The path to becoming a trainee music therapist
  • 3 Jessica Clarke, trainee music therapist, Exeter

After graduation...

Since graduating I have enrolled on a three year masters degree in Music Therapy at the University of the West of England (UWE), Bristol. When I graduate, I will be a qualified music therapist – my dream career! Alongside this, I continue to work at various charities that provide arts and music to adults with learning disabilities.

I have just started my first clinical placement and I am absolutely loving it! I’m at a pivotal part of the course where I have just about enough theory to support myself in clinical practice; now the majority of my learning comes from a more practical environment. A lot of the time the therapeutic effect in music therapy comes from “being in the moment”, so each day of clinical placement is totally different to the last, and that sense of spontaneity is really exciting and keeps you on your toes!

What challenges have you faced?

Music therapists often work with clients of all ages who have experienced great deals of trauma in their lives. We therefore have to discuss rather upsetting cases in our lectures, which can get pretty intense. It’s hard at times maintaining that professional boundary and not becoming too emotionally involved in cases! 

One of the most important things that we are constantly reminded to do as trainee music therapists is to look after ourselves. A lecturer at Plymouth taught me the value of taking time out when things get a little overwhelming, and that is a lesson that I have carried with me on my new course.

Your time at Plymouth

The BA (Hons) Music course is multi-disciplinary and included a music psychology module that involved lectures about music therapy, with experienced music therapists who visited us as guest lecturers. I had been contemplating applying for postgraduate music therapy courses for a while, but it was in these lectures that I found myself thinking, “this is it, this what I want to do!” The module confirmed my aspiration to become a music therapist, and I started applying for a masters not long after.  Now, a few years later, I’m a trainee music therapist!


The University of Plymouth helped me to realise, reach, and go beyond my potential, whilst encouraging and supporting me to climb the next academic step and go for my dream career!


It offered a course that was refreshing and relevant for the modern musician: it focuses on developing a multitude of aspects as a musician, introduces you to new, exciting avenues in music such as ethnomusicology, music psychology, and music technology, and aims and succeeds in developing its students as well-rounded musicians. The staff are passionate about what they teach and support you above and beyond your academic journey.

I took advantage of the professional development programme, which was uniquely available to the music department. I was given the opportunity to visit places where music therapy takes place and ask practising music therapists my many, many questions about the profession!

Any advice?

Get as much relevant work experience as you can: it really is invaluable! It not only shows a commitment and passion to the field of music therapy, but it also allows you to build up a set of skills that are indispensable as music therapists. It can also lead to fantastic opportunities: I was later employed by one of the charities I volunteered at!

Discovering a new passion

During my time at Plymouth, I learned that I had a hidden passion for Indian classical music. 

I started learning the sitar with an associate lecturer as a fresher three years ago and now consider it to be my secondary instrument, using it more than any other instrument as a trainee music therapist! I’m not sure that many courses can boast a sitar teacher!


Inspired by this story?

For more information about studying BA (Hons) Music please visit our BA (Hons) Music course page. For more information about our range of courses within the School of Humanities and Performing Art, please visit the school page.

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