves that I have undertaken the post-graduate training required and continue to access training in order to call myself and work as a music therapist.
The purpose of music therapy is to encourage students to explore and experience the creative process of making music. Through this process, the student is supported to develop their communication skills and express emotions. The feelings that emerge in a session can be ones of joy and satisfaction, but they can equally be of deep anger and frustration.
The music therapist is trained to explore and contain these difficult feelings, thereby allowing the child to show emotions that cannot easily be expressed in other ways. Whatever the level of participation, the aim is for the student to feel safe and ‘in charge’. The music therapist facilitates communication through the music, and is skilled in encouraging the student to play using a variety of percussion and tuned instruments. The therapist supports the music with improvised accompaniment, therefore encouraging and supporting the music that comes from the student.
Music therapy is not a ‘quick-fix’, and for many of the people who experience music therapy, there is no ‘fix’, more a journey of self-awareness and acceptance.