Music therapy gives mental health patients a voice

1st June 2023

Nordoff and Robbins, the UK’s largest music therapy charity, is delivering inspirational sessions to mental health patients in Dorset.

Kathryn Holt, a music undergraduate with a master’s degree in music therapy from the charity, is brightening up the Thursday mornings of elderly patients at St Ann’s Hospital, Poole, with a good old singalong.

The therapy sessions at the Dorset HealthCare-run site started earlier this year as a pilot project.

By making music together, Kathryn helps people to connect with one another and express themselves. She performs a mixture of old and new pop song favourites on piano and guitar, while patients are encouraged to sing or play along with a selection of percussion instruments and drums.

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Kathryn, who is also a registered member of the Healthcare Professionals Council, said:

“Music therapy has been shown to have a significant positive impact for people living with challenges to their mental health. It can break down barriers where words often fail, and encourages social interaction.

“It can improve mood, confidence and self-esteem, and we have seen some transformative results in patients who were initially unable to express their feelings.

“During one session, a patient sang an Adele song confidently to an audience of patients and staff. When she reached the chorus, ‘Hello from the other side’, she sang with so much soul and meaning that everyone in the room seemed visibly moved.

“For this lady, holding onto thoughts can be a challenge due to her mental health condition. When she is making music, she can express herself in a fluid and natural way, that enables her to maintain focus for long periods of time and share deep emotions with others.”

St Ann’s Hospital provides assessment and treatment for a wide range of mental health conditions, supporting adults in an acute phase of their illness.

It’s hoped to extend the therapy sessions beyond their initial trial period. Consultant Dr Hashim Mohammed added:

“Clinical research suggests that music is good for mental health, emotional health and all-round wellbeing.

“When the sound of Kathryn’s music fills the wards and corridors, patients appear relaxed and happier. Kathryn does a great job, and this type of therapy is a positive move for mental health patients here in Dorset.”

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