Music Therapy Beyond Borders

by Katie Roth

Music is the language that transcends borders with the power to connect, to inspire, to heal. When BBI Missionary Katie Roth had the opportunity to meet with Lithuanian educators, psychologists and therapists who encounter many children with little support or space to thrive, she was able to share her desire to extend hope to these children with like-minded professionals. 

Further to completing her music therapy training in June 2016, Katie has been studying play therapy in the U.K., where she has learned a framework for facilitating therapy in mainstream schools. In September this year, Katie was able to share her master’s thesis research with Lithuanian colleagues and brainstorm with them on how the Baltic countries might collaborate to make therapy accessible to more children.

Read more about Katie’s journey to bring a little bit of hope and comfort to Lithuania’s next generation.

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ĒRGLI, Latvia – In September I had the privilege of visiting Vilnius, Lithuania, to meet with music therapy, psychology and education students and professionals. It was an honor to share the research I conducted for my M.A. thesis, and we discussed the need for creative arts therapies in mainstream schools for children with emotional, behavioural and social difficulties.

Research carried out in Latvia shows that at least 1 in 5 children experience behavioural and social difficulties, often affecting their academic learning and leading to greater problems as they age. Yet the education system offers only minimal support for these children. Lack of funding is an obvious problem, but legislative restrictions on the range of professional staff that “officially” can be employed in schools also make it very hard for principals to set up effective support systems. Since January, I have been studying play therapy (a combination of creative arts therapies) in the UK, where many schools offer such provision. Armed now with a tried and tested framework for setting up therapeutic work in a mainstream school, I am slowly developing this work in our local primary school here in Ērgļi.

As I work with children, parents and teachers, I encounter much despair and hopelessness. Especially in rural areas, there is minimal therapeutic provision for children and parents, and it often seems that the only option is just to keep struggling on without help or hope for change. 

The situation in Lithuania is very similar, and as I sat down with colleagues there to discuss the situation, we considered the idea of joining forces to bring about change in legislation and develop new funding sources. We began to think about getting together for a brainstorming and planning conference sometime in 2018, possibly even at Eagle’s Wings Camp. As the Latvian representative of the European Music Therapy Confederation, I shared these ideas in a Northern European Working Group Skype meeting, and there was much excitement about these possible developments. Now the hard part is to take the possibilities and bring them to reality!

One of the joys of working in school is that I get to see children who I have helped in the past grow and flourish. I never cease to be amazed when I witness children who once struggled with anxiety, depression, lack of social skills, aggression and other issues and who are now thriving. While not every case is a success story, I keep pressing on and I rejoice in every small victory. One teacher wrote in her feedback after a seminar I led for our school staff last year, “I can feel the results of your work, as I do mine.” However great or small the results, I am glad to be able to bring hope, comfort and light in our local school,  and I am determined to expand this work to other schools in the Baltics.

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