Music Therapy at MCES

The renowned neurologist, Dr. Oliver Sacks stated “Music can lift us out of depression or move us to tears.  It is a remedy, a tonic, orange juice for the ear… it can provide access, even when no medication can, to movement, to speech, to life…”

Evidence of using music as communication and a healing tool has been noted since ancient times. There is proof of this in historical writings from the ancient civilizations of Egypt, China, India, Greece and Rome. Today, the power of music remains. After WWII, in the United States Veterans Administration Hospitals, music was used to help comfort soldiers with traumatic injuries, which today is diagnosed as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This was the beginning of recognizing music as a useful tool to assist patients feel comfortable, calm and relaxed.

Music is a powerful tool. It has nonverbal, creative, structural and emotional qualities. It can trigger suppressed emotions, moving us to laughter or tears. Music is all around us, everywhere we go.  It is used as background music in stores, movie scores, at sporting events, in religious services, etc. People use music as a motivator for exercise as well as help people to relax or meditate. Lullabies has been used to help soothe or calm babies. It is almost impossible to go without hearing music in our everyday life.

Music is used for cheerful occasions, such as birthday celebrations or weddings as well as sad occasions, i.e., funerals or memorial services. Music offers joy in times of prosperity and comfort in times of sorrow. Music is the “voice” that joins mankind together.  Regardless of what culture, language, country we identify with, music is universal. We can understand the emotions music expresses.  And music can help influence emotions.

So, what exactly is music therapy and how is it used at MCES? Music therapy is the “clinical and evidence based use of music” to accomplish specific and individual goals. Music therapy uses music as the “tool” to promote, maintain and restore mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health.  Because music is non-threatening and universal, it can help promote conversation/discussion and assist patients in expressing their feelings when just “talking” may fail.

Music is used as the “stimulus” or “ice-breaker” to help express emotions and share feelings. A patient does not have to have any music ability to benefit from music therapy. The goal of music therapy is to help improve the patient’s ability to function, to help develop relationships and to address and work with issues they may not be able to discuss using only words.

Music therapy sessions at MCES are created with a specific theme or topic and these vary from session to session. Examples of some topics for Music Therapy groups are: Resiliency after grief/loss; Mental Health Symptoms; Discharge Planning; Healthy Leisure Activities; Self Reflection; Self-Expression; Music as a Mood Changer; Positive Coping Skills; Expressing Emotions. Music Therapy groups consist of writing lyrics; listening to lyrics, analyzing them and discussion; singing; moving to music and guided imagery.

When choosing music, there is no one particular music genre that is more therapeutic than another.  In music therapy groups, all styles of music are used. The therapist or the patient chooses the music, depending on the activity and goal set by the music therapist.

I am thrilled to be able to offer music therapy groups at MCES. As Victor Hugo quoted, “Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and cannot remain silent.”

Diane Kolessar, RMT

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