Maximising Psychological Wellbeing – Music Therapy Reflections: On a positive note…


In my last Blog post, I asked our Art Psychotherapy Student, Shirelle Young about the best of her Alzheimer Scotland placement experience. Here, the conversation is with Ed Muirhead who has just finished his Music Therapy placement, asking him about what worked well during his time spent in one of our Dementia Resource Centres.


Question: Reflecting on the therapeutic environment, what really mattered?

Answer: “The room was very important as part of the secure space, and maintaining this space was a key building block of the therapeutic process.


Question: Concentrating on the process of music making, what worked well?

Answer: “Singing was the most frequent form of music-making, people seemed most familiar and comfortable with this. We would sing known songs according to peoples’ preference – everyone has their own particular songs they like to sing. These would be accompanied with piano or guitar, and we would occasionally improvise words in the moment to known tunes. Other instruments such as glockenspiel, shakers, drums and tambourines were also used, though not so often as singing.”



Question: Focussing on the therapeutic relationships that developed, what made a difference?

Answer: “There was evidence of developing relationships with people throughout the 22 weeks of the music therapy practice placement. Particularly after the Christmas break, I noticed a deepening of relationship, a closer proximity, both physically and emotionally, and heightened eye-contact and engagement. At this point, so close to the work, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what made a difference, perhaps the continuity of the work, being there every week at the same time in the same place and holding on to memory on behalf of people.”


Question: Thinking about your own reflective processes, what was helpful?

Answer: “Reflection has been important along the way, and will continue in the coming weeks as I write up my professional project. I’ve chosen a clinical project that focuses on personal reflection while carrying out the placement – including a service evaluation element. Process notes along the way were helpful, as were video recordings of sessions (with informed consent by people coming to Alzheimer Scotland).”


Question: Looking at how you have adapted your approach to meet the needs of people with dementia and their families within Alzheimer Scotland what has been important?

Answer: “Learning repertoire to suit each person has been important, as has learning chord sequences that suit music from their era. General knowledge of the music of the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s in particular has been useful. My own approach relies on listening, which has been vital in hearing what people have to say or sing, though sometimes musical prompting has been required.”


Question: In working towards becoming a dementia skilled practitioner, what has been useful?

Answer: “My practice educator provided valuable documentation about working with dementia (NHS/NES manual, articles), also I’ve read Kitwood and other person-centred literature. Working alongside colleagues in Alzheimer Scotland has had the most practical benefit, seeing them with people living with dementia, watching how they are and learning from them.”


Question: Looking back at your placement at Alzheimer Scotland, what are you really proud of?

Answer: “It has been a wonderful experience to use music therapy with people who seem to have benefited so much from the experience. Questionnaire feedback from people living with dementia, families and staff has been very positive, and I’ve learned a lot about the unique power of music for each person involved.”

Over to you

Having shared some of Ed’s thoughts, we would be interested to hear about your experiences of being creative and the impact on your health and wellbeing… What has made a difference for you?



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