About Music Therapy

What is Music Therapy?

Music therapy uses sounds and music to support and encourage physical, mental, social, spiritual and emotional well-being. No previous musical experience is necessary as there is a natural musicality in each person that can be developed in the relationship between the music therapist and client. Instruments are used which are easy to play and produce a wide variety of sound.

Who are Music Therapists?

Music therapists are music graduates or skilled musicians, who have also undertaken specialist training, covering the diverse applications of music in healthcare and special education settings. All music therapists employed by the Towersey Foundation are registered with the Health Professions Council and are members of the Association of Professional Music Therapists.


Sue Rivett LTCL. MA is our music therapist covering the Exeter area, and currently delivers MT for the following Towersey projects.

1. NHS Devon Partnership Trust - Franklyn Community Hospital.

The work complements the range of existing creative therapeutic opportunities for patients and enables them to engage with music therapy. Sue began work at Belvedere Ward in March 2019. Here staff assess and stabilise clients living with dementia and associated behavioural and psychological issues, before they can be found suitable accommodation. Many have engaged particularly well with MT. Sue extended her work to include Rougemont Ward in September 2019, with clients who need support to overcome anxiety and depression. The project involves 2 days of Music Therapy per month, funded mainly by The Towersey Foundation but now with some contribution from NHS. The work is proving very successful and is strongly supportedby the caring staff team.

2. 'TUNE IN' at Kentisbeare Village Hall in collaboration with Simon Perry, Music Therapist. 

Sue and Simon are providing regular 'drop in' sessions (tea, tunes and friendship) on the first Thursday in each month. For further information contact Sarah Folland (sf.folland@gmail.com) or phone 01823 681362.

3. Blackdown Healthy Living Activity Centre (BHLAC). 

BHLAC is a centre for many activities including therapies. It provides monthly sessions to support people of all ages from the area. CAMEO group provides activities and company for people living with dementia and/or feeling socially isolated. Sue began to deliver monthly sessions to this group in March 2019. These have proved beneficial and popular with group members, and are well supported by the enthusiastic staff and volunteer helpers. This is an ongoing project which could be developed further.

4. We are currently administering funds provided by a former patient to enable music therapy to continue at SOMERSET NEURO REHAB CENTRE

How is music used?

Music therapy is tailored to meet the individual needs of a client but may also be used in group settings. The music can be used in several ways:

Patient- therapist improvisation

Using instruments accessible to the non musician, the client is encouraged to explore sounds which are developed further by the therapist and client playing together. Within this supportive therapeutic relationship, the client uses the music to express themselves and explore their emotions.

Traditional music making

If patients already play an instrument they can derive great enjoyment by simply playing with another musician. Alternatively, pre-composed music may be performed by the therapist to encourage singing, movement, reminiscence, life review, and may also be used to enhance the therapeutic environment of an in-patient unit, day hospice or nursing home.

Listening to music (recorded or live)

Live or recorded music, sensitively chosen by a therapist can be used in many different situations to influence mood, for example to relax, stimulate, or act as a diversion from pain.


Leading US clinician Bruscia eloquently presents the potential of song:

Songs are ways that human beings explore emotions. They express who we are and how we feel, they bring us closer to others, they keep us company when we are alone. They articulate our beleifs and values...as the years pass, songs bear witness to our lives...They are our musical diaries, our life stories.

Songwriting is a versatile medium capable of meeting a variety of clinical goals, from giving a client permission to express difficult emotions, to stimulating reflection and creativity, and increasing self awareness. Songs written by clients may also be beneficial in bereavement, leaving a positive legacy of their life to their loved ones.


The use of the voice should never be underestimated either in addition to music or as another option if actually playing an instrument is not possible. Today, inexpensive digital recording techniques are also available to produce recordings of clients singing either their own song, or a song holding a special meaning to them, which may be easily converted to a CD.

The Scope of Music

The nature of music itself differentiates music therapy from all other forms of therapy. Pioneering music therapist Munro lists some of the qualities of music which may be harnessed in music therapy:

  • the expression of human thought, experience, hopes and dreams
  • the ability of sounds, melodies and songs to engage the individual in reminiscence, recalling meaningful memories
  • the physiological impact on the body
  • the intricate connection to the life of an individual
  • the potential to stimulate creativity and to provide aesthetic experience
  • the representation of diverse cultures and spiritual issues