Friday, January 29, 2016

January Music Therapy Advocacy Month

The following is a blog post from PMAC's Music Therapist, Virginia Macdonald. We hope you enjoy it!

Virginia Macdonald works with a Music Therapy client at PMAC.
January is music therapy advocacy month.  I am a music therapist and decided that this is the year I am going to toot my industry's horn! Pun totally intended. With any therapy, it is in the relationship with another that one comes to understand something new about themselves.  In music therapy, I think we have an added advantage - we are working in music, which most people already have some relationship with.  What is unique is that at the end of the session, our clients have new resources they can tap into, and more open networks of communication with the self that are therapeutic, thought-provoking, or physically/biologically stimulating. There is no 'one size fits all' method of music therapy, as each person will react to and benefit from different aspects of music. For some, clinical improvisation to practice communicating non-verbally with another, or working on social skills, may be most useful. For others, learning to play an instrument stimulates new responses that dramatically change how they enjoy life and see the world. Whatever the case, it is the process of working in music, and not the end product of performance, where the therapy happens.  I have had the pleasure of working with a woman who is a poet, a philosopher, and has now found her inner musician. I asked her to share a post with me to celebrate music therapy advocacy month and she graciously accepted.  Here is her account of her experience:

The difference between enjoying music and music therapy is simple but profound:  when I catch myself using music to either soothe me or to work through something difficult, it becomes therapeutic.  I’m not sure which is more powerful:  when I deliberately use music to enhance my life, or those fleeting moments when I check in with myself and recognize that I’ve got a few notes in my head and I feel more peaceful than usual.  It may only last a few seconds, but the mindfulness that the music is helping me feel better is the therapy.  It’s right there, at any time, and it’s available to anyone.  The trick is to use it and recognize its value.

I challenge myself with music.  I’m 61, with arthritic hands and a neurologically challenged brain that has a mind of its own.  What was I thinking when I chose to learn how to play the piano?!  Something in my head knew that it was the right decision, even though it still surprises me that I’m a piano student.  The enrichment that decision has provided me with continues to astound me.  The awareness of what the music does for me as I learn the piano has made me recognize that the healing powers of it are constantly in my life.  I sing in my head all the time – who doesn’t?  But when I ask myself what that music is doing for me, it becomes more powerful.  Now I envision my fingers playing notes on the keyboard as I hum notes, sing, or hear a song.  The possibilities of using music for healing become endless.

Language is an essential part of my life, and the music has become a new language to decipher.  It has the same effect for me that my writing does.  It’s a process of discovery and enrichment, and I can find myself playing one little section of a song over and over and over and being enthralled with the relationship between the music and my emotional state as I play.  It doesn’t end there – the experience continues in my head after the practice is over.  It’s a profound connection with my Self.

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