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PBS Newshour spotlight on music therapy

Welcome to another piece on one of my favorite subjects – music therapy.  Take a few minutes to check out this great overview “The Healing Power of Music” aired on February 27th on PBS’s Newshour with Jim Lehrer.

The video captures a snapshot of treating persons with brain injuries and medical complexities through music therapy.  This includes a bit about Gabrielle Giffords’ music therapy treatment, a bit about brain science and the neuropathways developed by engaging in active music therapy, and some nice case examples.  Meet a young man with muscular dystrophy whose music therapist is using music to enhance his mood and help him cope with hospitalization, a group of children drumming together in the hospital, a group of stroke survivors, and a view of a music therapist addressing veteran’s health and rehabilitation.  They have also included soothing patients enduring cancer therapies, and how music can aid in alleviating depression in the elderly.  Musicians reflected how participating in music and enjoying being in the moment through dancing or singing can be therapeutic.  When coupled with the skill of a music therapist, the therapeutic relationship and addressing non-musical goals can be transformative.

When I watched the videos and considered the commentary, I, of course, reflected on my own work as a music therapist.  Music recreation, music appreciation — these are all imperatives for all persons, “healthy” or otherwise.  What seems to make my work so different from music education and music appreciation with persons with a variety of needs, is that I look to uncover moments of transformation.  It is not about me, it is not about the music that is coming out of my heart, hands, and voice.  It is about what my client is going to do with it, and how I can support that client in being changed somehow.    In this liminal space, that moment of insight, that moment when the hand reaches out to interact, that moment when the smile is undeniably connected to what I am offering, is when that relationship is solidified and goals are addressed.  I and my fellow music therapists often don’t care what the client’s music sounds like — it is what the music brings to them that makes those moments of transformation possible.

Enjoy the news story.  I look forward to hearing from you and reading your comments.

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