Case study

Music therapist — Rosie Robinson

Having completed Masters training in music therapy, Rosie is using the skills she gained to further develop her techniques. Discover more about her valuable work at Rainbows Hospice

What degree did you study?

I graduated with a BSc (Hons) Music and Psychology from Oxford Brookes University. A few years later, I returned to university to complete the MA Music Therapy at the University of Roehampton.

How did you get your job?

After qualifying as a music therapist, I got a job split between two special needs schools. This was fantastic for a first job as I learned so much and really got into the full-time practice. Then, after a few years, a job at Rainbows Hospice came up and I jumped at the chance to develop my skills further.

What's a typical working day like?

The nature of hospice work means that there is always a changing client group, which can happen weekly and even daily. I usually start the day by attending a therapies handover, which gives an overview of who's resident, who's potentially due in and an update on how they all are.

I then plan the day in conjunction with the physiotherapists, complementary therapist and play team to negotiate a loose timetable. I might have some pre-booked sessions or activities which I work around and then take it from there.

Within my three days per week I try to spend one day out and about visiting children and young people in the community, either at home or hospital. This is a crucial part of the outreach service Rainbows can offer families. I also have to find time for meetings, note-writing and professional development.

What do you enjoy about being a music therapist?

I am very passionate about offering music therapy for all the children and young people we care for as a hospice. This might be at point of referral, right through the palliative care, end of life care or even post-bereavement stages.

I love the variety of each and every day, the challenges this can bring and the range of ages, needs, abilities and personalities I get to meet along the way.

What are the challenges?

Sometimes the challenges can be personal, for example when a particular child or young person affects me more emotionally than others, or if they have a particularly challenging presentation of pain, emotional or spiritual distress.

I sometimes find working one-off sessions, rather than having the predictability of a planned set of sessions, a little challenging. I don’t always know if I will see a child again and so there is much more emphasis on being in the moment in each and every session.

How relevant is your degree?

The MA Music Therapy taught me key skills, techniques, experiences and therapeutic thinking that gave me room to explore and develop my own practice, as well as confidence in my own personal emotions and experiences.

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

I feel settled in my role at the hospice and can actually see the impact my therapy has had over time within the organisation, not just on individual clients.

Looking ahead I'm keen to get some research under my belt. I'm also looking at developing the service offered at Rainbows, including antenatal and post-bereavement referrals.

What is your top tip for choosing a Masters?

There are several music therapy options within the UK and each has a different theoretical approach and style. This can have an influence on how you adapt to the learning and progress as a therapist. Visit each course that has initially interested you. See what it looks like 'in the flesh' and get a true sense of the feeling and being there.

What's your advice to others wanting to become a music therapist?

  • Be prepared to wait. You need to have experience before applying in different work settings, locations and roles.
  • Don't get too hung up about having the 'right' musical skills. It's not all about the piano, although that is important. Having flexibility in multiple musical disciplines is best. Be prepared to think outside the box, use your voice, body percussion, the kazoo even.
  • The training course is just the start. You really start learning once you've qualified, putting all the skills, techniques and theories into practice in clinical work.

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