Case study

Music therapist — Tina Pinder

Tina works as a self-employed music therapist, providing one-to-one support for patients. Find out more about the rewards and challenges of working in an acute psychiatric hospital

How did you get your job?

I worked in music and health as a music leader in an acute psychiatric hospital prior to studying for an MA in Music Therapy at the University of Roehampton. Becoming a registered music therapist promoted me to the professional team, with access to clinical files – allowing a deeper understanding of my patients' needs.

What's a typical working day like?

I begin my day setting up the music studio, tuning guitars, drum kits and setting up amps and music tech for specific patients, after which I receive a patient risk assessment from the occupational therapy team. It's my responsibility to coordinate all the one-to-one music sessions and to discuss needs with nurses, psychologists and the patients themselves. I work with a minimum of four patients and write online clinical notes within a four-hour schedule.

What do you like most about being a music therapist?

I most enjoy working one-to-one and being able to reach patients who can't engage socially. Often, music therapy is where they feel safe and not judged by others. Patients can choose how they wish the session to proceed and may ask to leave at any time.

What are the challenges?

My sessions are of varying length so I need to be extremely flexible. Each day is different and the ability to improvise in different ways is imperative. I might work with known patients or new patients at any moment.

Negotiating times with patients with mental health illnesses can be challenging, but I find it extremely rewarding that they're choosing to be there and can talk to me about anything, even if they've decided not to come to a music session that day.

How relevant is your degree?

I couldn't work as a one-to-one music therapist without the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) accreditation that my MA Music Therapy has allowed me. I wouldn't be allowed to input or have access to a psychologist's clinical notes or psychiatrists' medication reports, which would stop me from really understanding my clients' ongoing processes.

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

My role has developed into an arts therapy provision that didn't previously exist at the hospital.

My ambition is to set up more music therapy roles, as well as a private practice, using skills I've previously developed running my own music charity and music team.

What are your tips for choosing a Masters course?

  • Research the amount of work the MA entails. Explore part-time options if you have a household to support financially.
  • Choose a subject you have a total passion for.
  • If you're choosing an MA in arts therapy as a mature student, don't underestimate the challenges of entering into personal therapy late in life.

What's your advice to anyone hoping to become a music therapist?

  • Keep an open mind when considering which client group to work with and be entrepreneurial.
  • Don't be put off by music therapy audition requirements in prospectus brochures that imply a study of classical music – multicultural musicianship from a variety of disciplines is highly valued at most universities offering this course.

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