Waves Music Therapy

In the first of our blogs our founder and head of service, Victoria, takes a look at the beginnings of Waves Music Therapy, the purpose of a music therapy service and surfing the waves to the future.

Making Waves

Sussex calling…

After 5 years of being fortunate enough to work in well-established, well-supported and well-funded organisations in South West London, and after a further 5 year hiatus in Denver, Colorado (we’ll save neurologic music therapy for another time) I found myself on the south coast of England. Being relatively naive about the delivery of music therapy outside of giant metropolises I fully expected to step back into a full time, well-established, well-supported and well-funded Sussex music therapy post, and then I received a call.

The phone call…

A Tuesday evening in late October, 2013.
A parent.
A child who was struggling. Non verbal. Self harming in the frustration of not being able to communicate and feel understood.
A child who needed therapeutic input and whose parents were waiting desperately for support from our overstretched CAMHS.

On parenting forums Mum had heard how effective music therapy had been in reaching and supporting other children with extremely complex needs, communication difficulties, mental health needs and trauma and found my name in the database of music therapists via the British Association of Music Therapy. www.bamt.org.

The barrier to sessions beginning right away was the cost. Music therapy, when not funded, can be prohibitively expensive for families and, while I was going to support the child no matter what, the questions began. Could I charge less than standardised rates? Would that be undercutting my co-therapists and undermining my profession? If I subsidise a session this time can I do it for someone else? How sustainable is that?

Of course the child started sessions but it forced me to think. How many other therapists are faced with this dilemma? How many therapists are in a position to work for free or for very little money? How many clients do we turn away each year? How can we continue to perpetuate delivering music therapy to only those who can afford or access structured funding for it?
And suddenly the hunt for a well-established full-time post didn’t seem like the path I was going to take.

Making Waves

To start a service is a pretty easy process. Providing you have access to excellent, charity specific professional advice. Providing you have a cohort of willing and experienced directors. Providing you have endless hours to dedicate to your new cause and the willingness to turn a blind eye to the years of unpaid work you are going to do for the love of the journey. But a service was needed in West Sussex and Waves Music Therapy CIC began in earnest in 2014. The aim? To enable every person who seeks music therapy to be able to access sessions. No barriers. And to bridge the gap between what therapists deserve to be paid for their highly skilled services and what is affordable.

A Service

The benefits of a service are trifold.

First, and most importantly, the core reason for the existence of a service must be to its beneficiaries. The service must make music therapy understandable, meaningful, effective, professional and accessible to each potential service user.

A service should be a hub of information. It should share clearly what music therapy is and the mission of the charity. It should reassure with the research and evidence that underpins the work and make this available for beneficiaries and professionals alike. It should share clearly what a session entails and give a sense of the experience of engaging in therapy and a service should provide a clear way of asking a real person these questions.

A service should provide a bank of excellent, qualified, registered and verified therapists who can be actioned quickly. It should ensure best practice from these therapists and reassure beneficiaries through its robust service structure. Perhaps, as Waves does, it could provide a safe therapy space from where to run sessions. It can absorb costs such as travel, meetings and report writing and crucially it should provide funding support- either through direct funding, subsidising sessions, its own partnerships, funding advice or grant writing guidance.

Second, the service provides a home for therapists. Bringing freelance therapists, who are used to working autonomously and often in short pieces, together. Waves offers CPD opportunities, reduced rate in-house clinical supervision, peer supervision, social events, overarching career support and holds in mind each person’s area of expertise when expanding work and writing grants. Our therapists should feel connected, supported and nourished.

Third, community links. A service is well placed to advance the conversation around music therapy. We integrate into the local community, council, schools, NHS and other services. We bring together the separate voices of music therapy and make them louder.

A question of funding

As a charitable organisation we raise funds to support sessions for those in need. We have been extremely fortunate to be granted funds from The National Lottery, West Sussex Council, Sussex Community Fund, Action for Deafness, Waitrose, Tesco Bags for life, Arnold Clark, UKYouth, Groundworks to mention a few and we are incredibly proud to be launching Toby’s Fund– a fund in memory of our Trustee Paul’s son, Toby, who was lost in a tragic boating accident in July 2018. The family established Toby’s fund because they know how much Toby appreciated what he had and he reached out to those less fortunate. The fund will aim to help children and young people who require social, emotional and mental health support to access music therapy.
We are finding more and more that this client group in particular benefits from music therapy. “Where words fail, music speaks…” and music bypasses the need to translate feelings into words, enabling the young person to experience a good relationship with the therapist where they can process difficult feelings in a non threatening, accessible, creative, supportive therapeutic environment. We work in songwriting, studio work and traditional improvisation based therapy, meeting the children and young people where they are at.

You can read more here: www.wavesmusictherapy.org/tobysfund

Big Waves!

On 14th June 2021 we were accepted by the Charities Commission as a Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Enter charity #1194782!  This means we are more recognisable and our structure more familiar to potential funders which in turn helps to to grow and makes us more sustainable for all of our future clients.

The phone call

A Tuesday in May 2021. 

A sister whose loved one had been terribly isolated throughout the covid pandemic. 

A desire to provide her with an accessible and creative way to communicate her sadness and a hope that music might be a way into the isolation, a means of companionship and connection through her love of music.

Without delay sessions began.