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Practicing as a Music Therapist in Hong Kong - FRESH GRAD. FROM UK

It’s been a year since I qualified from the music therapy course (AngliaRuskinUniversity).

Throughout this year, I have been getting a lot of emails from readers who are interested to become a music therapist. People are inquiring about the course structure and also future job prospect.

Well, I thought I would write a little bit about my own experience since my return fromUKto HK. I would like to STRESS that this is ONLY my own opinion regarding my PERSONAL experience as a music therapist. Other colleagues might think differently.


Before I started studying music therapy, I was very keen on pushing myself to FIGHT FOR a full time music therapy job, after all, I have spent 2 years working very hard for this qualification. But the reality can be rather different. To provide a bit of context, I would like to tell you a little bit about myself. Apart from a therapist, I am also a violin /piano /vocal tutor. I also do regular performances such as weddings and co-operate events. At this moment, I find that having three different roles in my work life, has given me the excitement and variety I needed in life.

For the first few months of my return (also the last few months of the financial year), I managed to receive a few music therapy job referrals, mainly from schools, Sheng Kung Hui elderly services, hospitals and private clinics. I would consider myself to be quite lucky as I was able to work with a varied age group (children àelderly), different group size (individual to groups), different client groups (Depression, autistic, ADHD, dementia). However, these are all project based and once the funding has dried up, I have to move on to another project. I have to also teach on the side to sustain a living.

At the moment, I am working on a trial project (hopefully a year long project, depending on fudning… again!!) atQueenMaryHospital, at the palliative cancer care group. This is a group co-run with another therapist , Cat Chau. This brings me to another topic…


In Hong Kong, majority of music therapist (at this very moment), are trained inAustralia. I personally think that there is a vast difference in terms of working approach. I would like to stress that there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way. It is just different. In order for this to work, a lot of planning has to be done. Communication and job distribution is a vital key.

As a new profession in HK, working with a co-therapist is very useful as therapists can share thoughts about the client group and also slightly minimize the work load between the pair. Of course, this will increase the cost, but in my opinion, it is effective and allows the profession to develop further.


In theUK, paper works and process notes are a standard requirement in practice. InHong Kong, there is no such ‘rule’. I find that I have to really make sure I follow all the note writing procedures as if I was inUK. You need to actively seek chances to present your case work with the department in charge, in order to show your work, gain acknowledgement as well as letting more people know about music therapy. A lot of organisations are finding it hard to ‘protect’ us as their ‘contractor/ employee’ asHong Konghas no recognition system to certify the professional status of music therapist (at this very moment). Along with the expressive creative arts therapists, we are searching a way to apply for a professional indemnity insurance, which will help to protect us if we get into legal complications.


In my final year thesis, I wrote about the cultural differences of Music therapy and how it might affect client groups inHong Kong. I spoke about how improvisation in Cantonese might be a slight problem based on the complexity in the language. How I was worried that the conservative nature of people inHong Kongmight find it difficult to do music improvisation. I have to say, actually, it is not as bad as I thought. Clients and staff can be very open-minded and willing to explore new elements and ways of thinking.


As a qualified music therapist from the Health professional Council (my professional body in theUK), it is my duty to keep my training up to date. There isn’t much ‘course’ as such to further develop our skills, but within our therapist group , we hold regular meetings to talk about our work, as peer-supervision, holding group music improvisation sessions to improve our musical skills in a clinical setting.


If there’s anything else you would like to know, please send me an email.

Carol Cheung


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