Words byJoanne McIntyre

“Can we listen to Bullet for My Valentine…I love their new single” “No…Slipknot is way better than them!” And so begins my day as a Registered Music Therapist (RMT).

So what is an RMT? An RMT is someone who has completed a recognized music therapy course and who uses music to actively support people as they strive to improve their health, functioning and wellbeing. We develop therapeutic relationships around music making. 

Since graduating in 2003, I have worked in schools, hospitals, a women’s prison and my private practice. I have also completed a Master of Creative Music Therapy and am currently a PhD Candidate. The common denominator in all these jobs is that music has the capacity to bring wellness, motivation, concentration, relationship and clarity to the participants that engage in it.

Sally* was one such person. Her school grades were down, she had no friends and she found it difficult to get out of bed and attend school.  The rage she felt inside made her difficult to handle when she did attend school, yet her teachers knew she was intelligent and had the potential to achieve academically. From an early age she played the piano and found it easy to find peace in music.

Sally was admitted to a hospital unit where I worked and soon became a regular in music therapy sessions. It became evident that her connection with music was deep and that she used music to face the challenges she was experiencing in her life. Through this connection, Sally and her mum became aware of the spiritual impact her song choices were having on Sally’s well being. Sally’s mum revealed that they were Christians and that they needed help in understanding and getting through these difficulties.

They began attending family music therapy sessions twice a week and started addressing the complex, long standing mental health issues in a way that Sally and her mum felt comfortable with and they did this by making music.  This involved playing musical instruments such as drums, guitars, cello and violin as well as discussion around songs and song writing. Sally became aware of what she needed to do to rise above her diagnoses and to walk away from her past experiences. Her recovery and discharge from the unit was evidence that working in the market place under God’s direction can bring peace and freedom into areas that traditionally are chaotic and full of anguish.

Over the years, the path God has taken me on from a song leader/musician as a teenager, to high school music teacher, to music director/church planter, to early childhood music teacher, to music therapist has been a never-ending rollercoaster ride! As an RMT I have had the wonderful privilege of teaching at university and supervising/mentoring students and new graduates.  My desire to teach at this level keeps me motivated to continue working on my PhD and to complete it as soon as possible. Is there a doctor in the house?? Nearly…

* Name changed to respect identity

Joanne is a Registered Music Therapist since 2003 and has worked in schools, hospitals, a women’s prison and at numerous corporate and community events. She teaches music therapy at university level, supervises and mentors students and new graduates and is sought after as a conference speaker in her field. Joanne has been an active member of C3 Church since 1985, serving in many different capacities.