The American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) and Certification board for Music Therapists (CBMT) have joined together to make January Music Therapy Advocacy Month. This is our time to tell others about the many aspects of music therapy. I have been reading blogs from many of my colleagues around the country. They cover issues such as advocating at the governmental, state, local and personal levels. One fellow blogger talked about getting our friends, family and significant others involved in the advocacy process, while still another talked about advocacy from our clients and individuals who have experienced the power of music therapy first hand.
As I was reading these and of course agreeing with each idea that was presented (they were preaching to the choir, after all) I found myself wondering how I can contribute to this discussion. What can I say that hasn’t already been said? I am new to this whole blogging scene and really, is anyone even going to read my blog anyway?
So, while trying to sort out my thoughts on the subject, I took the quiz about my advocacy personality type. I found out that I am a “super sleuth” which means that I work behind the scenes gathering information. As I thought about this, I realized the truth in that profile. I have been busy and have gained a wide variety of experiences since 1996. I have worked with Geriatric, Psychiatric and Physical Rehabilitation clients. I have worked with children of all ages and a wide variety of abilities and disabilities from severely developmentally delayed, autism, Down’s Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, behavior disorders and have even worked with a few students that were in the gifted and talented realm. I have mentored music therapy interns and pre-clinical students and have presented about music therapy in many venues including experiences in SE Asia.
I have facilitated music therapy sessions where an elderly woman who cannot remember her own name can sing four verses of “Amazing Grace.” I’ve had groups where a three year old child sings her name for the first time. I have seen a child with autism, who is unable to connect with the world around him, be able to make a connection to the music and through the music he is able to connect with the therapist. There are no words to adequately describe the joy of being the conduit that connects the music to the individual in order to achieve more than anyone thought possible.
On a much more personal level, I have done music therapy with my children when they were sick, in pain, or unable to sleep. And I did intensive music therapy interventions with my mother after she had suffered multiple strokes. The prognosis from the doctors was that she would be unable to talk or walk again due to the severity of her brain trauma. By tapping into her musical self and her stubborn will to get better, she was able to walk (somewhat unsteadily) and she was able to talk and even make jokes for five more years.
This week, a close friend and colleague’s son was admitted to the hospital with pneumonia. He wasn’t responding to antibiotics and he was put on a ventilator. I went to spend time with them at the hospital and we were holding his hands and praying, and after a few short seconds we heard the ventilator make a long whooshing sound and watched as his chest inflated with full, even breaths. She has been by his side with her guitar in hand, to calm him when he is agitated due to medical procedures, to comfort him through the pain and to communicate with him through the heavy medications and fevered delirium that everything will be alright.
2011 was a banner year for music therapy in the news. In story after story about the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, she attributed her amazing progress to music therapy. One headline from the AZ Daily Star in Tucson called music therapy magical. But it isn’t magic. It is a scientifically based, researched and applied practice of using music to effect change. It was even a featured story on NPR’s Science Friday.No, music therapy isn’t magic, but the results are miraculous. And the world needs to know.