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Lisa C Pickering
Independent Music Therapist

Specialising in Care Home and Mental Health Work 
HCPC registered

 

Paul Nordoff

"Music is an endless world waiting for all of us to discover it".

 
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Lisa's Background and Training

I graduated in 2017 as a Master of Music Therapy student with Nordoff Robbins (the leading private provider of music therapy in the UK), validated by Goldsmiths University London but based at the Royal College of Music in Manchester.


Music has always been a big part of my life. I won a scholarship to an independent school, learning the violin and piano before going on to study Music at the University of Oxford. I then worked as a primary school teacher in Cheshire before taking the role of Head of Primary Music in a large and very well-respected school in the Middle East.


As part of my masters course, I worked in three different settings, setting up provision from scratch in both a private mental health hospital and a care home, both of which chose to partner with Nordoff Robbins after I’d qualified in order to employ me to continue the service.


I feel strongly that the work I’m most passionate about, having seen its effectiveness so vividly with so many clients, is that in care homes and mental health settings and love working with both residents, staff and relatives in our lively group sessions as well as building a relationship with clients in more personal one to one work. 

 

What do sessions involve?

As a fully qualified music therapist, I come with my own instruments and offer individual and group sessions which are wide-ranging in content. Examples of what these may include are detailed below.

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Groups

Group sessions are catered to the needs of the organisation and the clients but could include a mixture of: improvisation, playing pre-composed songs, requests, solos, accompanied listening, rehearsing for a performance, playing as a band/group. These group sessions can include residents as well as staff and relatives.

Projects

I also have experience in setting up an intergenerational project involving a care home and their local nursery, which may be something you’d like to consider for your residents. I organised and led the children’s sessions on a monthly basis in which we worked on plays, interspersed with songs, based on popular children’s books. Examples included the stories, ’We’re Going on a Bear Hunt’ by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury, 'Rainbow Fish' and 'Dear Zoo' which involved the children and residents singing songs while taking part in activities together with props, providing a platform for sensory play, acting and having fun. These have been extremely popular with everyone involved including staff and relatives.

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One to one sessions

Session content is flexible and depends very much on the needs and aims of the client but could include: improvisation, songwriting, accompanied listening, composing and recording, learning to play an instrument, rehearsing for a performance, playing/dancing with others, playing pre-composed songs, and, in the case of more advanced dementia or palliative care, improvising with breathing, vocalising or limited movement.

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How does music therapy differ from entertainers?

The aim of the therapist is to attend to each person individually with specific aims and objectives in mind (even in a group situation). This is a very intimate form of music-centred therapy and so the relationship between therapist and client has the potential to develop quickly and music can be an excellent form of communication for those who are harder to reach through other means. Mother and baby communicate in a similar way when babies are pre-verbal so it is said that this form of communicative musicality is innate, universal and accessible by all, regardless of their musical background or training and despite their level of illness or disability.

 

What is Music Therapy?

Music therapy is making music with people to enhance their wellbeing and improve their quality of life.

It is a profession which is fast growing in popularity and regulated by the Health and Care Professions Council.

MENTAL HEALTH SETTINGS - 

Music can act as an expressive outlet, reducing agitation, building confidence and self-esteem by developing skills, helping with focus and reducing social isolation. 

It can make a person feel heard and listened to, giving them a means of coping in everyday life and relief from anxiety. In a hospital setting, I've seen it motivate clients for purposeful activity and help improve relationships between clients and staff as well as offering opportunities for celebration and performance, focusing on positives and potential and facilitating listening, turn-taking and social skills. 

CARE HOMES -

The Government recognised music therapy in their National Dementia Strategy as having…

‘a useful role in enabling a good-quality social environment and the possibility for self-expression where the individuality of the residents is respected’. (From the Department of Health publication: ‘Living well with dementia: A National Dementia Strategy.’ Chapter 5, paragraph 27).

It can energise and motivate by focusing on capabilities, helping reconnect people with memories of their past as well as with other people in the present, particularly those who are harder to reach through other means such as activities programmes or entertainers.

The National Institute For Health And Care Excellence (NICE) has also recommended that people living with dementia should be offered music therapy, as part of their updated quality standard on dementia.

NICE recommends that people living with dementia should be offered activities including music therapy, that can help promote wellbeing. People with dementia, and those involved in their care, should be given the opportunity to talk about their life experiences, preferences, interests, strengths and needs with a healthcare professional. This can help them to choose activities to promote wellbeing that suit their preferences and needs.

 

Feedback I’ve Received

What My Clients Are Saying

Amazing - it brought everyone together and even the quietest residents were joining in. Lisa was a real hit with our residents and they all loved her. 

Activities Co-ordinator

My staff team and children have thoroughly enjoyed the visits to participate in the activities set up with the music therapist. It has developed their confidence and some lovely intergenerational relationships have been formed.

Nursery Manager

My mother seems to wake up/come back  when she hears music. The group and individual sessions are helping her immensely.

Relative of care home resident

 

What My Clients Are Saying

Many thanks for the wonderful work you do with my Mum. Music is absolutely central to her happiness at this stage in her dementia. I have seen you with her and you are amazing. The work you do is so valuable. Thank you for your kindness and joy. 

Relative of care home resident

One of our residents in particular has always found activities difficult to take part in but since Lisa started working with her weekly, the improvement in her attitude and participation has astonished everyone. Her husband makes the trip here every week just to see the session with Lisa and to see the smile his wife has whilst actively taking part. 

Since Lisa's arrival the overall atmosphere and excitement she brings to the building has forced me to look at our budget and see if we can afford her services. Music therapy has fitted in really well with what is
needed here – it has provided something we didn’t know
was missing.

Head of Activities

I found watching the video of my Mum's session a really moving experience. I love the way you respond to her and so encourage her to respond - it's fantastic to watch! You really do have a way with her. Thank you ever so much. I feel you are giving my Mum something very important!

Relative of care home resident

 

What My Clients Are Saying

That was beautiful. I feel better for it. It's taken me...my heart is going round and that's good because it hasn't been for a while! I'll think about it. It's shaken me up and I'm so glad. It's a wonderful thing to have been able to say it. Thank you so much.

Care home resident after one to one session

I can't believe how much he did. I've not seen him interested in music before but I'm a drummer and it's lovely to share this with him.

Relative after a group session in which he sang and played with his Dad

Unbelievable. She's been offered instruments before when entertainers are in but never joined in or reacted before but she's very aware in music therapy and so responsive. She doesn't respond to me in words anymore. She'll stare and sometimes kiss my hand but not reply. But in music she smiles so much, more than I see her do at any other time.

Relative of care home resident

 
 
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Norma

Norma was 78 when we first met and had mid stage dementia. She used to be a maths and infant school teacher and has fond memories of singing and playing the piano with her father as a child, as well as watching musicals with her daughter. She was a very independent lady, a loving mother and is described by her daughter as having been extremely adventurous, living an active life including hiking and driving a motorcaravan through Europe, Asia and North Africa. Norma is particularly proud that she can still touch her toes!


Since arriving at the care home, though, Norma had become increasingly depressed;  she could often be found pacing the corridors, sitting staring out of the window on her own or in her room displaying obsessive and agitated behaviour such as methodically arranging tissues on the bed or reading the newspaper and subsequently worrying about the outside world’s problems, feeling helpless to solve them. Although Norma is often confused and disoriented, she spoke a great deal about hating feeling trapped in the home, losing her independence and not being able to do the things she loves as well as missing her ‘people’, but she refused to participate in most activities and wouldn’t go on trips as she finds spending time with residents with more advanced conditions makes her anxious about her own.


However, Norma does love to sing. She has a quasi-operatic voice and a playful, mischievous side comes out when she sings. Each week, we had a one to one session for up to an hour in the morning, and the open group in the afternoon was one of the few activities she was happy to attend with the other residents. Although she doesn’t remember who I am, she said most weeks, grabbing my hand, “Are you glad you met me? I’m so glad you found me!”


Norma instigates a song called ‘Tiptoe Through The Tulips’, which I accompany and support by singing along with her. Despite not remembering any of the lyrics apart from the first line, she is reassured by me singing along to ‘doo’ and ‘la’ which she takes up before launching into a vocal improvisation, surprising herself and exclaiming with a wide smile, “I CAN sing, can’t I?! At least I can do something!” To encourage her to be confident in taking the lead, I drop the volume of my singing and try some scat/vocal percussion, playing only a bassline on piano, but when she suddenly becomes more self-assured, we get louder together culminating in a big cabaret style ending, laughing together as she jokes, “We should be out there performing this!”


As well as these one to one sessions in which Norma often reminisces, prompted by the music she chooses stimulating her memories, she also gets involved in group music making, using instruments as well as singing and dancing with other residents. Norma’s daughter cried when she watched her singing in the group and has since written to me saying,

“Music is absolutely central to my Mum’s happiness at this stage in her dementia. The work you do is so valuable. Thank you for your kindness and joy.”

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Contact Me

Please feel free to contact me to learn more or to book a session.

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