Music as a form of Medicine: Masters in Music Therapy

When we think about improving our mental, emotional, or physical health, we often imagine sitting across from a therapist to talk about what it is we’re feeling or seeing a doctor to be prescribed medication for our ailments.

Limerick Voice reporter Jody Coffey investigated another therapy that sometimes can be overlooked in health care, music therapy.

Music therapy is an evidence-based profession that uses music as a tool to stimulate change in areas of social, physical, emotional, cognitive, and speech and language domains.

It has been proven to have an incredible effect on mental, physical, and emotional well-being, from improving speech and language, movement, anxiety, depression and so much more.

Music therapy is an impactful solution in resolving any issues people may have underlain while containing huge elements of fun and relaxation.

First of its kind:

The University of Limerick (UL) is the only educational institution in Ireland where you can train to be a music therapist. The programme is delivered in the form of an extensive master’s, which runs over the course of two years.

Sarah Keating graduated from UL in 2018 with a Master’s (MA) in Music Therapy, and today she is the proud founder and operator of her own practice ‘Keating Music Therapy’.

Music therapists work alongside physiotherapists, speech and language therapists, and occupational therapists, and people from all ages, and walks of life, can benefit from music therapy sessions.

 Sessions can vary, and it is very much a personal experience for those who avail of it.

“Music therapy can be very person-centred, and every person I meet will define how the session goes, essentially. The sessions will differ greatly, whether it’s age, ability, interest, or cultural difference. For example, in music therapy, we would often do something at the beginning of a session, and at the end of a session in a way of opening and closing the session. It’s a practical boundary that we put in so that we are holding a safe space for people to explore difficult emotions or express themselves.”

“For a young child, I might sing a ‘hello song’ that is age-appropriate and a ‘goodbye song’. We might be quite active in that age-appropriate activity, or intervention. For an adult that might not be necessarily appropriate, or wanted, so we might do a relaxation piece at the beginning, and at the end. Something that would suit whoever it is that I’m working with,” Ms. Keating added.

The list of musical instruments used in music therapy sessions is endless, and Sarah notes that “everything and anything” can be used as a tool in the sessions.

Advice for those thinking of applying:

When applying for the MA in Music Therapy in UL, Sarah offers advice for those who may be hoping to pursue this rewarding career and talks of the requirements for being accepted onboard the course.

“I trained at the University of Limerick, and it is the only place in Ireland you can train to become a music therapist at the moment. It is important that if you are working as a music therapist that you have the appropriate training and qualifications. As part of that training, you need to be able to play the guitar and piano. There’s an interview, an audition process, before even getting into the master’s. During the two-year masters, you hone those skills so that you can accompany the music, the space you’re in, someone’s relaxation – you need to have the skills to be able to meet people’s needs musically. Having said that, everything and anything can be used in a session, because if you have someone attending a music therapy session, they don’t need to be musical at all.”

You can find more information on the application process and course requirements, along with testimonials, for the Music Therapy MA on the UL website, and keep up to date on all things music therapy from professional Sarah Keating on the ‘Keating Music Therapy’ website, and her Facebook and Instagram accounts.

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