Can Music Help You Heal?

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Can music be a part of your healing? It’s not just possible, it’s actually being used to help patients of various kinds. Deforia Lane has used music as part of healing therapy for patients suffering from various illnesses including cancer. Here is more information about how music can heal.

WHAT EXACTLY 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.

Music therapy interventions can be designed to:

  • Promote Wellness
  • Manage Stress
  • Alleviate Pain
  • Express Feelings
  • Enhance Memory
  • Improve Communication
  • Promote Physical Rehabilitation

{Music therapy is a 75 year-old profession formally established in 1950. (Nat. Assoc. for Music Therapy). Physicians noted that shell-shocked soldiers in the VA hospitals were more compliant & less combative when music was a part of their daily protocol.

The medical model values data and research and Michigan State was the first university to establish a fully accredited degree in music therapy.  Now there are 8000 music therapists and 70 colleges & universities that offer a bachelors, masters or a Ph.D in music therapy.

HOW DID YOU GET INVOLVED WITH PRACTICING THIS TYPE OF TREATMENT?

After completing a degree in vocal performance (opera) from the University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music, I married, became a mother and when our first son was 5 I returned to complete a masters in music.  “Intro to Music Therapy’ was an elective which took me by storm and my life has never been the same.

It was the perfect merger of my love for music and my need to nurture and connect with people beyond the stage.  I was hired immediately as a music therapist at a developmental center for children with disabilities and was amazed at how music could address the needs of children with autism, cognitive delays, enhance their communication and increase their socialization skills.  Seven years later, I was invited to start a music therapy program at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center and that held my heart and soul for 34 years.

HOW CAN MUSIC THERAPY ADDRESS THE NEEDS OF CANCER PATIENTS?

Research has demonstrated music’s significant influence on the brain – it affects both hemispheres. Through MRI’s and PET scans, and modern technology we are able to better understand how to use music to impact physical, emotional, psychological and social well being.

We use it to decrease pain perception, reduce anxiety and depression, increase muscle strength/endurance and improve neurologic function.  Using combinations of guided imagery, instrumental music 60 – 80 bpm, & breathing techniques oncology patients’ pain can be significantly reduced.

AFTER MUSIC THERAPY, WHAT CHANGES HAVE YOU SEEN IN PATIENTS?

Mr. Mercer, dignified elderly deacon at his church had a stroke which left him unable to speak.  He tried but his words were not intelligible.  I chose one of his favorite songs – “This Little Light of Mine.”  It was important he be familiar with words and rhythm.

I took his hand and kept time on it by tapping with my hand and began to sing, articulating each word and making continuous eye contact. By the end of the first line he was mouthing the words in time to the music and by the end of the fourth line he filled in the missing word  – “shine”.  By the end of the song he completely sang the entire last line  – the first time he or his wife heard him speak with clarity.

With other patients whose speech has been affected by stroke, depending on what part of the brain is affected, we use a technique called Melodic Intonation Therapy.  This uses the rhythm and melody of music to enable a person to learn to speak again.  It’s transforming and gives hope to regaining a sense of normalcy.

WHY IS MUSIC THERAPY BENEFICIAL FOR PATIENTS TO USE?

Music is a part of our lives from first cry to last breath. We are born having heard for months the sound of our mother’s heartbeat, the sounds of her voice, perhaps he singing or her music, feeling the movement of her walking, dancing.

Music is a part of birthdays, graduations, church services, school dances, ceremonies and brings with it a range of emotions which are imprinted on our mind and heart.  We can use those inherent music experiences to  stimulate the brain to reconnect us with hope, physical and emotional strength.

 IS MUSIC THERAPY THE SAME FOR ALL PATIENTS?

Not at all. Because the experience of music is different for each of us it is best to customize its use to the needs of each patient.  That may change as their illness improves or as their disease progresses.

WHAT HAPPENS DURING A TYPICAL MUSIC SESSION?

Each session is based upon the specific patient goal, i.e., to decrease pain, improve the quality of their gait, to encourage movement & range of motion, etc. So I may use a wind instrument, recorder, to increase deep or steady breathing and improve oxygenation.

Or a parent whose prognosis is poor may want to write a song for their children or spouse, so I facilitate that process by taking their words and setting them to the genre of music they choose.  Co-treating with physical therapists I can play music of the patient’s preference that supports the force and range of their muscle movement and range of motion.  Sessions vary widely.

 IS MUSIC THERAPY COVERED BY MEDICAL INSURANCE? IF NOT, WHAT IS THE COST RANGE?

In outpatient psychiatric settings it is normally covered and in some inpatient medical settings as well but it is it is handled differently by each insurance company.  For the best information on that because it can differ from state to state our American Music Therapy Association is an excellent resource.  www.musictherapy.org or 301 589-3300.

CAN HEALTHY INDIVIDUALS BENEFIT FROM MUSIC THERAPY?

Absolutely. To reduce stress, choose music to calm your mind and body, perhaps to prepare you for sleeping or before a challenging conversation.  To energize you when you’re feeling unmotivated – I listen to gospel music or Motown to clean my house;  as background to start a conversation with your children;  and nothing energizes me more to work out and exercise than music.  You walk farther and longer when you use your favorite songs.

HOW MANY SESSIONS SHOULD ONE PARTICIPATE IN?

Depending on the desired outcome it may be one session or I know some who have been in music therapy for months and years.

HOW HAS BEING A BREAST CANCER SURVIVOR, IMPACTED YOUR WORK WITH ORGANIZATIONS SUCH AS SUSAN G. KOMEN AND THE AMERICAN CANCER SOCIETY?

I identify with the fear, challenge, uncertainty, need for support and hope that a cancer diagnosis brings. I’ve been diagnosed twice within 10 months and I sought help to deal with it in support groups sponsored by the American Cancer Society.

Once I began my position as Director of Art & Music Therapy at University Hospitals, I realized the importance of research to find the best treatment and applied and was the recipient of grants from local foundations and national organizations such as Susan G. Komen. I’ve been invited me to share the work of music therapy all over the world for which I am most grateful.

TELL US ABOUT THE PLAY SING SISTAH, SING.

There is great disparity regarding cancer in the AA community.  We contract cancer in greater numbers than our white counterparts and we die from it more frequently.  That is unacceptable to me and I wanted to do something about it. I asked two female friends of mine who look like me and had experienced cancer if they would be share their stories in the form and to sing the songs that encouraged them through their cancer journey.

They both had voices of gold!!  They agreed and together we weaved information into a 20-minute skit about breast self examine, prevention, what treatment entailed and we tried to dispel some of the myths that are so common in our communities (don’t let them cut you open, because the cancer will spread; you can’t get breast cancer once you’re an old lady past menopause; if you have it don’t worry your daughter by telling her – she won’t get it because you have it).

The audience naturally gravitated to the songs (gospel/inspirational) we sang – powerful.  Our dialogue was authentic and transparent, we even offered to show them our scars.  They seemed to identify with us, were easily engaged in dialogue, signed up for free mammograms. We performed this in inner-city high rises, churches and community centers for over 3,000 women.

HOW CAN SOMEONE FIND YOU TO GET MORE INFORMATION?

A: American Music Therapy Association

8455 Colesville Road Suite 1000

Silver Spring, MD 20901

216 301 589-3300; Fax: 301-589-5175

www.musictherapy.org

Deforia Lane answers ‘Text Tom’ questions on the next page.

 

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