Music therapy strikes a chord with traumatised emergency workers

The Blue Light Symphony Orchestra (BLSO), in collaboration with Chroma, has successfully completed a pilot project delivering group music therapy to emergency service workers to help them recover from traumatic experiences. Working with Surrey and Sussex Police, Surrey and East Sussex Fire and Rescue and South East Coast Ambulance Service, the project, a UK first, delivered a bespoke music therapy programme for emergency workers. It drew inspiration from the USA, where music therapy is widely used to treat PTSD and trauma-related issues is in army veterans.

The BLSO was awarded £10,000 funding from the Coronavirus Community Support Fund, distributed by The National Lottery Community Fund, recognising that emergency workers have been exposed to increased levels of trauma while responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Over 12 weeks, using a combination of psychodynamic music therapy, neurologic music therapy and dialectical behaviour techniques, emergency service personnel were able to experience, reflect, learn and then transfer coping strategies into everyday life.

The group incorporated free improvisation, the learning of simple drumming techniques, blended with health and wellness education and interactive improvised music-making. Throughout the programme, the sense of camaraderie increased, alongside the enjoyment and playfulness that developed.

Seb Valentine, Founder of the BLSO and serving Detective Sergeant with Surrey Police, said, “We are extremely happy with the success of this project, bringing music therapy to emergency workers who develop mental health issues relating to the trauma they experience daily.

“Positive feedback from participants has meant we are planning to run another project in the Surrey Sussex area. I hope that when my colleagues see how successful this pilot was, it will reduce scepticism and encourage more to take advantage and benefit from the healing power of music.

“I would love to hear from any other emergency services organisations in England or Wales that would like to host a music therapy project. We are actively seeking funding opportunities and know that music therapy can help support the mental wellbeing of emergency service workers, so please do get in touch.”

Chroma will also be expanding the support, with the West Midlands Ambulance Service starting a similar project in May 2022.