...with Belinda Lydon 10 December 2015

Supporting patients with music therapy

Belinda is a Music Therapist for Kensington & Chelsea Arts Psychotherapies Service. She works with patients at the St Charles Centre for Mental Health

I work for the Trust two days a week as a Music Therapist providing open groups and some individual sessions across the Triage ward and three treatment wards at St Charles Mental Health Centre. Music Therapy on an inpatient ward offers a space for patients to explore the variety of instruments available or use their voices, be part of a group experience of music-making and use the music to express how they are feeling or to interact with others. I play with the patients listening carefully to the sounds they make, supporting them and facilitating emotional expression or communication. Some patients would like to learn how to play the instruments and want guidance but are often surprised by their ability to improvise and play something that sounds coherent or an expression of how they are feeling at that time.

I see part of my role as giving patients a meaningful experience whether that means they feel listened to and heard in that moment, connected to others or are able to express something musically that they can’t put into words. Often the group is seen as a fun session with an opportunity to make lots of noise which, of course, it can be. However, it can offer much more to patients who are struggling to relate to the world around them. It is an open, free space where they can talk, play, sing or listen as much as they feel able to. My feedback to the ward teams can also offer insight into patients’ mental states, how they relate to others, capacity to express their feelings and also offer a different perspective on a patient and what is going on for them.

As I only work with patients short-term, during their admission to hospital, another important part of my role is to link with the community Arts Psychotherapies team to refer patients who may benefit from longer term, more in-depth psychological support using a creative medium, once discharged. For example, last week a lady attended my ward group for the first time even though she had been in hospital for a couple of months. She did not say very much in the group but explored the various instruments available and played them gently and expressively in response to others in the group.

Afterwards, I spoke to the team and found out she was due to be discharged to supported accommodation nearby. The team’s main concerns about her once discharged were that she would isolate herself and wanted to put a structure of activities and support in place to prevent this and potential relapse. I spoke to the patient and told her about the possibility of attending Music Therapy in the community. She was interested in being referred and said she liked the idea of music being part of her recovery as it meant a lot to her. Music had allowed her to connect with others.

Other patients may attend weekly throughout their admission. Sometimes, it is something they want to continue as an outpatient but often Music Therapy has supported them during their time in hospital when they are most vulnerable and that is enough.

Belinda Lydon

Music Therapist

Belinda is a Music Therapist for Kensington & Chelsea Arts Psychotherapies Service. She works with patients at the St Charles Centre for Mental Health