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Our dedicated team of advisers explain what Tonic means to them

Team Tonic

Our Supporters

Meet the Advisers

Dr John Barnes

Dr John Barnes is a Consultant Psychiatrist in Rehabilitation. He has been with the Somerset Partnership NHS Trust (Sompar) since 1997, working across community and hospital rehabilitation settings. He has been consultant to Ash Ward low secure rehabilitation service in Bridgwater since 2011.

John has supported the development of rehabilitation psychiatry within Somerset and in the South West region, and he is a trainer of core and advanced trainees in psychiatry. John is himself trained in family interventions in psychosis, and is an advocate of a range psychological and social approaches to mental illness, including creative therapies and participation in music and the arts.

John worked with Tonic Music on the development of the Creative City Somerset 2019 arts and music project for clients of Sompar, which included Tonic’s Vinny Peculiar giving workshops to help participants write and perform a song. John and Vinny also co-presented a workshop at a national conference for rehabilitation psychiatrists in November 2019. John is currently working with colleagues in Somerset, planning a follow-up to the Creative City project.

John has been an adviser to Tonic Music since January 2019, helping the team with planning and evaluation. On his visits to Tonic HQ John has attended workshops in guitar and bass.

Dr Adam Ficek
Adviser/Tonic Rider Facilitator

I divide my time between being a professional musician and a psychotherapist immersed in the world of the music industry.

From my experience in both worlds, I have witnessed the steady increase in psychological distress across the board in these environments. The pressures faced within the volatile and precarious infrastructure of the music industry can lead to both high rewards and crashing lows. From my own psychological journey, I highly value the specialist support and understanding that the Tonic Rider programme provides.

“I feel privileged to be a part of Tonic Rider, and I look forward to using my own experiences as a musician and psychotherapist to develop a much-needed resource for everyone in the music industry.”

 Zarah Vernham

Dr Zarah Vernham has a PhD in Psychology. She is a lecturer and researcher with significant experience and knowledge of conducting peer-reviewed empirical research for both practitioners and academics.


One of Zarah’s research interests is in the area of mental health. She is currently involved in conducting two studies: One is exploring the wellbeing and resilience of staff and students in Higher Education during the Covid-19 pandemic, and the other is exploring the help-seeking behaviours for mental health by students in Higher Education. Zarah is proficient in a range of different statistical techniques and research methods, and has significant experience of conducting mixed methods research involving both quantitative and qualitative data.


Zarah will bring her research skills and expertise to Tonic. She will extend her mental health research beyond the context of Higher Education and will bring it into the music industry. She will assist Tonic Music with the running of research projects, specifically advising Tonic Music on ethical procedures, study design, data collection practices, data analyses, and research dissemination. 

“Music is an excellent medium for processing and regulating emotions, and so the work that Tonic does is essential to promoting positive mental health and recovery. I am honoured to be an advisor for Tonic and truly believe the research we conduct will have a huge impact on improving mental health within the music industry”. 

Abbie Amey

Abbie is a Science Writer/Editor by trade and an aspiring but not particularly accomplished musician. She had been looking into retraining in music therapy but was put off by the formality of the courses and heard about the wonderful work that Tonic Music were doing. She soon became involved with helping behind the scenes and has never looked back since.

“Tonic Music provides a variety of inclusive, supportive and nonjudgmental communities. We have small groups and people who just pop into the shop for a mooch through some vinyl, a chat, and a cup of tea. It is a small slice of how the world should be, but too often isn't. Little by little, we are looking to change this.”

Adam Churchward


Adam Churchward is a Registered Mental Health Nurse having worked across many fields within NHS mental health services.

He started his journey in mental health almost 25 years ago working with people with learning disabilities who presented with behaviours that challenge society. Since then he has worked in community rehab, substance misuse, alongside police colleagues in criminal justice settings, acute mental health services, forensic mental health services and managing inpatient services. Currently he specialises in working with people who have a Personality Disorder and a forensic history.


“I currently work alongside the person and the services that support them, offering training around Personality Disorders, facilitating Reflective Practice sessions and providing an interface between statutory agencies and community services so they are better able to support the person in their recovery.

Music has a profound impact on our mental health. Working with Tonic Music, supporting the artists that create the music that supports countless people in improving their mental health is a real honour. I’ve really enjoyed meeting with the public at music events in the Tonic Lounge, discussing their mental health or the mental health of their loved ones, listening to their stories and supporting them in understanding mental health issues and how best to get support.


My hope for Tonic Lounge is that it will continue to grow and offer a space for this to happen at music events so that as many people as possible feel the benefit of having Tonic Music for Mental Health in the music scene.”

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