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Rebuilding Lives of Refugees: The Transformative Power of Music Therapy.

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Rebuilding Lives of Refugees: The Transformative Power of Music Therapy.

Rebuilding Lives of Refugees: The Transformative Power of Music Therapy.

In the last two decades, the global number of individuals forcibly uprooted from their homes due to conflicts has surpassed a staggering figure of 90 million.

This statistic has more than doubled since the early 1990s, a period recognised by the United Nations Refugee Agency as "the decade of displacement."

Regrettably, this distressing trend shows no signs of abating, fuelled further by ongoing crises in countries like Syria and Ukraine.

Irrespective of the reasons behind their displacement, there is no denying the traumatic impact experienced by those compelled to leave their homelands. The journey to find a place of safety often entails physical and emotional hardships, with initial emotions of shock and denial prevailing among refugees.

Beyond the immediate challenges, long-term issues manifest in the form of overwhelming emotions, flashbacks, and difficulties in establishing relationships. Physical symptoms such as nausea and headaches may also arise. While the provision of practical support - ensuring physical safety, food, clothing, and medical assistance - is of paramount importance, it is equally crucial to offer psychological support.

Enter the Healing Power of Music Therapy

Music therapy emerges as a well-suited approach to address trauma and promote overall well-being among refugees. As a regulated psychological therapy overseen by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) in the UK, music therapists employ a range of music-based interventions, including interactive music-making, songwriting, and music listening, to establish therapeutic relationships with participants.

Music therapy offers a versatile and accessible means of supporting well-being and sharing challenging experiences. It has the potential to evoke positive memories of participants' cultural origins, which can be shared with others and contribute to building resilience.

In the initial stages of trauma, music can be an integral component of psychological first aid (PFA) initiatives. PFA is typically provided immediately after a traumatic event and continues in later stages, aiming to provide individuals with safety, connections, and hope. Integrating these elements into music-based and music therapy interventions proves beneficial for refugees.

The Universality of Music and its Therapeutic Potential

Music transcends cultural boundaries, resonating within every society. Individuals carry their own musical experiences wherever they go, drawing solace from them when needed.

Music also serves as a reliable resource for seeking comfort, considering the vast array of genres and styles available to cater to diverse preferences.

The brain's inherent attraction to and pursuit of patterns found in music offer opportunities for emotional regulation, which is crucial for supporting the well-being of refugees. Furthermore, engaging in music-making with a music therapist in the immediate aftermath of trauma provides opportunities for relationship building, emotional stabilisation, and anxiety reduction - pivotal steps in mitigating the impact of trauma.

Through her research, Elizabeth Coombes, (Senior Lecturer in Music Therapy, University of South Wales), has had the privilege of working with various displaced populations, including refugee and asylum-seeking families, with a particular focus on those with children under the age of 3.

Her studies consistently demonstrate the value and efficacy of music therapy as a supportive tool for individuals in these circumstances.


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