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Archive for the ‘Music Therapy’ Category

Music in Therapy

Posted on: March 15th, 2021

When I first began this career, I wanted to learn as much as possible about music therapy and explore different settings to find where I felt my heart and passion would be most in connection with my desire to help others.  

I first experienced the benefits of music reaching others by playing in churches.  Next, it was funerals and then weddings.  After this, I entered college and began the process of working with exceptional children, such as special education, and adults with disabilities.  I met folks with cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and an array of other ailments.  I enjoyed singing to older adults in various settings and later doing process-oriented music therapy work with kids in the residential setting, and later the foster care system.

I learned how music could relieve stress or muscle tension before a patient had surgery.  I learned how music could help a patient with a stroke begin to speak again through singing.  I learned how music could decrease isolation and pain for persons on life support.  I learned how music could facilitate connection with families in end of-life care, how music could coordinate movement where Parkinson’s had impacted a patient’s ability to walk.  I met adults with chronic mental health conditions and children with all levels of autism with varying degrees of impairment, and found new ways of connecting with these individuals through our music-making.  

Now, I blend music with counseling and play.  The aspects of its use have shifted over the years as I embarked with different populations and learned new skills.

Interventions commonly seen in therapy sessions addressed with music therapy target self-regulation, coping skills, emotional expression, enhanced mood, social interactions, attention and focus, as well as others.  

Techniques include: 

  • Music-listening
  • Lyric analysis 
  • Musical re-creation
  • Improvisation 
  • Songwriting

While theses are only small accounts of the many ways music may be incorporated in therapy, thousands of other music therapists are doing this wonderful work daily and I encourage you to check out their stories.

For more information on music therapy, please see the American Music Therapy Association’s fact sheets or MT Mental Health 2006.

For more information on how to incorporate music into your life or during therapy, contact me at SHCS.

Music Therapy and Autism

Posted on: January 30th, 2021

In honor of Music Therapy Social Media Advocacy Month, I wanted to share some insights into how music therapy benefits children having autism.  

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder, currently affecting 1 in 68 individuals in the United States (CDC, 2014). While the causes are still unclear, the DSM-5 describes the following two cores characteristics of ASD: 1) deficits in social communication and social interaction across multiple contexts, and 2) restricted, repetitive patterns of behaviors, interests, and activities.  Interventions, such as music therapy, are crucial for individuals with ASD to maximize their potential and lead fulfilled lives.

According to the American Music Therapy Association, people of all ages, cultures, socioeconomic backgrounds, and degrees of abilities respond to aspects of music in daily life. The engaging nature and accessibility of music often elicit positive responses from individuals with ASD. 

Researchers have discussed that persons with ASD have advanced music memory, responsiveness, and aptitudes for music.  They may have more sensitivity to musical elements, yet similar skills of music perception as compared to typically developing peers.  While only a small number of individuals with ASD are musical savants, all clients can benefit from music therapy interventions (Fact_Sheet_ASD_and_MT__8-26-15.pdf (musictherapy.org).

Music therapy interventions focus on enhancing social, communicative, motor/sensory, emotional, and academic/cognitive functioning, or music skills in individuals with ASD. Music therapy services are based on each client’s individual abilities, noting preferences, needs, the family’s values, beliefs, and priorities. Music therapists work in partnership with clients, families, and teams.

Music therapy interventions are informed by research evidence and have been found to enhance or improve:

  • Communication
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Personal responsibility
  • Play
  • Joint attention 
  • Auditory processing, other sensory-motor, perceptual/motor, or gross/fine motor skills
  • Identification and appropriate expression of emotions
  • Social engagement in the home environment and community
  • Target behaviors and teach new skills

Music therapists accept referrals and provide assessments and interventions to individuals with ASD and their families in public schools, family homes, private practice settings, preschools/ daycares, music therapy agencies, early intervention programs, treatment centers, support groups, hospitals, and various venues within the community. The role of the music therapist may be as a provider of direct services (i.e., via individual and group sessions), as a coach to parents, or as a consultant to family members/caregivers, educators, or team members (Kern et al., 2013).

Music therapy is an evidence-based health profession and is recognized as a related service under the Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Therefore, preschool, youth, and young adults may be eligible for music therapy services under the IDEA Part B. Services also may be funded by states, foundations, or community grants. Many music therapists also accept private payments.

For more information on Music Therapy see my Blog#3: Music Therapy and Counseling or contact me at SHCS.

Trying to cope but repeating old patterns?

Posted on: October 15th, 2019

I know of a child who regularly has meltdowns when asked to do something he or she does not want to do.  Instead of using words, the child escalates to the point of disrupting property, slams doors, yells, and makes poor statements about his or herself.  The child’s coping skill….going to sleep.  Is it effective?  Maybe.  Can it be generalized to other settings?  Unlikely.  You can’t go to sleep at school if things aren’t going your way or when a teacher asks you to follow directions. “Use your coping skills,” I hear from others, time and time again.  Not only have I said these very words to my own kids, but to clients, too.

What are coping skills anyway?  According to UCLA, coping skills/strategies are “the behaviors, thoughts, and emotions that one uses to adjust to the changes that occur in life.  Some are more effective than others depending on the stressful situation and the person employing them.”  How one copes can be good for you or not so good for you.  

For example, if you think to yourself, “I’ve got to take a break before I lose it” then go for a run, this can be good for you.  Running releases endorphins drives out stored up muscle tension, and can benefit your body physically and mentally.   The pros are that you are coping in a healthy way and are not giving into the distress you feel.  On the other hand, if a person thinks that nothing will ever get better and he or she needs to release the pain, self-harming behavior, such as cutting, may occur.  This, too, can also release endorphins, yet can leave permanent scarring, resulting in hospitalization, or even death.   Both sets of coping skills can become habits.

What I do know is that coping strategies require practice to become a habit.  Timing is important too.  Being aware of what causes stress, anxiety or frustration is also important.  We call these triggers, the things that “set us off.”  Ignoring the signs and waiting too long before using a coping strategy can worsen the experience.

When the intensity of one’s thoughts and emotions become too big, tantrums happen, or the individual may give into distress by self-harming.  Sometimes the escalation is so quick that there isn’t time to intervene, such as in ADHD or autism, where thoughts become stuck or inflexible, quickly leading to the behavior.  (It’s also important to note that in children with these conditions, the frontal lobe of the brain, responsible for self-regulation and executive functioning, is still immature, making it harder to access coping skills.)

Healthy coping skills can include:

  • exercise, 
  • writing in a journal
  • drawing/coloring
  • listening to music
  • playing an instrument
  • taking a shower/bath
  • playing with a pet
  • spending time outdoors in nature
  • organizing or cleaning activities

In regards to DBT (dialectical behavior therapy), coping skills can include mindful distractions and ways to soothe yourself.  They can improve the moment when you can’t make things better right away.  They can help you make more informed decisions so that you are not giving into distress.  For kids, parents/teacher/counselors can model and teach expected responses and practice calming skills with kids to assist them in the learning of new habits and behaviors.  

Being a musician, music is meaningful to me.  I sing, strum guitar, and play the piano for self-expression and to self-soothe.  If I don’t do it, I miss it.  It’s a release that I’ve come to require in my life for my own self-care.  In addition, I walk my dog daily.  It’s a time to think quietly and focus on my steps, a mindful moment.  These have become habits and routines that have made my life more balanced.  

If you are having trouble learning coping skills or would like to improve on the ones you have, contact me at SHCS!

Why am I so afraid?

Posted on: September 30th, 2019

I’ve been afraid of bees since the age of 12.  Why? A sting from a wasp, of course, six of them down my right arm, when a wasp got caught in my shirt sleeve while I was jumping rope.  While my memory of the sting is the root of my fear, the likelihood of another sting is fairly rare.  Even so, I spent many summers eating indoors to avoid stinging insects.  I’ve even run away from bees I felt were flying after me at the beach.  I’ve managed to read about bees, watch them in a live hive indoors behind glass, talked back to my fear, and practiced breathing techniques to slow my responses down.  I can now eat outside most of the time, though I’m not always comfortable doing so.

Fear…it’s gripping.  Most dread it.  It is a feeling induced by perceived danger or threat, which causes a change in the brain and the body, ultimately resulting in fleeing, hiding, or freezing behavior.  Fear can be caused by a traumatic event or it can be caused by a false alarm, such as an irrational fear, called a phobia, or a stuck thought, as in OCD.   Fear can sometimes be so intense it can interfere with daily activities.

Tips for managing fear include:

  • Naming it 
  • Rating the intensity of the fear
  • Talking back to it
  • Making a plan to confront it by breaking it down into smaller more manageable steps
  • Practicing breathing, relaxing the mind and body, and exercising (to get the anxious energy out)
  • Creating a positive image of handling the fear
  • Gradually facing it using the small steps described earlier.

Playing/singing upbeat songs about overcoming obstacles can be motivating and empowering, too!  Using cheerleading statements, drumming, and songwriting can create new pathways for reducing fear.  Listening to relaxing music and practicing mindfulness can also reduce our responses to fear.  Need some motivation?  Try it at SHCS!

Music Therapy and Counseling

Posted on: August 1st, 2019

Do you or your child enjoy listening to music or playing instruments?  Do you or your child appear to tune-in more to others or tasks when music is incorporated?  Do you or your child enjoy creating lyrics to songs, talking about songs, or singing?  

Do you or your child have difficulty with friendships, life changes, emotions, struggle in school, work, at home, or with other people?  If so, you or your child may be the perfect candidate for music therapy and counseling!  

Why Music?

It’s fun, enjoyable, and pleasurable.  It builds social connection and provides opportunities for safe expression of feelings, among other benefits.  Music can lower stress, release muscle tension, and promote relaxation.  It alleviates depression, anxiety, and is good for brain health.

What is Music Therapy?  

Music therapy is the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program.  

It is an established healthcare profession that uses music to address physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs of individuals of all ages. Music therapy improves the quality of life for people who are well and meets the needs of children and adults with disabilities or illnesses.

How does music therapy benefit a counseling session?

In counseling, music is used to explore feelings and therapeutic issues, make positive changes to mood, improve coping skills, self-expression, decision-making, and leads to stronger family and peer relationships. For more on music therapy and mental health check out the following: https://www.musictherapy.org/assets/1/7/MT_Mental_Health_2006.pdf

When is it time to seek a music therapist who practices counseling?

It’s never too late to get help and support.  Perhaps your or your child’s concerns are just beginning to interfere with daily life, or perhaps these concerns have persisted for a while, or you’ve tried other forms of therapy and did not feel it was a good fit.  Moving your life forward sometimes takes a different approach.

Where can you find a music therapist who practices counseling?  

Sound Health Counseling Solutions, located in York, PA, integrates music, the creative arts, counseling, and mindful action, providing hope and solutions for you or your child.  You can find us on Facebook.

You can also contact the American Music Therapy Association to contact a music therapist near you.

Who practices music therapy and counseling?

Laura Tauzin, located in York, PA, is a board-certified music therapist and licensed professional counselor.  You can contact her at www.soundhealthcounseling.com