Case study

Music therapist — Kate Andrews

Kate has a varied career as a music therapist, senior lecturer in music and music therapy, music examiner and music teacher. Find out what she enjoys most and the challenges she faces

How did you get your jobs?

I was already teaching and examining music before I trained as a music therapist. I started applying for music therapy positions shortly before completing my MA Music Therapy at the University of Roehampton. I was invited to many interviews and had very positive feedback, but there was always another applicant with more experience.

Eventually, a company I'd interviewed with earlier came back to me with a job offer – a new referral had come in, they'd remembered me from my initial interview and thought the work would suit me.

While working abroad as an examiner, a job at the University of Wolverhampton became available, where a new degree in community music was being launched. The job advertised for a registered music therapist to design part of the course, as well as teach across the rest of the curriculum. My broad skill base and background meant that I ticked many of the boxes on the person specification, and I was offered the job after a gruelling full-day interview.

What's a typical working day like?

If it's a day of clinical work, my structure can vary dramatically, as I'm self-employed and work largely with private referrals. I often visit clients' homes and work at day centres and schools with a variety of individuals and groups.

When I'm on site at the university, I teach undergraduate modules, conduct tutorials to support students with their research and run an experiential improvisation group as part of the university's ensembles programme.

What do you enjoy most about being a music therapist?

I love that my high level of musical skill has become a vehicle for the wellbeing of others and the variety and challenges the work brings, in both clinical work and education. Seeing clients make breakthroughs in the therapy room, then watching as these breakthroughs ripple out into their everyday lives, will never get stale.

What are the challenges?

It can be difficult to work with a transient team and make sure we're all following a similar pathway with the client.

People drawn to train as therapists are often people who like to help others, but constantly offering myself up as a support means I simply run out of internal resources and become run down. Learning to say no to things has been incredibly important to my wellbeing.

How is your degree relevant?

My music degree equipped me with some amazing skills and tools, including instrumental performance, composition and keyboard harmony, as well as a broad grasp of music history and analysis.

My music therapy training taught me how to apply these tools within improvisation and reflective practice, adding to them the psychodynamic dimension that enables me to better understand my clients' experiences. Plus, the MA qualification is an essential requirement of Health and Care Professionals Council (HCPC) registration, which allows me to practise legally as a therapist in the UK.

How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions?

I've found myself lecturing two years after completing my MA, so you could say that has been a pretty huge development. I'm incredibly excited about the new degree I'm working on and, for now, many of my ambitions are centred on the university.

I’m hoping to conduct research and explore new ways in which music therapy can be understood. In addition to this, I'm relocating and will be converting a barn into a music and therapy studio as part of the move.

What's your top tip for choosing a Masters?

Decide whether your primary aim for a Masters is to expand your mind or to make yourself more employable in a particular field, then choose the course that best meets these needs.

Do you have any advice for anyone hoping to become a music therapist?

  • Get as much life experience as you can - understanding the needs of the people you work with is arguably more important than being a highly skilled musician.
  • Expect to work hard in training - a psychodynamic course requires you to reflect on every facet of yourself, which can be unsettling and exhausting.
  • Approach music therapists to ask questions - I have found the profession incredibly open and keen to share practice.

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