Linlithgow-based Harpist sings praises of music therapy

The soothing sound of the harp has bee proved to have therapeutic value
The soothing sound of the harp has bee proved to have therapeutic value

Keeping music in mind when it comes to good health

Aisling Vorster, who is also a musical therapist with NHS Lothian and a harp tutor, has teamed up with colleagues from the Scottish Music Therapy in Dementia Network and the British Association for Music Therapy (BAMT) to arrange a debate to be held in the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday from 6pm to 8pm, focusing on the positive effects of music.

Aisling said: “The Parliamentary Roundtable debate, sponsored by MSP Tavish Scott, will include leading figures from health, social care and research. We are seeking to increase awareness of, and access to, music therapy as an evidence-based intervention for people with dementia.

“I would like to see music therapy being made accessible to people with dementia in West Lothian, Falkirk and across Scotland. As well as working therapeutically with individuals with dementia, we also offer training, consultation and advice for staff working with dementia to help develop their skills and support their morale while working with this emotionally demanding and challenging condition.”

Aisling and the other music therapists will tell MSPs how they provide support for families, helping them to maintain communication and relationships with their loved ones through the various stages of the illness.

She said: “We work in a variety of ways – employed directly or on a freelance basis – with organisations such as NHS or residential homes, and we also work in private practice, accepting referrals from individuals, social care, GPs and other health professionals.

“As music therapists, we have the clinical skills, knowledge and training to meet the diverse needs of people with dementia, their families and carers at all stages of the condition.

“Music therapy helps reach those people who may seem to have become unreachable. It can re-build and sustain relationships where there is isolation and loss of identity.

“It’s a hands-on therapy. We don’t play music to the people, we encourage them to play the music themselves – it’s very interactive. We also provide inter-generational support, care and advice in the face of escalating trauma and loss, helping families to stay connected, improving the quality of care and the quality of life for people with dementia and their families.

“It is imperative now, as our new Health and Social Care Partnerships take shape, and as we approach the Scottish Parliamentary election campaign, to raise awareness of the robust music therapy evidence base in dementia care.

“We must stimulate debate and discussion, and campaign for increased funding and access to music therapy.”

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