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What to expect during your first Mental Health session

Updated: Jan 7, 2023

One of my main areas of practice is Mental Health. It has always been a passion of mine to meet people where they’re at (wherever that may be) and walk with them as they explore, discover and process. It can be nerve-wracking to get started though! So, here are some quick tips for what you can expect during your first session with me.

1. Welcome + Confidentiality

First thing’s first – G’day! We are a mobile practice so it’s likely that sessions will be held in your home. We’ll set up in a comfy, quiet spot to say hello and get to know each other. It’s always good to have something in your hands for sensory comfort, so I won’t say no if you’re popping the kettle on.

An important part of any kind of mental health work is a chat about confidentiality. Music Therapists are bound by the Australian Music Therapy Association (AMTA) Code of Ethics, meaning lips are zipped on anything we talk about unless:

· You tell me you’re going to hurt someone

· Someone (including you) is going to hurt you

· The courts subpoena my notes

In any case, I’ll always chat with you first if a situation arises where confidentiality may need to be broken. Now we get stuck into the next part!

2. Chatting about your needs/goals

Here we talk about what led you to seek Music Therapy and what you’d most like to address during our time together. I work from a trauma-informed perspective, so our work will be evidence-based and grounded in safety, support and validation.

We will of course also chat about music! Who are your favourite artists? What was on the record player when you were a kid? How do you already use music in your life? Are there some genres you just can’t stand?

All of this information is relevant in shaping your sessions to be individualised and tailored to you. You may already be using music in a way that is not helping – let’s reshape it to work for you!

Lastly, your goals will always be achievable. I’m not about to promise you Carnegie Hall – here we deal with real life and real, applicable strategies for improved mental health.

3. Discussion of Music Therapy methods

Now the fun part! Together we will choose some methods that you feel comfortable to try in future sessions. Possibilities may include:

· Songwriting

· Improvisation (vocal, instrumental or both!)

· Drumming

· Instrumental tuition as therapy

· Lyrical analysis

· Creating playlists for action

· Developing soundscapes or other creative expressions

· Breathing/meditation/mindfulness techniques

· Psychoeducation

It’s so important that we do this process together in order to strengthen foundations of trust and safety within the therapeutic relationship. No point me just telling you what to do! It’s all collaborative here.

4. Planning and Questions

During this stage, we plan out your Music Therapy sessions and what they might include, as well as how often they will occur. We sort out scheduling and talk about what might happen in the event of a COVID-19 lockdown (i.e.: Telehealth). If you are an NDIS participant we will chat about how this is structured regarding reports and planner meetings. If you are working with other practitioners and give permission for me to contact them, then I'll also grab their details.

Importantly, this is also your cue to ask any questions that may have come up for you so far. There are no silly questions here, though there is usually at least some silliness during your therapy journey! Play is for adults as much as children (but that’s another blog post).

5. Debrief and Reflection

This is the most important part of the first session. It’s likely that we have already discussed some heavy topics or painful events, so the last 15 minutes of the session are for debriefing and reflecting.

How does your body feel? Where was the tension before, and where is it now? Do you need containment or free expression? A blanket or a jog? Connecting with your body is so important in trauma work. It’s my job to make sure that you feel safe after disclosing some personal information, and comfortable with what lies ahead. I often find that a tea refill works a treat!

You will of course be able to email me at any time to discuss what comes up for you after I've left, so we can address it further in the next session. You’ve taken the first step in seeking a creative therapy to support your mental health, and now the journey continues together!

Thank you so much for reading. I'd love to know your thoughts in the comments below!


Ashleigh Rowbottom

BPsychSc., BSocSc. (Hons) (Psych.), MMusTh.


Registered Music Therapist

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