Music and therapy: a perfect match
Posted by
30th Oct 2014

Triber Joy Gravestock extols the benefits of music, and how her pursuit of it has helped her recover from an eating disorder and depression - and shaped her psychiatric career.

Music has always been a form of therapy for me… but I never imagined that both music and therapy would become my career.

I have played violin since I began in infant school, and the violin has been a constant companion from childhood. I fell quickly in love with this instrument, and especially its capacity to express, with an almost human 'voice', the complex issues and emotions I was dealing with but was unable to verbalise. Acquiring a level of skill in playing helped build up a sense in me that I could be good at something, and a gradual realisation that, in turn, my music could touch and move others.

As a child, young person, and young adult, for various reasons I developed an eating disorder, which I believe itself arose in response to, and as a way of managing, serious depression. During two admissions, life became too dark for me to even play, but I was still never far from a CD player or iPod, often listening to the Bach violin partitas, which could express some of the depths of my experience, and calm and soothe with their structure.

Recovery took a long time - many years, and a variety of supports… medication, hospitalisation, psychotherapy, the love of friends, work and music. I don’t believe there is a single 'cause' necessarily to mental health problems and that any 'solution' should be a full psychosocial one.

I always knew I wanted to be able to get alongside others who struggled as I had, and so I trained firstly as a psychiatric nurse. I felt frustrated by the rather linear treatment models then offered, and found myself much happier working within child psychiatry (now CAMHS) where more therapeutic approaches were utilised. I trained additionally as a family therapist, and also obtained a graduate diploma in social policy, trying to encompass a broad approach to understanding human pain and suffering. My true desire was to train as a music therapist.

Finally – encouraged by my husband and violin teacher – I decided to audition… and the rest is history! Therapy training of any sort is often a gruelling experience as obviously we have to be robust enough to work with people who are hurting, whilst recognising our own vulnerabilities and areas of potential weakness. It was my greatest achievement to date to pass, and to know others had confidence in my ability and capacity to become a therapist.

In the meantime, my own music kept on playing…and still continues.

Music can hold and embrace and express a multiplicity of life experiences.

Classically trained, I love playing in orchestra and in quartets, and playing solo violin repertoire. This music, sometimes hundreds of years old, can speak so much. I’ve also played in various folk music settings and last year was honoured to be invited to record a second album for Lucy Ward (2012 winner of the Radio Two Folk Awards Newcomer Award, and 2014 nominee for Radio Two's Folk Singer Of The Year Award). I have spent a large part of the past 18 months on the road, touring with Lucy and her band.

In addition, I continue to work as a self-employed music therapist in private practice. I feel proud to share my story as an ambassador for Black Dog Tribe, and to wear THE bracelet when I am out gigging especially! Questions get asked about whom I support whilst I wear it, and its great to chat with people who feel able to share their own stories.

Recovery can and does happen… stigma can take years to challenge. It's great to be able to be a part of the work Black Dog Tribe and SANE are doing to shift perspectives!

Connect with Joy on Twitter @JoyGravestock.

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