Interview with a Music Therapist

Dear readers,

Today we will get a new insight into Music Therapy; A subject that is mentioned but not thoroughly considered at the University of Twente. Luckily, Anne Pluimers, an Music Therapist, is helping us gain insight into the topic today! We conducted an interview with Anne telling the story of her experience within the workfield and necessary education. Enjoy!

Anne, 24, is currently a Master student at ArtEZ in Enschede and will finish her thesis soon. Besides, she is already working two days a week within the field. As a Music Therapist, you are already allowed to work when finishing your Bachelor thesis. When asking Anne why she is still doing her Master's, she explains that she would like to have the opportunity to conduct research herself which is only possible with a Master degree. Also, in case you do another music study first, you can still do the Music Therapy Pre Master and Master if you change your mind.

Anne herself works at a centre for children with intellectual disabilities and multiple other disabilities. She has individual classes with one child at a time and group classes and works two days a week next to her Master’s. Social skills, attention and speech and language are the most common issues in need of therapy. In individual care, one child with certain goals is worked with while in group settings, Anne takes all the instruments needed and works together with a group of children with mixed abilities.

In the group practices, Anne has different exercises for the children. The assignments are hidden within songs and often children have to e.g. help for a song by strumming a guitar. Another exercise is a crocodile song during which they hit a little drum every time the crocodile bites. These exercises are useful in many ways; Their feeling for pulse can for example be assessed on whether a guitar is strummed correctly. Also, when reacting to a word, Anne can observe their language skills and if they relate words in songs to actual language. It shows how these tasks are more than just singing children songs, but also gaining insight into children’s abilities, skills and knowledge.

With that being said, Anne described what to do if the abilities of children within her Music Therapy class differ. She describes how individual and group therapies are very different in nature and that she needs to take every child into account. In group classes for example, for children who do not get the assignment, it often needs to be adjusted. Individual therapy has more flexibility and children can for example discover a room. In a group therapy Anne has to stop that however since it gets very messy. In group settings, children however do have more flexibility within their social skills.

When asking for different field options, Anne underlines just how wide the range of jobs for Music Therapists is. All ages often need Music Therapists, from infants to elders with different diseases such as Dementia or Parkinson’s. At her uni, there is also research conducted within the field of neurologic Music Therapy. A slightly different field is addiction care in which the exercises themselves could not be more different than what Anne is doing but the underlying purpose remains similar.

For Anne, it is important to add that Music Therapy has a reputation of simply playing music with people and that is it. However, as here at the UT, the practice is empirically researched and documented. It is a professional field in which research is conducted to treat patients in the best ways possible. Thus, the view that Music Therapy is easy to learn or to do and needs no skills aside from playing an instrument are deeply flawed.  Music triggers big parts of the brain why it is so suitable to bring change for all individuals from infancy to late adulthood. She hopes this stigmatisation soon changes and Music Therapy is seen as the important profession that it is.

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