Articles for July 2014

This Summer I Took My Clients On A World Wide Vacation

So I didn’t hire a car, plane, boat or train to transport us to far off places but we did pretendBecome actively involved in the music making!

The topic of summer vacation is pretty universal, most of us have schedule changes to accommodate for vacations and the ending of one school year and the start of another.

I like to start my groups with some sort of movement and Independence Day is the perfect reason to use patriotic songs as we wave flags and march to the beat. I then hand out instruments and we sing and play American folk songs. This is all very fun and the outcomes are fairly predictable and I use the same format with all of the groups (ages 3 years up to 94 years). But then, after we have gotten all of our neurons firing and our bodies are releasing all of the “feel good” hormones it is time to start our cognitive exercises.

As a college student I watched many videos of music therapy in action. It was the “Nordoff-Robbins” method that stuck me with the realization that when improvisation is done correctly, everyone can have a voice. So I incorporate improvisation into my sessions whenever possible. One of my favorite interventions is to use the blues song “Kansas City” written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller and take my clients “on vacation”. (enjoy the video below by Muddy Waters) The way I do this is to sing the original (slightly edited) first verse and then I go around the room and ask each individual the question “If you could go anywhere for your vacation, where would you go?”  When I ask kids I get answers like “Disneyland, Sea World and camping”. We then put the answer into the song.  But now that I work with adults in memory care and skilled nursing the answers are much broader and have led to some great discussions about their travels and experiences. Millie is a resident on a memory care unit and usually unable to tell me her name. But this past week, when I asked Millie where she would like to go, she got the most beautiful expression on her face and said “Jerusalem”. It is those in the moment experiences that illustrate the power of music.

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Addressing Vocational Skills in Music Therapy Groups

Each week I work with a variety of people, from very young children in preschool to older adults in memory care and skilled nursing facilities. One of my adult groups has individuals from age 22 Music Therapy Supports Social Interractionand up with the oldest member in her late 50’s. They have all been diagnosed with a variety of developmental delays such as Down’s Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, and Autism. The program director told me a few weeks ago that he wanted programs that had more vocational skill development.

Now many of these individuals can and do get jobs in the community, they can bag groceries, sweep floors, wipe tables, and many other important tasks where they are interacting with customers. So am I going to write songs about sweeping floors so they can practice those skills during our music therapy groups?  Probably not because it’s not the best use of my skills and resources.

But let’s look at some other basic skills necessary to have a job in a community setting. First, a person needs to have basic social skills such as making eye contact with others, speaking to other employees and customers, and cooperation and teamwork. All of these skills are addressed multiple times in each music therapy group. During the “hello song” I greet each person individually and make eye contact and ask how they are doing today. Basic manners are essential to any workplace.

Other important vocational skills are making choices, taking turns, and sharing. These are also addressed during the music therapy group. I will often give a participant the opportunity to choose the next song or activity, I give them a choice such as “Do you want “Blue Suede Shoes” or “Hound Dog?” and they tell me which one they want. Often times another group member will want the song that wasn’t chosen and they are told to be patient, that we will do this one first and then the next one. I also tell participants to trade instruments between songs. This supports turn-taking, sharing, trading, and cooperation. As we are making music together we become a team working together and having fun while we are doing so. Music therapy can and should be an ongoing part of vocational training programs.  Call Mind-Full Music Therapy Services, LLC today to schedule or pass this blog on to a vocation training center or sheltered workshop that you think would be interested.

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Physiological and Neurological Changes: the Most Important Reason for Weekly Music Therapy Sessions

neurology, autism, brain injury, Alzheimer's

Being involved in music making excites more of the brain than any other activity. Photo courtesy of NIH

The research is published and the word is out. Participation in music making interventions improves physiological functions such as regulation of heart rate and respiration and the release of endorphins into the system. We also know that participation in the music making process supports neurological functioning throughout the brain. Music therapists have specialized training in getting people involved in the music making, we are trained to work with a wide variety of special needs individuals and groups and can meet individual goals and objectives for each person in a group setting so that the progress for each person is maximized.

Researchers in Japan published a 2 year study of the effects of music therapy on elderly patients with moderate to severe dementia. They measured blood pressure rates of patients receiving music therapy services and compared them to a control group and determined that both those patients with low blood pressure and those patients with high blood pressure reached normal levels over time while the control group  blood pressure levels were not affected (Takahashi, Matsushita Music Ther (2006) 43 (4): 317-333 doi:10.1093/jmt/43.4.317)

Another study published on ScienceDaily reports that brain imaging shows that people with musical training have enhanced executive brain functions. “Executive functions are the high-level cognitive processes that enable people to quickly process and retain information, regulate their behaviors, make good choices, solve problems, plan and adjust to changing mental demands.”

In addition, The National Autism Center (NAC, 2009) recognized music therapy as an “emerging practice” classification, meaning that current research is showing significant improvements for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Music therapy is a research and evidenced base profession and Board-Certified Music Therapists (MT-BC) are held to high standards of practice so that our clients reach maximum potential. In order to truly provide the best possible outcomes for patients/clients/students we need to have the time to work with them, access to records and time to provide appropriate documentation for their files.  Music therapy has benefits in so many different settings with so many different people.  Sign up for your weekly sessions with Mind-Full Music Therapy Services, available throughout the Phoenix, AZ area!

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