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Music therapy – Tony, amphetamine abuse, schizophrenia and the power of music



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

From Community Music Therapy – edited by Mercedes Pavlicevic and Gary Ansdell

From Whatever next?  Community Music therapy for the Institution – Anna Maratos

At 33, Tony has been living in a psychiatric hospital almost continuously for ten years during which time he has been given a range of diagnoses from schizophrenia to amphetamine psychosis to personality disorder.

Over the years, he seems to have soaked up some of the illness surrounding him - this against a background of fallen-through placements at hostels and non-engagement in regular therapy. Tony has, however, been a frequent attendee of open music therapy groups over many years. In one session, the group is talking about a new musical being rehearsed by patients and staff and written by Tony's consultant. He is persuaded to take part.

Initially, Tony hovers on the periphery of the music room during rehearsals, joining in for a few minutes at a time. His speech is very pressurised and he mumbles his lines very quickly under his breath. However, he becomes surprised by his singing voice and eventually chooses to play the key role of Edward Elgar, showing great commitment to rehearsals. By the time we come to do an open rehearsal at a nearby hotel he has requested individual time to practise his solos (which were all improvised). The same day he spends his unemployment benefit (which he regularly spends on amphetamines) on a new pair of shoes.

During rehearsals, Tony asks lots of questions about the sort of patients for whom long-stay asylums have been unhelpful or harmful. He begins to talk openly about his fears that the institution may have stopped him developing in some way too. Tony maintains his commitment until the final performance, where his confident strutting about the stage and his spontaneous conducting of the managers are testament to his increased confidence.

Tony remarks that the performance has made him lose his fear of mirrors. This appears to be the case metaphorically too – Tony begins to reflect on himself, his feelings and the impact of his experience upon his well-being.

The source of the experience

Healer other

Concepts, symbols and science items



Science Items

Activities and commonsteps


Music therapy