Music therapy: a powerful tool in healing from trauma

Posted on 07 July 2017 by Rachel Dale

teenage boy plays guitar outside

For young people who have suffered trauma, talking about their experiences doesn’t come easily. It’s no surprise that when the conversation is part of a song or musical expression, it’s a much easier story to tell.

In February this year, MacKillop opened the doors to a new education service in Melbourne’s west, catering for students who are at risk of disengaging from education. The school provides a range of programs to enhance the educational outcomes of children, including music therapy. The music program is led by Paul Grant – a former musician and residential care worker.

Paul moved into residential care after spending years as a professional musician and teacher. His transition into music therapy seemed like a natural next step.

Students have the chance to play multiple instruments and spend a lot of time writing songs with Paul. The children thrive on the opportunity to express themselves through music and song. It allows them to talk about their emotions in a non-confronting way.

“Seeing students open up about their backgrounds is incredibly rewarding,” Paul says.

“Some students who refused to talk about the trauma they have been through have written songs about it; it’s a powerful way to process their experiences.

“I really think music is therapeutic for the children we work with and MacKillop prides itself on its therapeutic care. Music is about as therapeutic as you can get!” Paul says.

Within a more traditional educational setting, music offers a creative outlet. In a therapeutic environment, it provides an important emotional outlet, whilst also enabling rich learning opportunities.

Paul’s passion for music is something the students have been quick to take on board, many of them enthusiastic to participate in group and individual classes.

“The kids love it so much that they’re often here early! It’s fantastic to see this eagerness in students who were previously disengaged in education,” Paul says.

To celebrate the end of term, the students sang their new school song together at their assembly. The song (lyrics below) brings together MacKillop’s values with themes of resilience and striving for one’s best in the school community.

MacKillop school song

It's all about trying, and
It's all about hope, and
It's all about justice, and
The way we all cope.

About respect, collaboration
And the values of our nation
Learning and compassion
That’s our determination.

It’s all about you, and
It’s all about me, and
It’s all about all of us
Being the best we can be.

This is our school, MacKillop!
And we’ll always do our best
This is our school, MacKillop!
The best school in the west.