Media Reviews, Music Therapy

Clinical Research on Depression and Anxiety

A few days ago I shared with you a video of pop star Katy Perry singing with and being accompanied by a young girl with autism.

Today I wanted to share something that appeals also to my analytical side. Don’t want to read the whole abstract? Here’s the upshot — Researchers in Finland found that with 79 participants after three months of treatment, their depressed and anxious patients improved in their symptom management through music therapy. More specifically, “Verbal reflection and improvising on emotions in MT may induce neural reorganization in fronto-temporal areas. Alpha and theta changes in fronto-temporal and temporoparietal areas indicate MT action and treatment effects on cortical activity in depression, suggesting an impact of MT on anxiety reduction.” Here’s a link to the whole she-bang if you are interested.

Here’s my take on this. The fronto-temporal regions are where our everyday thinking and reasoning skills come from; as well as some music and speech skills. Music also taps into a part of the brain that is “older” or develops in us earlier, and connects quickly to our emotion centers. So verbal therapy is great for these fronto-temporal decision making skills and areas of reason, for gaining insights — adding music making to the mix and getting to the deeper levels where emotion is accessed sometimes quickly, is a great pairing for verbal therapies.

I hope you enjoy the scholarly article. As Michelle Shocked said, keep on rockin’. Thanks for visiting.

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Media Reviews

Dream comes true for girl with autism

  If you haven’t seen this clip from last night’s Comedy Central fundraiser for autism programs, now is your chance.  It shares the story of how Jodi DiPiazza’s natural interest in music became a tool for her self expression beyond her learning struggles due to autism.  Her mother says that music is how she “makes herself known”.  What a wonderful tool to communicate who we are – through music.  Watch Jodi accompanying and singing “Firework” with Katy Perry herself.  Whether you are a fan of Katy Perry or not, I think you’ll be moved by watching them perform together.

“Firework” has been a regular song in my list of tunes for therapy for a couple of years now.   It speaks of resilience in the face of struggle, and celebrating one’s uniqueness and finding one’s strength.  We could all use a reminder of our inner power now and again.

Now, I know nothing about this particular girl except that she has made great strides in defying the limitations imposed by her autism.  When we give our children the tools, the opportunities, and the loving environment to succeed, sometimes they can really surprise us.  The same is certainly true in music therapy.  

I’m always excited to share what I know about music.  The way we can to get to the heart of a feeling with or without words is profound.  My connection with my clients who have emotional struggles, intellectual limitations, or disorders in communication show me every day how music is indeed a bridge to the heart.  And my heart says that being connected to another human being, even in moments of being musical together, can make the difference between a good day and a difficult one.

Congrats little Jodi on a job well done, and to you Ms. Perry for sharing a really great tune with all of us.

For the rest of us, let’s keep singing.

Making Music, Media Reviews, Music Therapy

Improvising with Feeling

My PianoOne of my favorite clinical improvisation techniques in guiding my clients through music making by breaking down the elements of music, and making subtle changes to get to where we collectively want to go. Different combinations of tempo, dynamics, pitch, texture, melody and harmony create different moods or feelings. Communicating on this non-verbal level is a powerful experience for both my clients and for me as a musician, music therapist, and container for the experience. From this place, we can discuss and explore changes in feeling states.

Several weeks ago I heard a report on a study about how music communicates feeling in other cultures.  Essentially, music that we westerners typically describe as sad, is also perceived the same way in other cultures.  This is fascinating, and speaks to the universality of our experience as listeners. 

Check out this nice post called “Musical Minds” by Steven B. Jackson in Psychology Today for a little more information about culture and musical perception. 

When you or a loved one is struggling with shifting moods, remember that listening to music and actively playing music can be a catalyst for change.  Finding and listening to the music that feels great to you can be a really good place to start.      

Magical Moments, Music Therapy

Mood Booster

Another incredible week of making music with and for people has come to a close.

Today we rewrote the lyrics to Heartbreak Hotel, made famous be Elvis Presley. On our first run through an older gentleman in my group for persons with depression and anxiety broke into song and ROCKED IT OUT! He laughed afterward and said that was the first time he had sung in front of others since his school days. He was so thankful for the chance to explore some in-the-moment joy. I congratulated him on accepting my invitation to sing.

Afterward a staff member let me know the gentleman had entered my group quite grumpy and distressed. He came out with a bounce in his step that shaped the rest of his day. This is HUGE for persons battling depression.

How blessed I am to be the ambassador for change. How very blessed I am to bring music to others.

What do you listen to when you need a boost? Comments are welcome!

Magical Moments, Music Therapy

Drumming and Depression

I recently led a group drumming experience with about 30 adults, most struggling with issues of depression or anxiety.  It was amazing to see the mood shift of the group from when we started to where we ended.  The music directives required the group members to focus their attention on each other, to actively participate in the group, to be involved.  Without everyone, our musical “machine” would clunk rather than flow.  By the end of our time together, the challenges I had presented to the group were accomplished.  We were making music together, many were smiling and encouraging others, and becoming known to each other in a new way.

There are so many times in life that I have been able to pull metaphors of being in an ensemble, ripe with leadership opportunities and supportive relationships, to the success of a group or team.  I am always amazed when I am reminded of this time and time again.  Although we can’t all be soloists or conductors in this life, we have a place, an important part, that which adds to the whole.  Without those extra voices the beauty would be muted.  Even the smallest voice, even the one who may say nothing at all, is a part of the ensemble to both participate, but also to bear witness to our experience, to hear our song.

I love music.  It makes us matter.

Media Reviews, Music Therapy

Music therapy in early childhood classrooms

I wanted to share with you an article published in January on the Huffington Post.  Ronna Kaplan, recent Past President of the American Music Therapy Association, opens a door for us and gives readers a view inside the classroom for young students with different abilities.  In her article, “Music Therapy in Early Childhood Classrooms” she does a nice job of describing what you might see in a classroom session, and why. 

When I read the article, I reflected upon how music can be shaped to be the carrier of information for learners of different sensory needs and skill levels.  Often kids with “special needs” have disparities in levels of functioning.  This means they might struggle intensely with one thing, and be really quite talented at another.  Using music to help kids learn essential academic concepts, as well as therapeutic concepts for communication, psychosocial health, and motor planning are an often non-threatening and fun ways to approach learning and goal achievement.  Through music therapy, music can be the tool to access strengths to illucidate the lesson or task being taught. 

So when kids have challenges in getting something accomplished, wrapping the content in music might just be the thing that will help get the concept understood and integrated.

Enjoy.