Case study

Self-employed music therapist — Heather Dingle

Heather advises building up contacts and work experience with a variety of client groups if you want to work as a freelance music therapist

How did you become a music therapist?

Having completed an MA in music therapy from the University of Roehampton, I now work as a self-employed music therapist in London.

Most of my music therapy work is within a federation of mainstream primary schools, where I'm part of a creative arts therapy team working with children with a range of emotional and behavioral needs.

I also do some work in a children's hospital in collaboration with a speech therapist. Both of these jobs came from placements or work that I did while studying for my Masters degree.

Lots of music therapy work is done on a freelance basis, so it's really important to build good relationships and connections wherever possible.

How relevant is your degree to your job?

It's essential. In order to work as a music therapist in the UK you need to have a Masters degree in music therapy. You also need to be registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).

What are your main work activities?

During a typical day I will run five music therapy sessions, either one-to-one with a child or as a small group. Between sessions I have to set up the room, liaise with other professionals working with the child, write up notes and address any safeguarding concerns that might arise within a session.

I also write reports about the music therapy work and meet with parents and carers to discuss their child's therapy. Every session is completely different because the therapy is led by the client.

How has your role developed?

Since I began working as a music therapist I've been able to develop as a professional through a variety of continuing professional development (CPD) courses.

Music therapists work in a range of areas so it's useful to have the opportunity to take extra training that focuses on where you would like to specialise.

What do you enjoy about your role?

There are so many things that I love about my job. I really value the relationships I form with each of the children that I work with, and I feel like it is a huge privilege to be able to get to know them and support them in their individual circumstances.

From a practical standpoint, I enjoy being able to work school hours, as it gives me more flexibility in the rest of my life.

What do you find challenging?

The emotional impact of the work can be difficult, which is why all music therapists are required to have regular clinical supervision.

Any tips for becoming a music therapist?

I would suggest pursuing work or volunteer experience with a variety of client groups. You also need to have a high enough level of musical skill to improvise and respond to your client's needs.

It would also be useful to look at the videos and articles on the British Association of Music Therapy (BAMT) website.

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