Using Music Therapy for Rehabilition & Education: Using Keyboard and Piano
Music Therapy & Emotions for Depression, Stress & Mental Health Issues
Hope Young is the founder of the Center for Music Therapy in Austin Texas. The two Youtube videos I’ve referenced are her describing some of the methods that might be used in two different music therapy situations.
In “Music Therapy & Emotions for Depression, Stress & Mental Health”, Young goes over the use of music therapy in the context of therapy for depression. She notes the importance of assessing the patient’s musical taste, possible musical associations, and generally figuring out where they’re coming from emotionally. She presents a hypothetical situation: we as viewers have just woken up in a psychiatric ward having tried to commit suicide.
She describes the types of severe depression that are most commonly associated with those who are suicidal; either experiencing what she calls the “empty tin man” feeling, which is depression so severe that the patients can’t feel anything, or experiencing intense anger that they have turned inwards upon themselves. Young says that it is extremely important to begin where the person is – in other words, you shouldn’t play a happy song to a depressed person. If the person is sad, she says she might start in a minor key, something slower, and if they’re anger, something more aggressive, paired with activities like banging a drum or throwing things against the wall to the music.
Young then says if a person doesn’t want to talk, she may just play something, improvising in a style they like, singing something to them that they might relate to or have associations with. She feels it can be just as important to not necessarily speak and just let the music connect to people. From this point on in the session, Young says she may not play another note, or might become an instrument for the patient and help them change the words to a song to help describe how they feel.
Young says that the job of the music therapist can also be to give people a way to organize their emotion. She describes the ability of music to open a lot of emotions, and the idea of using the music as a “container” to keep the emotion for them and prevent them from becoming overwhelmed. From an opened state, she says she might use the music to help close the container again, or possibly leave it open if there is another therapist/doctor coming to work with the patient afterwards on deeper issues.
“Music Therapy for Rehabilitation & Education” is a very similar video short describing some of the particular ways a keyboard instrument might be used in various rehabilitation contexts. The importance for her lay in the ability to not only help people regain their fine motor control using the specific movements and weights, but in allowing people to improvise. She shows how asking people to improvise on only white or black keys will always sound pleasing, and will be a motivating and rewarding experience. She believes that it would be a mistake to separate the human need for motivating, emotional, and rewarding experiences from the physical need for rehabilitation.
An interesting trick was that she showed how little songs might be used as memory devices to help patients remember important details about their day, or important information like their phone number. She plays an example, setting the words “My name is Mary and I’m in room 3” to the tune of Mary Had a Little Lamb.
Even though they were not the most scientific videos regarding music and its relation to the brain that I’ve come across, I thought it was interesting to just see a little bit of the physical work that a music therapist might do with a patient in a session. Although I’m very aware of what music therapists might do in a vague sense, I really have no clear bearing on exactly what it would look like in a session, taken out of academic context. I especially found this in watching the video with the snippet about treating a patient with severe depression. I think her most important points revolved around the fact that we are ultimately human and we need to find ways to connect to thinks in emotional ways, and this is especially true for those experiencing devastating depression.
To sum it up, this was my favourite quote, from the “Music Therapy for Rehabilitation” video: “You are human, you are naturally musical, and if anyone tells you otherwise you send them to me.” I would imagine many people think that music therapy wouldn’t work for them because they’re not musical, and I think there is more than enough evidence showing otherwise, so perhaps it’s just a matter of changing that perception.