Some children and adults cannot express themselves and they remain silent. Music Therapy opens those doors. Joe Smith’s face illuminated when sitting up in his hospital bed, the IV tubes attached to both arms delivering medicine to his damaged body. For off in the near distance, he saw a woman enter his room holding a guitar in her hands. She looked like an angel who was summoned to his bedside to help him escape from his pain. The notes permeated the room filling the emptiness with feelings of happiness, hope, joy, and peace. Joe’s eyes swelled up with tears when singing his favorite song “Country Roads” written by John Denver, one of Joe’s artists he idolized. In that one precious moment, Joe succeeded in escaping the pain throughout his limbs and was able to relive a memory of his childhood when hearing John Denver’s music. That is one of many examples of the power of music and its effects on the healing process.
Music has been conceptualized as a healing influence since the time of Aristotle and Plano. It was only during WWI and WWII that music was implemented within the hospital setting to assist with the thousands of veterans who suffered physical and psychological trauma.The nurses and doctors during that time began to realize the importance of having music in the hospital setting and local musicians were hired to work with the patients.
Today, music therapy has expanded beyond the hospital setting taking place in schools, nursing homes, and rehabilitative facilities. Music continues to influence the lives of individuals ranging from pediatrics to geriatrics who have the following:
• Acute and chronic pain
• Alzheimer’s disease and other aging related conditions
• Brain injury
• Developmental and learning disabilities
• Physically disabled
Board Certified Music Therapists have succeeded in completing an approved college music therapy curricula including intense clinical experience, completion of the required residency program, and have received the credential of “board certified” from the Certification Board of Music Therapy.
When performing music therapy, musical interventions are applied in order to achieve non-musical goals. The objectives set forth by the practicing therapist serve as an outline that maintains organization, purpose and focus during each music therapy session. The purpose of music therapy is to accomplish success in increasing the individual’s quality of life and achievement toward their developmental goals.
There was a client named “Sam” (*the names mentioned are fictitious in order to maintain confidentiality).
He was injured in a car accident and lost the ability to speak. Sam was a perfect candidate to receive music therapy. Once Sam heard “We will rock you,” being played on the drum, he reached for the mallet. He began to feel the rhythm of the melody throughout his body and played the drum to the beat of the song. It took months of rehabilitative music therapy, but eventually Sam was able to say “rock you” at the appropriate times during the song. His overall communication skills began to increase as well and he began to relearn how to speak.
Another case that music therapy proved beneficial was when addressing the needs of “Alicia”, a 5 year old child who was diagnosed with Autism. (*the names mentioned are fictitious in order to maintain confidentiality). She presented delays with her overall sensory and fine/gross motor abilities. Her eye contact was minimal and she constantly sang parts of songs from her favorite shows not allowing anyone to break through and engage her in conversation. Through movement to the beat of a metronome while singing her favorite songs and using imitative melodic exercises on the xylophone and piano, her eye contact began to increase as well as her overall engagement during the music sessions. She was also beginning to play her songs by ear on the piano, increasing her overall hand/eye coordination and auditory skills. During the months that followed, she began to present more appropriate social interaction with her peers and initiate in conversation with her family members.
Research has shown that every one of all ages, with disabilities, or without are able to exhibit positive responses to music. One misconception about music therapy, is that the client or participant has to have musical abilities to benefit from the therapy. That is not true. All styles of music are useful when effecting changes in the life of the client. Based on the assessment of the individual’s preferences, treatment and goals, this will establish what kind of music will be most beneficial for the client.
State of the art research in music therapy continues to expand. Many studies documenting the effectiveness of music therapy in physical rehabilitation, Alzheimer’s disease, autism, and neurological effects of music and brain functioning are being published in medical and scientific journals throughout the globe. The field of Music Therapy’s professional outlook is very promising and continues to gain recognition as a legitimate therapeutic resource.
The Journal of Music Therapy and Perspectives are publications that support current research findings and can be found on the American Music Therapy Association’s website: www.musictherapy.com.
Music Therapy is effective for helping individuals suffering from Autism, Alzheimer ’s disease, Brain Injury, and Developmental Disabilities
Article written by: Marcie Friedman, MT-BC, NMT, www.southwesternmusictherapy.org