November 2016 Get to know about Redkite’s Registered Music Therapist Hayley Miller.
Tell us a little about your background
I have been a Registered Music Therapist for nearly ten years – working in the Northern Territory for most of that time, but also in Melbourne and now am settled in Adelaide. I have worked with lots of different people to use music as a way to connect with their young bubs; to find a way to express their feelings, connect with others and feel comforted at the end of their life; to express and communicate when words and social cues are difficult; to connect with culture when in a new country; to help people tell their story and to have fun!
How did you get involved in music therapy?
I always played music through my school years. I learnt the cello from a young age and had a wonderful teacher who made music more than just about playing everything perfectly -it was about expressing myself and connecting with people. I went on to study cello at the Elder Conservatorium of Music, but never wanted to be a performer. This was a challenge when I felt like my studies were about getting all the notes right! I wanted to use music in a more direct way to support people through challenges in their life, but also to use music as a positive way to enhance people’s inner strength and to connect with each other in a different way than words allow. After my undergraduate in Music I moved interstate to study a Masters in Music Therapy – which is the training required to become a Registered Music Therapist. Luckily these days there are more flexible study options which allows people to complete their Masters of Music Therapy wherever they live in Australia. That was the beginning of my journey as a Registered Music Therapist.
Take us through a day in the life of a Redkite music therapist
I work on the ward within the Michael Rice centre. My days can be quite varied depending on what is happening for each person and family. If any kids are fasting in the morning, it’s a priority to go and see them because it’s pretty tough feeling really hungry! We might play favourite songs together and have a go at the colourful instruments. With young bubs I might sing familiar lullaby songs along with mum or dad to help calm everyone down and to help them connect with each other in a positive way.
I might spend some of the day writing songs with people about anything and everything – how they’re feeling and what’s happening for them or just something super silly! I spend time with young kids playing their favourite songs on guitar while they sing and get the whole family playing along to make sure that they have some fun quality time together. Sometimes, when people aren’t feeling so good I can offer to play gentle music on my guitar, or help them make a playlist of songs that make them feel better. At other times I listen to music with people that means something to them, and talk about how music can be used in helpful ways. It’s important to me that everyone has opportunities for choice and control when they’re in hospital as well as having opportunities to express themselves and feel supported - Music Therapy can offer this.
What's been the highlight of your time as a Registered Music Therapist so far?
Every day is a highlight for me! There is no cookie cutter approach to what I do as every person and family that I work with is unique. This makes it exciting and each session something to look forward to. As fabulous as our treating team are, it’s important that as Registered Music Therapists we offer something different. It’s a really positive thing to be able to offer kids – I’m not walking in the room to connect them to their chemo, or asking them if they’ve taken all their tablets – I’m offering fun; a way to express or change their mood; and to take their minds off of feeling sick or generally yucky. Getting a smile out of someone who’s been doing it tough or helping someone’s day a little bit by providing comfort through music – each of these moments are highlights for me.
Any suggestions for people who aren't sure what a music therapist can do for them/their family?
Registered Music Therapists can work with you and your family in lots of different ways. It’s important that you feel like you can talk to them about what you think would help your family and they will try to find a way to do this using music. Most people have a connection to music in some way – whether it’s listening to music in the car, singing nursery rhymes at home or learning an instrument. Music Therapists just have more ways of harnessing the power of music. Music can bring back memories, provide comfort, fun and the old adage ‘music speaks when words fail’ rings true on a daily basis on the ward. I’d encourage everyone to just have a chat with the Registered Music Therapist when they get a chance to see what the possibilities are.
To find out more about music therapy and how to access it, click here or contact us on 1800 REDKITE (1800 733 548) Monday to Friday, 9am – 7pm AEST. You can also email us on firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll get back to you in less than two working days.