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Graduate Profile: MA Music Therapy Graduate: Diarmuid Boyle

Diarmuid Boyle, a recent graduate of the MA in Music Therapy describes how completing the MA in Music Therapy has enhanced his academic and clinical knowledge and furthered his career goals. He currently works as a music therapist in Tipperary.

Diarmuid Boyle, MA Music Therapy graduate

What made you study at UL?

In September 2012, I started college life as a mature student where I enrolled on a PLC level 5 course in music and performing arts in Fermoy. Every week I recall saying to myself, “if I last until the end of the week it’s a bonus”. My tutors encouraged me to continue studying, pointing me in the direction of a music degree at third level. Having passed the entrance exam for Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT). I studied for four years coming out with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in music. Using the same mantra as before instead of lasting week to week it now became semester to semester.

Whilst studying in WIT the course director suggested I look at furthering my education. Her suggestion was the Music Therapy MA in UL. Since, I started studying in Fermoy, it never crossed my mind that I would find myself enrolling in a Masters course in UL. UL is the only University in the country that provides the MA in Music Therapy. Further research on music therapy courses provided me with the knowledge that this course was held in high prestige. Becoming part of the UL family was something that excited me from the day I started researching the University. The graduates coming out of with a Music Therapy MA in UL are highly regarded throughout the profession.

The graduates coming out of with a Music Therapy MA in UL are highly regarded throughout the profession.

What did you learn on the course?

I learnt a lot in my two years studying on the MA programme. The first thing that comes to mind is musical  improvisation and the value it has with all clients. From day one, we got stuck into working within groups and sharing ideas with class mates, all of which helped me to develop my working relationship within care team settings, when I got out on placement.

Shortly after I started I could see why this course was thought of so highly in the profession. The lecturers are fantastic researchers with an abundance of papers written on many music therapy topics. Guest lecturers were always the best in the field with a different lecturer enlisted almost every two weeks. The music therapy family were very approachable and very easy to work with,which made learning easy and this was evident very early in the course. I learned a lot about researching in my time in UL and how to study papers and how to scan papers. I found this very helpful doing my dissertation. During the MA, I became more competent on many instruments and how to use them in different clinical settings. I developed a lot of techniques with my voice to use during these sessions. A big learning curve for me was clinical vocabulary and how to use it when writing and speaking to other health care professionals.   

During the MA, I became more competent on many instruments and how to use them in different clinical settings. I developed a lot of techniques with my voice to use during these sessions. A big learning curve for me was clinical vocabulary and how to use it when writing and speaking to other health care professionals.   

What is unique about the programme?

It is the only MA in music therapy in the country. The bond we made as a class and with the lecturers was fantastic. During the MA, you learn a lot about yourself from personal therapy and class therapy sessions. This was all done while maintaining a fantastic standard of musicianship which was tested every semester. The placements were unique as you were working within a different clinical setting every semester. Having hands on experience once a week definitely stood to us all during the MA. Finishing the MA, I felt very confident to practice straight away because of the training in UL and the experience of the different placements.

Can you take us through a typical week on the MA programme?

A typical week on the MA programme is two days a week in UL throughout the course (except final semester with 1 day in college). In semester one there is a day observation placement. Second and third semester are two days a week in UL and one day placement. Fourth semester is once a week in UL, with two days a week on placement. The days were long in UL normally 9-5 and placement commonly operated on the same hours. There are many modules in the course but the best way to describe the modules is from birth to death. The course covers modules from infants in the womb to working within a palliative care hospice setting, mental health modules and everything in between.

Can you describe how you found your clinical placement experience and the main things you learned whilst on placement?

The clinical placement experience was fantastic, nothing beats hands on experience. So many different music therapy settings set me up to practice as soon as I had the MA completed. I learned how to hold a session and keep the attention of the group or the individual client. I learned how to write notes in clinical terms and how to work as part of a multi-disciplinary team (MDT). Self-reflection on the day was a big learning process for me on placement. Every music therapy supervisor I had went out of their way to help in any way they could to make it the best possible learning experience I had. Not only are the supervisors colleagues but they also become friends whom I am still in contact with today.

Can you tell us about your own personal experience of the course, the benefits/challenges etc?

The course had many benefits, the UL lecturers, guest lecturers and the placements provided a great platform for networking within the field. If I faced a problem or wanted to ask anybody a question about something, all of the above were at the end of the line always willing to help. One of the biggest challenges I encountered during the programme was commuting from my home in Tipperary to UL two mornings a week where it took almost two hours. Commuting to placement in Dublin and Cork also proved a challenge. I learned to use the time as self-reflection on the commute home. The biggest benefit that came out of the course for me is the fact I have made new friends that I shared class with on a weekly basis. We have become a family and are all there to help each other every way we can. If it wasn’t for UL and the MA in music therapy, I would have not met these amazing people.

Would you recommend the MA to others?

I would highly recommend the Music Therapy MA to any body that might be interested in doing it. It comes with a warning you may never want to leave and you will also make great friends within the UL and Music Therapy community.

I would highly recommend the Music Therapy MA to any body that might be interested in doing it. It comes with a warning you may never want to leave and you will also make great friends within the UL and Music Therapy community.

What have you done since graduation?

Since I graduated I have started working as a music therapist in the adult psychiatry department with the HSE, within the South Tipperary Mental Health Services. I also work two half days in local primary schools and a half day in a secondary school with ASD units. I work a day in my own private practice.    

To learn more about the MA Music Therapy and to apply, please click here.

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