Music Therapy begins at the Mason Clinic Regional Forensic Psychiatric Service

The Pohutukawa Unit at the Mason Clinic Regional Forensic Psychiatric Service in Auckland is a specialist unit for offenders with mental health diagnoses and intellectual disabilities. The 12 men who reside here, some for more than 12 years, have limited scope for engagement with others beyond other care recipients and staff. Their isolation, close living quarters and disabilities tend to create challenging behaviours, including violence and depression. Raukatauri’s Clinical Team Leader Russell Scoones began providing group and individual sessions at the Pohutukawa Unit in February 2019 after RMTC was able to acquire funding for the project through the Frozen Funds Charitable Trust.

Engaging in work with disabled offenders can be challenging. Our non-judgemental humanistic approach needs to be alert as we spend creative and sometimes intimate emotional music sessions with people who have committed offences that may be disturbing to consider. How much insight into their crimes do they have and how does the relationship they are creating with the therapist help to rebuild a ‘healthy’ relationship model? With an intellectual disability and long term institutional isolation, alongside others with similar life problems, is there any sense of hope for a positive future?

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Individual sessions are held with Andrew* (29) who lives in a separate ‘cluster’ with two other men and needs a minimum of two staff with him during music therapy. As well as having an intellectual disability, he also has autism spectrum disorder resulting in him being unable to socialise or communicate with other care recipients in the unit. Through his 10-year confinement, he has become withdrawn, depressed and unmotivated. His music play was initially perseverative and without emotion, the tempo wavering and stopping abruptly, but as the weeks progress he has become more aware of the interaction he is able to create with Russell. Russell says, “As I consistently attune to his rhythms and energy his tempo relaxes and becomes coherent, he is able to find ways to play with purposeful dynamism. He appears more eager each week to play, more positive when I arrive and even finds some moments of calm reflection with the large ocean drum. I feel he needs sonic nourishment so I give him choices, talk gently and try to find ways to put richness and warmth into my use of guitar and my voice.  Staff are reporting that he “looks forward to seeing you when Tuesday comes.”

A group session with four men provides opportunities for creative expression and interaction with staff through instrument play, singing, lyric analysis and non-verbal interactions. The dynamics and choices of instruments shift each week as the group forms. Members who have been shy or less forceful find ways to be heard. What starts out as chaotic and disjointed becomes spacious and coherent. Feelings of group satisfaction in creating music together is significant, an achievement in acceptance. Thinking about what the group may do next time gives moments of planning for a creative future, something to look forward to.


The outcomes for music therapy in the Pohutukawa Unit will be about these men having an increase in their well-being, building a positive, creative relationship with the therapist and finding a space in the week where they may be dynamically, meaningfully expressive and emotive without fear or judgement.  Will this lead to insight and reflection of where and why they are in this forensic institution? Possibly not, but for some moments they may have relief from incarceration. When this is provided regularly it may become a place where their environment is changed for a time, where a crack of light can shine through and provide a sense of hope.

*not his real name

RMTC brings music therapy to Northland for the first time!

Until recently, residents of Northland were unable to access the life-changing benefits of music therapy – a fact that has changed with the official opening of Raukatauri’s Whangarei Regional Centre on the 9th of March, an initiative supported by Foundation North.

Raukatauri has found the perfect home for its Regional Centre - the beautiful Old Library right in the middle of Whangarei.  Registered Music Therapist Katie Boom offers music therapy sessions here on Wednesdays and Saturdays in a beautiful sunny room stocked with instruments, thanks to the amazing generosity of KBB Music and Remo Inc.  As at all of Raukatauri’s locations, sessions in Whangarei are goal-oriented and strengths-based, and use music to aid in the growth and development of children and adults with special needs.

Katie is familiar to many members of the Raukatauri whānau, as she has been working with us in Auckland since 2017.  As a Whangarei native, she is particularly excited to be the first music therapist working in Northland and sees many opportunities for music therapy there, both at the Old Library and through work directly in the community.  The Northland community clearly agrees with Katie, as since announcing our opening date we have been receiving enquiries almost daily from families and community organisations from Dargaville to Kawakawa!

You can read more about the Whangarei Regional Centre in this recent article from the Northern Advocate.  If you would like to refer a child or adult for music therapy sessions in Whangarei, you can use our online referral form found here.  If you would like to enquire about music therapy for your organisation, or have questions about any of our locations, you can reach us at or on 09 360 0889.

Photos below were taken at our Opening Celebration which took place on the 9th March.

RMTC - open in Hawke's Bay!

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Five months in and the Hawke’s Bay Regional Centre is going … and growing … strong!  Families rave about the sessions offered by Registered Music Therapist Will Darbyshire with one mum saying recently, “I love the open lines of communication with Will and the discussions around the girls’ progress and goals.  It is focused, fun and really worthwhile.”

As in Auckland, RMTC Hawke’s Bay is conscious of the need to make music therapy convenient and accessible for families so offers sessions in both Napier and Havelock North.  We also strive to make the sessions personalised to the needs of every client, offering individual, family and small group music therapy for clients of all ages – from early intervention services for toddlers to music therapy session for those with dementia.  If you’d like to refer someone to music therapy, or just want to learn more about our services in Hawke’s Bay, please contact us on 06 870 3990 or at

 One of the best things about opening in Hawke’s Bay has been introducing the work that RMTC does to a whole new audience. Will has received a warm welcome from the health, disability and education communities, and has been made to feel right at home in his two therapy locations – Tamatea High School in Napier and the Havelock North Function Centre.  We have been thrilled to receive funding support for the Regional Centre from COGS Kahungunu Ki Heretaunga, First Light Community Foundation and Hawke’s Bay Foundation and were particularly excited by the recent gift of a brand new piano by Huawei. The delivery of the fabulous new piano was captured by the Napier Courier, who featured it on their front page, and full details can be seen here.

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