Putting the FUN in therapy

Music therapists spend a lot of time validating our profession – No, we are not music teachers. No, this is not entertainment.

However, I have been guilty of undervaluing a vital aspect of music therapy – it’s FUN.

I have been very fortunate to survive two car accidents with *only* mild traumatic brain injury, each time resulting in post-concussion syndrome. I am extraordinarily thankful to the physical therapist and the vision therapists who were experts in helping me to recover! But it was and is WORK.

I do not deny it, I may be biased here. It’s possible that I enjoy engaging in a music experience more than most people. But as my clients continue to show me, and as new research comes out, one thing is clear: music possess the incredible ability to mask hard work and progress as an enjoyable experience.

A couple weeks ago, I had an incredible session with a client. Two hours passed by in our session, but I was unaware of the passage of time. My client showed no signs of fatigue, boredom, or restlessness – but many signs of progress, enjoyment, and healing. The only cue that time had passed was a sharp stabbing pain in my sciatic nerve, which gave me my first clue that I had been sitting for too long!

Time flies when you’re having fun, right?

Using Music Therapy to Support a Mindfulness Practice (whether you like mindfulness or not)

Sometimes, the people who could benefit the most from a mindfulness program find it to be the most challenging; It’s difficult to relax, it’s hard to clear your mind and be in the moment, let alone stay focused. It may even be *uncomfortable* at first, or you may feel more anxious once you stop moving, and start trying to turn your attention inward.

The power of music as a therapeutic modality is in it’s flexibility, it’s enjoyability, it’s propensity to modulate our mood and mindset. Music is universal, and indeed, everyone is born with a neurobiological predisposition to be musical. Some neuroscientists even believe that music evolved in the brain before speech!

All of these aspects and more make music a perfect medium for inducing mindful engagement. Whether i’m working with a young child who requires the music to change frequently in order for them to remain engaged, or an adult struggling with anxiety or worry who needs a focal point to remain in the moment, I have found that music is the ticket.

Achieving mindful engagement through music can look very different from person to person, and I’ve used almost every instrument in my collection for this purpose!

Why do you need a board-certified music therapist (MT-BC) to use music to “relax?” You may be doing just fine listening to music that soothes you, and you may not need any help finding the right music. Music therapists are trained in creating a music experience to support the needs of the individual at that time. This may include a live music experience, or assisting agencies or individuals in creating playlists that minimize risk to the patient/client/resident, while inducing a relaxation response.

More importantly, music therapists are trained to respond in the moment to physiological changes observed in the client, to meet the individual where they are at, and to adjust the intervention as needed to best facilitate therapeutic (non-musical) goals.

To find out more, or to schedule a music & wellness event, contact Bloomsburg Music Therapy at 570-316-1899 or info@BloomsburgMusicTherapy.org

Music Therapy for Respiratory Support

Music therapy can be an excellent complement to standard pulmonary rehabilitation, and has been found to be especially valuable for its ability to address emotional support and overall wellness.

Therapeutic singing makes practicing diaphragmatic breathing enjoyable, helping to pass the time more quickly and encouraging treatment adherence. Likewise, using beginner-level wind instruments such as melodicas, harmonicas, or recorders to practice pursed-lip breathing as part of a group adds an element of social support.

Music therapists are trained in methods of music-induced relaxation to reduce anxiety, decrease pain, improve mood, and further encourage deeper, more relaxed breathing in ways that may be easy and enjoyable even for individuals who do not typically like standard relaxation exercises.

The most vital component of a music therapy session for the pulmonary rehabilitation client, unlike another type of music experience, is the relationship built within the music. The relationship drives the gains made in the therapy, and sets music therapy apart from other experiences.

Check out Bloomsburg Music Therapy’s piece on Mindfulness in Music Therapy to learn more.

Parent-Infant Bonding using music

Did you know . . . . newborn babies demonstrate a preference for music heard frequently while in the womb? This is because hearing begins at about 16 weeks gestation, giving the growing baby plenty of auditory information about it’s family! Babies are already familiar with mom and dad’s voice because they’ve had a preview from the womb.

Infants show a preference for infant-directed song over infant-directed speech, according to a 2016 study in the journal Child Development, and singing to your baby can be a wonderful way to build healthy attachment. While singing, parents and babies engage in eye contact as well as close physical contact, both of which help to build a strong bond, and even increase brain development and even protect against postpartum depression in moms!

Even when babies are in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit), they can still benefit from music therapy, which can help to mask some of the noise from hospital machines, replicate mother’s heartbeat as heard in the womb, and increase nutritional intake, and increase the bond between infant and parents even in such a fragile state.