Averil Williams, a member of the SAP, thinks about the value of music therapy to her work with psychotic patients

As psychotherapists or analysts we often have experiences of working with patients who are deeply disturbed, who suffer states and symptoms that we might call ‘psychotic’.    There is no text book which can fully prepare one for the demands of work in this domain, but our approach is the same. We learn from each experience with each unique individual in the challenge to find understanding and to be able to empathize meaningfully.

What has helped me immeasurably in analytical work is to have worked as a music therapist in the NHS in adult psychiatry.    Although much of this work was non-verbal it acclimatized me to being with, and joining with the bizarre, the unwieldy, and the endlessly varied contents of the unconscious.  One of the fundamentals of music therapy technique is to be able to play the same note that the patient sounds – to have a good enough sense of pitch to be able to do this, or to be able to reflect back a rhythm, as a way of saying without  saying  ’I see you and recognize you’.  This rather concrete technique and training becomes a metaphor for processes in the work, including verbal therapy too, as one strives to find attunement.  Finding attunement is just the beginning of the understanding which we develop, and continue to develop in our thinking.