Articles for August 2014

Reflections on the “Alive Inside” Movie

The Alive Inside movie by Michael Rosatto-Bennett chronicles the journey of a social worker, Dan Cohen, as he developed and implemented an iPod project where he distributed iPods to patients with dementia. The movie gained attention when a clip featuring a patient named Henry was released on youtube last year and went viral in a couple of days. It also won the audience award at the Sundance Film Festival in 2014.

The movie clearly illustrates the importance of the connection between music and quality of life. It also discusses the issues of aging that are facing our society in the coming years. The baby boomer is the largest generation in America and they are aging. So of course when the movie was released in AZ, I had to gather a couple of friends and we went to see this. I will admit that my attitude was fairly negative. I don’t want anyone to think that all we need to do is give dementia patients an iPod and their problems would be solved and I thought that would be the point of the movie. Thankfully I was wrong.

This project focused on handing out iPods and it was clear that Dan Cohen spent a lot of time personalizing song lists for each participant, so clearly there will have to be someone to help manage the iPods and the music for each patient. There was a short segment with a live musician and you could see the importance of the human interaction. That is the part of the puzzle that music therapy fits into. We not only establish a therapeutic relationship with our clients but we also get them actively involved in making the music, and that interaction excites the brain synapses and allows for a higher level of involvement than a person listening to music through headphones can reach. Music can and does elicit deep emotional responses in many people and music therapists are trained to help the patients deal with these responses. An article by music therapist Kimberly Sena Moore, discusses the problems that music can create and the way that music therapists are trained to address them. Become actively involved in the music making!

Alive inside did illustrate the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the amazing power of music with dementia patients. It emphasized the importance of addressing the upcoming needs of the
baby-boomer population, the overuse of pharmaceutical interventions and the huge importance of music as a treatment option for dementia. I highly recommend this movie and more importantly, I recommend that everyone become involved in making music in some way every day.

Have you seen the movie yet? Let me know your opinion in the comments below.



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Vocational and Wellness Group for Teens

Egg shaker gameA few weeks ago, I wrote about the ways that music therapy can address vocational skills, you can read that post here, the clients that I was referring to in that article had diagnoses such as developmental delays, autism and Cerebral Palsy and they attend day programs. But this week I had the opportunity to provide a music therapy program for a completely different type of vocational training program.

DK Advocates  has programs in Phoenix and Tucson and they offer training for call centers, computer skills, food service, retail and more. Their clients are people who may need to change careers due to an injury or illness. There was also a group of teens that had been doing a summer work program and I did a drum group in honor of their completion of the program.

Music therapy is still an effective modality for these clients, but the goals are different, the session structure is different and the focus is different as well. These clients didn’t need any help to share and trade instruments and most could keep a steady beat. So when doing this group, I gave each client the opportunity to lead a rhythm pattern and have a solo to provide opportunities to practice leadership of the crescendo

We also discussed the many ways that being involved in the music making is good for your brain and your body and the importance of personal self-care. Then the discussion turned to the great value of always learning new things and to find things to be passionate about. The participants asked very interesting questions such as ways to use music  while studying and while exercising.

All in all it was so much fun for me to work in a different program and meet new people. And I hope that the teens learned a little bit about wellness and about different types of careers, and I hope that my new friend, Mario, who plays bass and drums and is planning to major in psychology in college, will investigate a career in music therapy.

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