Music is a very important aspect of students’ lives. With phones and iPods, they have it in their ears almost 24/7. Not only is it an important part of their life experience, but also their brain regulation.
Exploring Music Therapy
Now some would argue the messages often sent in the music may not be healthy. Yet, those of us committed to using brain-based methods to help regulate our students recognize how music can be an important asset to our students. Here is an article posted this week by Melissa Lampert in Health and Beauty, Santa Clarita Latest News.
What is music therapy?
Many of us may think we know how to answer this question, but for those who have never had any direct experience with it, the methods behind music therapy and its potential benefits remain a mystery.
The American Music Therapy Association defines music therapy as the clinical and evidence-based use of music within a therapeutic relationship to accomplish individualized goals, which can include physical, emotional, cognitive and social needs.
“The research in music therapy and neurology is expanding daily in terms of how the brain is actually processing music,” said Celeste Keith, a board certified music therapist and owner of THE MUSIC WORKS Music Therapy in Sacramento. “We have circuitry, in essence, that’s solely dedicated to the processing of music and rhythm is a huge piece of it.”
Even in the case of brain damage due to disease or trauma, the brain can still process rhythm and tempo, Keith added.
“You can have damage in the brain from any number of things– disease, trauma, you name it –and the brain can still process rhythm and tempo,” she said. “Rerouting the neuroplasticity of the brain allows for lots of rerouting and relearning of skill sets, so a music therapist is incorporating that into their work.”
Music therapists use a variety of strategies to help address the needs of their patients, ranging from simply listening to music to actively creating music through writing or playing an instrument, either independently or in a social setting with others.
“There’s a clinical aspect to what we do in determining what type of strategy might be involved, but these are the ways that we provide interface with a person no matter what it is they’re contending with,” Keith said.
At THE MUSIC WORKS Music Therapy, one way Keith and her team of music therapists help improve the quality of life of their patients is through the use of drums with Comfort Sound Technology, which is designed to be accessible to individuals with disabilities.
A composite drumhead material developed by the Santa Clarita-based drum manufacturer Remo, Inc., Comfort Sound Technology delivers a unique quality of sound by eliminating or suppressing higher-frequencies and delivering a low, powerful fundamental tone with a big vibration but shortened decay. The sound may not be overstimulating to individuals with sound sensitivities, such as those with autism, Alzheimer’s disease or PTSD.
“In my practice our age range is very broad; the youngest client we’ve worked with is three weeks of age, the oldest is 104,” Keith said. “So we bring the drum into a setting where there’s real significant sensory coping problems: children with autism, or individuals that have some sort of neural damage, and there’s seizure disorders. And so loud sounds startle responses are all part of the picture.”
When a patient strikes a drum with Comfort Sound Technology, it produces a gentler sound that Keith said is not “in your face all of a sudden.” For those who choose not to actually play the drum themselves, they can benefit from the tactile stimulation of touching the surface of the drum as well as feeling its low vibrations, whether from across the room or even underneath a drum table.
“You almost feel it before you hear it…
…and so there’s lots of ways to experience the drum besides just actually tapping it– and that’s important,” Keith said. “You can get under the drum, so you can surround yourself with sound so the whole body can take it in. We tend to think that we hear with our ears, but we really hear with our entire being, and so it allows for that sensory experience for an individual.”
While those with sound sensitivities may particularly benefit from music therapy that uses drums with Comfort Sound Technology, it is the job of the music therapist to determine the best approach for each individual patient, according to Keith.
“There isn’t any one right piece of music for each individual,” she said. “It’s kind of like your fingerprint, your own experience and what you bring to the table, what types of instrumentation, orchestration of a piece of music– these are all things that a music therapist has to look at with a patient in determining what’s going to be attractive, what’s going to pull them in and help them proceed down the rehabilitation or self-care trail.”
More and more we are able to see how music can help our students heal, regulate and become capable to grow in their goals and in their lives. It is important that professionals who deal with students who have specific needs recognize the value of music therapy to assist them in their growth and development.
Gerry Vassar, President/CEO, Lakeside Educational Network