Giving Thanks for Music Therapists

Incorporating Music in Health, Healing, & Comfort

 

Like many of you, I incorporate music into my life. I play an upbeat playlist, while I work or clean. Maybe you like to play guitar and sing a sad or fun ditty depending on your mood. We turn to these things in order to express and process a full range of emotions: to celebrate, to energize, to soothe, to make us forget our troubles for a time.

In this post, I want to honor and give thanks to Music Therapists for bringing music (and often dancing) to the field of therapy. I’m going to dial down and highlight the therapy they bring to people in nursing homes and for end of life care. I hope this post will help you understand the significance of music to the world of therapy and how these professionals bring these two worlds together.

“Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.” – Victor Hugo

What does a Music Therapist do?

When I was in Highschool, one of my friends said that she was interested in pursuing a degree in Music Therapy and I was pretty clueless about it. However, when I started working with Bear Paw Creek, I became aware of the profession again. Over the last few years, as I’ve been following the work of Music Therapists online, I’ve seen the influence they’ve had in areas of therapy, research and education. And they’ve earned my respect.

When people hear the words, “Music Therapist” often they can have one of two reactions. 

One reaction is to wonder whether music is effective for therapy.

For that reason, many studies have been done to explore the healing effects that music therapy can bring to people. Here is a link for an excellent resource discussing the benefits of music for end of life care: A critical realist evaluation of a music therapy intervention in palliative care.

The truth is, that most of us don’t need to read studies to prove to us that music has a huge impact on our wellbeing.

For example, these weeks I have been a struggle with anxiety and sadness. Like many of you, the first thing I reach for is music. Whether I’m singing in my car or listening through headphones on the computer while I work, I’m putting on the music that helps me cry or lifts my spirit. 

Reaching for music is what many of us do. We play our favorite playlist, pick on a guitar sing a sad or fun ditty, these things we instinctively feel are good for us: body and soul.

The second response we may give is, “Do we need therapy professionals who specialize in Music as a form of Therapy?”

Some may wonder why a separate profession is required for the use of music as therapy. If it’s good, and we know it is, why don’t we just incorporate it into care? Do we need a music therapist to make that happen? 

The education of the Music Therapist and integrates the study of music with the study of health, development, and psychology. They not only understand music and its effects but they also study to understand people, therefore, they can match the therapy with the client.

Erin Seibert expresses the true value of Music Therapy. She also gives fascinating insight into the origins of Music Therapy in this TEDx Talks Video. Please take the time to watch this powerful, clear presentation:

The Influence of Music Therapy in Elder Care and Palliative Care

 

 

 

To illustrate the impact that Music Therapists are having in other types of care and therapy, I just want to highlight elder care and end of life care (which is called palliative therapy.)

When my mom passed, I was overseas and unable to get there before she died because it was so quick. She was surrounded by my dad, my sister and people who love her and by music, as they sang to her the hymns that she and they loved. The comfort was not only for her but also for those who loved her. It also comforted me to know that she was comforted even as I was trying to get a passport to come to her side. This is palliative care.

I used to visit one of my aunts who was bedridden in a nursing home. It hit home to me that the videos and music she had were very dependant on what was brought to her. When I was visiting there were a few things she loved: Chocolate, laughing at funny memories, having cream rubbed into her hurting feet and being sung to. My aunt had a beautiful voice when she was young and a bunch of people who loved her provided her with music and videos to watch. If we didn’t bring her music and sing to her, she wouldn’t have had music in her life. This is elder care.

What about people who don’t have family members or friends to visit them?

This Podcast, from Collective Music Therapy, is very poignant and illustrates the role that Music Therapy may play in the case of someone who doesn’t have a relative or other loved one to bring them comfort during end-of-life care.

Music Therapy in Palliative Care: The Beatles reinterpreted to ease the end of a journey.

And what of the elderly and dying who’s loved ones are able to care for them? 

Often the work involved in caring can break down the relationship through stress and weariness that comes with the territory. Music Therapists can create a bridge that reconnects family members as husband and wife, parent and child, or sisters instead of simply caregiver and patient. What they bring into the space is an opportunity to rest, reconnect and laugh together.

“The long and short of it is that, as care recipients’ health declined, caregivers were at increased risk of moving further and further away from their pre-illness identity in the context of their relationship with the care recipient. That means caregivers interacted less and less as a spouse, parent or child with the care recipient: acts of love (i.e., eating dinner with my wife) transformed into mechanicals acts of service (i.e., feeding dinner to my wife) that became less about fulfilling the need to relate meaningfully to a loved one and more about meeting the “next” need.” A Possible way Forward with Hospice Caregivers during Pre-Bereavement by Noah Potvin Ph.D., MT-BC

Music Therapy can reconnect the caregiver and the patient, giving them access to memories and music that is meaningful to both of them.

About 2 years ago I wrote a post called Recreational Activities for Dementia and Alzheimer Patients. In it, I shared a video by Simon McDermott – The Songaminute Man, who reconnected with his dad through music. His latest video is below and he is offering an album of his father’s music to raise money for Alzheimer’s research here: www.songaminuteman.com

I have watched the past few years as Music Therapists have been among the forefront of addressing, you guessed it, music therapy among the elderly in all kinds of settings. Here are some of the articles and podcasts coming from the Music Therapist community on that subject and many of them are very poignant:

Also, from a son’s perspective:

You can see the influence Music Therapy is having in elder and palliative care.

Take that influence and multiply it across many disciplines, from childhood development to early education and also working with troubled teens and adults with depression, PTSD, addictions, the list goes on. I’ve been writing articles for Bear Paw Creek for just a few years now, standing as if from the outside, looking in. And this community of professionals called Music Therapists really impresses me. I look forward to seeing more of what they will do for the world of therapy in the future.

I hope you take a moment to learn about this profession and discover how what they are learning can impact our lives for good. Give thanks with me for the Music Therapists among us. And take the time to read some of the articles and consider how to apply some of what they are learning and teaching to your own life, at home, in school with someone you love who is elderly. 

 

For those who work specifically in Elder Care, thank you!

Here are some resources for you on our blog:

Something to do:

In this post, I’ve talked about the way that Music Therapists reach out and bring comfort and healing to the elderly. You can be a part of this as well. In this season of thanks, here is a list of games with bean bags to use with any age. These games would be perfect to use as a mixer for children, youth and the elderly. Take these games to a nursing home and bring young people with you to play them. 

 

Jenette is a freelance writer of web content, blogs, and podcast show notes. She is also a wife and imperfect mother, whose family mean the world to her. She has a high respect for business owners and entrepreneurs of all kinds. She enjoys helping them tell the story of their company, products, and services, connecting them online with those who would like to find them by the written word. You can find Jenette’s business website at www.mywordsforhire.com.

Music Therapy and Movement Props

For our long time customers you know that Bear Paw Creek got started all because of Music Therapy.

You can read about it on our About Us page, but here is a synopsis.

With a passion to create an income from home and inspired by my sister, Kathy Schumacher, MT-BC, a traveling music therapist, we (Christopher and Janet Stephens) opened Props & Bags, Etc in January 2000. I meshed my love of sewing with the creation of a unique line of movement props along with solutions for organizing and transporting them.

Today I have three special links to share all about Music Therapy! 

Music Therapy and Movement PRops

Movement Props In Practice by Music Therapy Connections

I was thrilled last month when Rachel Rambach sent me an email telling me about her and Katie Kamerad’s latest CMTE course, based all around Bear Paw Creek movement props: bean bags, stretchy band, balloon ball, scarves, and wrist jingles.  Here is what they say about it: 

Movement props are an essential part of our music therapy toolbox.

“We love them because they are incredibly versatile: most of our props can be used with a variety of populations, from our early childhood classes, to individual music therapy sessions, to our older adult groups.In these settings, we use movement props to address a multitude of goals and objectives — in many cases, within one single song.

We’ve written a collection of songs specifically for use with movement props, and in this course, we’re sharing them with you.Not only that, but we’re showing you exactly how we implement these songs and use movement props in practice through footage from our classes and sessions.

The tools and techniques provided in this course will give you a solid foundation for incorporating movement props (and our adaptable song collection!) in your own practice.”

 

Click on the image to learn more!  Even if you don’t require the CMTE credits, it’s worth the investment to get access to their songs and intervention ideas!  AND this course is part of our biggest back to school sale this month!  Six days left to enter (Winner will be drawn 8-29-18.)

 

Movement Props in Practice by Music Therapy Connections

What is Music Therapy?

This is one of those questions that receives many answers.  There has been an interesting documentary just released to the public that goes about answering this question.  It showcases the history, research, different interventions, literacy, eldercare, movement, and much more.  I hope you’ll take the time to check it out.

I also came across an interesting research article based in the UK all about “How Music Helps with Mental Health – Mind Boosting Benefits of Music Therapy”.

They answer the question as follows:

Music therapy is classed as a form of expressive therapy that works to improve physical and mental health through the expression of emotions. There are two forms of music therapy, and these are called active and receptive. In the former, you will create music with your therapist or group (depending on the type of therapy you have sought).

This helps you to deal with emotions, alleviate stress, and can even relieve the symptoms of conditions like Alzheimer’s (something we will look at later). Receptive music therapy, on the other hand, is where you listen to music while you draw or partake in other relaxing activities.

In short, music therapy tends to consist of three potential activities: playing music, singing, or listening to music. You can either create your own music or learn to play specific pieces that you will practice and develop over time – it depends on your personal preferences. You also have plenty of choices, as you can decide what kind of music therapy you take as well as the type of music that you play.

The author continues on with six more specific parts discussing music therapy and it’s uses.  Click on the image below to head to the full article.

7 Parts to Music Therapy

 

 

Leave a comment with HOW you answer the question!

Janet Stephens is the founder and creator behind Bear Paw Creek’s creative movement props and bags. She is passionate about learning and sharing along the way.

Movement Props and Sensory Integration

With Winter lingering on for seemingly forever, tis the season for sensory dysregulation and cabin fever. Many of my clients get extra wiggly in sessions and groups this time of year. With the cold keeping us trapped inside, it can be difficult to get the sunlight and sensory input that our bodies crave. Luckily, Janet makes some of the best tools to help keep kids active and regulated through, what I think, is the worst stretch of the winter months.

Simple Sensory Rules

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Figuring out how to best provide sensory input to children can be challenging, especially if you are learning it all on your own. Here are some guidelines on how to provide the best sensory experience.

  1. If it is not helping to regulate the child, it may not be the right sensory activity for them.
  2. After a vestibular activity, like rocking or spinning, provide a proprioceptive activity, like the wheel barrow walk or body squeezes.
  3. If you spin, always make sure to unspin in the opposite direction.
  4. Start with a large body activity, like jumping, and end with a small body activity, like using putty or play dough.
  5. Keep it simple and consistent!

Tactile Input – Touching or feeling

One of my favorite tactile tools to use in session are the Bear Paw Creek textured bean bags. With many different exteriors to the bean bag, there are opportunities for every tactile seeker to find a bean bag they like. I have shared in previous posts the ways I use these bean bags in session.

Textured Bean Bags

TEXTURED BEAN BAGS

In addition to feeling textures and squishing the bean bag on the body that I mentioned in previous posts, I like to rub the bean bag on different body parts to provide a variety of tactile sensations and activate the mind-body connection. I use the song “Rub, rub, rub” to tell children where they are going to rub the textured bean bag on their body, in time with the music. I use this activity at the start of sessions to help get kids focused and engaged in the group! This song is featured on my Mini Musical Minds CD which has a variety of songs for sensorimotor skills, instrument play and more!

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[Tweet “Movement Props to the Rescue with winter lingering on for seemingly forever, tis the season for sensory dysregulation and cabin fever”]

Auditory Input – Hearing

Bear Paw Creek has a variety of sensorimotor props, but Janet also sells wrist jingle bells. Jingle bells are one of my favorite auditory stimulating instruments. The sound is strong enough that it activates the auditory processing centers in the brain, but it is not too loud to cause dysregulation or distress. To work on auditory input and processing, I like to play a game called “I hear something playing”.

Jingle Bell Wrist Scrunchie on Connect-a-Band for movement activities

Jingle Bell Wrist Scrunchie on Connect-a-Stretchy Band

Children sit in a circle, each with jingle bells behind their back. I have children close their eyes and I walk around the outside of the circle and tap one child to be the instrument player. I then instruct children to open their eyes and I begin singing the words “I hear something playing” and the child I tapped to be the instrument player will shake their jingle bells softly behind their back. I continue to sing “I hear something playing” and see if the other children in the circle can identify where the sound is coming from. I ask “what can it be?” and “where can it be?”.  Depending on how sneaky the instrument player is, it can take a few times before all the children can identify the sound source. You can also play this game with a variety of instruments and the children have to guess where the sound is coming from and what instrument is playing the sound.

 

Proprioceptive and Vestibular Input – Spinning, rocking, and jumping to feel where our body is in space

I have written many posts about the stretchy band and it is still my favorite sensorimotor prop to use in session. The reason why I love it so much is because it is so versatile! In the posts I mentioned above, I share several ideas to use the stretchy band for a variety of skills. Another way you can use the band to aid in sensory integration is through the inherent resistance of the stretchy band to help sway the body front, back, side to side, up and down, and all around.

I use a simple chant to help guide the direction of my clients when using the stretchy band for sensory integration. I sit on the floor with them and wrap one end of a small stretchy band around myself and one end around my client. I then start chanting “front and back, front and back, that’s how we go” and we move in time with the chant. I gently pull the client forward when I say “front” and they have to pull me and rock backwards when I say “back”. We repeat this idea on the verses “side to side” as well as “up and down”, moving the way the words tell us to move. To add more sensory input, you can stand with the client and add a verse such as “jump and jump” where they have to jump with the stretchy band and bounce it up and down.

Stretchy Band Sleigh Ride with Jingles and Snow

I find that providing consistent sensory input is the number one way to improve overall attention in my sessions and minimize negative behaviors from my clients who have a difficult time controlling their body, especially in a group. Bear Paw Creek’s sensorimotor props make it easy and fun to make sensory integration activities for children of all ages and abilities!

 

On my blog, I’ve shared additional sensory tips and strategies you can use to keep your children, clients and students stay regulated through the last of the cold months. I hope these resources are helpful for you and the children in your life to stay active and engaged. A regulated child is a happy child, and that makes music groups so much more fun!

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Written by: Alyssa Wilkins, MT-BC, owner and founder Dynamic Lynks Alyssa is a passionate Autism provider, Board Certified Music Therapist, music educator and adaptive yoga instructor.

[THEMES] Christmas: Music, literacy, and more!

Christmas music to get you moving and grooving!

 

It’s December, and most likely your focus has been on incorporating holiday music into your lessons and sessions. It’s a festive time of year, and in my opinion, adding holiday music to your music lineup brings a lot of JOY to you and your students and clients.

Here at Bear Paw Creek, since we focus on music and movement, we wanted to highlight how you can incorporate movement in your music classes and sessions. We’ve also included a handy YouTube playlist to inspire you in planning your sessions, lessons, or classes this holiday season.

 

Jingle Bells

Who doesn’t love the sound of jingle bells at this time of year? Besides the familiar Jingle Bells and Jingle Bell Rock, you can use your jingle bells with lots of different Christmas songs, as well. Two favorites of mine are Silver Bells and Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town. These jingle bell scrunchies can be perfect to use when addressing fine motor skills, such as grasping. 

If you are looking to stretch your repertoire beyond Jingle Bells, however, SKS Music Therapy has it covered here in this blog post entitled appropriately “Past Jingle Bells: Three Ideas for Palate-Cleansing Christmas Music.” 

Music therapist Ryan Judd also covers a couple of easy to learn holiday songs for kids with special needs on his vlog — including using jingle bells. Watch his video here.

[Tweet “Christmas music music and movement ideas from @BearPawCreek here!”]

Stretchy Band & Connect-a-Stretchy-Band

When incorporating Christmas music with movement, you can’t go wrong with upbeat classics like Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree and Leroy Anderson’s Sleigh Ride. The Stretchy Band or Connect-a-Stretchy-Band are excellent props that you can use to support your student’s or client’s movements.

If you are looking to slow the tempo a bit and really focus on slow and controlled motor movements, you can always incorporate the slow jazz version of O Christmas Tree by the Vince Guaraldi Trio or White Christmas for your older adults.

If you work with older adults, Rachelle Norman, MT-BC blogged about some “fresh” music ideas. She shares her post here.

 

Bear Paw Creek Christmas Playlist 2017

Scarves & Streamers

Scarves and streamers are a perfect addition to your Christmas music sessions and classes.

Skater’s Waltz & Skating by The Vince Guaraldi Trio

These two selections are perfect for pairing with scarves (I like using shades of pink, blue, purple and white at this time of year). If you work with younger children, you can add paper plate skates! Take a simple white paper plate, have your kiddos step on them, “lace them up,” and skate away. This works best on carpet. 

Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy – Pentatonix

I really love this version of the Sugar Plum Fairy because of its’ strong beat. You can keep a steady beat with your streamers while having your clients or students mirror your movements. Read our post about why a steady beat is important. 

An activity extension is to take turns having different leaders and see the creative ideas come forth from your clients and students!

Songs in ¾ time

¾ time in music lends itself well to smooth, sweeping motions. Just think of your favorite waltz dance. Do you automatically start to sway to the beat? 

Grab your favorite scarves or streamers and sway, bounce, tap, toss and catch, roll, balance, and turn to these great selections that are in in ¾ time.

  • It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year – Andy Williams
  • Coventry Carol – Pentatonix
  • Away in the Manger
  • What Child is This?
  • My Favorite Things – from The Sound of Music

Special Downloads & Printables

Movement Action Cards

You can pair these great movement cards with a freeze song of your choice. These great, colorful, and fun movement cards from the Oopsey Daisy Blog are a favorite of mine for the early childhood crowd.

Download them here.

Activity Ideas Download 

Coast Music Therapy offers this great download of activity ideas that teach social, language, and motor skills. 

Download here.

 

Christmas + Literacy = A great combo!

There are so many great singable books that you can use at this time of year. I pull these books out every year with my own children, and we enjoy being snuggled together while singing these wonderful and beautiful books.

Click on each book image to purchase on Amazon. 

Little Drummer Boy – Ezra Jack Keats

How the Grinch Stole Christmas – Dr. Seuss

Snowmen at Christmas – Caralyn Buehner

Jingle Bells – Iza Trapani

Take a look at some of our previous Christmas-related blog posts:

What are your favorite Christmas songs that you use in your music therapy sessions or music classes? 

And in closing, we hope you have a musical and wonderful holiday!

Written by: Julie Palmieri, MM, MT-BC is the Creative Director of Serenade Designs, which specializes in helping music therapists create, enhance, and ROCK their online presence. She is a board-certified music therapist, wife, and Momma to 2 beautiful girls. She loves Christmas, chocolate, and Detroit Red Wings hockey. Visit her website here: Serenade-Designs.com

Better Together Stretchy Band Song

 

The past Friday Megan Martin, MA, MT-BC of Healing Sounds Music Therapy messaged me about a new song she wrote to use with the stretchy band.  I am always excited about new music to share and the story behind this is pretty special. 

Her song “Better Together” is pretty special and is a great reminder that we all are truly better together!

 

 

Better Together song by Megan Martin for the stretchy band

Why Are We “Better Together”?

You can read the post and see the full video on their blog at Healing Sounds. 

But here is a quote by Megan, “I began to write “Better Together” a month ago, after the violence of Charlottesville, not too far from our office in Midlothian. I held my children a little tighter that day. I was saddened watching people tear each other a part. I wanted to help. The words, “better together”, resonated in a big way after that day. We are better together. I want my children to know, without a doubt, that my love will always surround them. With those sentiments, I put together a song about love for each other, as well as directional concepts, fine and gross motor movements, and tactile sensory integration. We sit together, in a circle, connected by a colorful band that cannot be broken. My love with always hold us together.” 

She also said she would be willing to share the sheet music.  You can email her here if you are interested: [email protected]

Below you will find the snippet of the video with the song.

[Tweet “We really are “Better Together”! Check out this great song to use with the stretchy band. “]

“Better Together” also sums up what I love about building an online Tribe.   Here we create and sew up the stretchy band that inspires creative movement and song writing – which then can by used by others to reach even more.  Connected together through a prop and music around the world!

We can all learn from this song, we ARE “Better Together”! 

Janet Stephens is the founder and creator behind Bear Paw Creek’s creative movement props and bags. She is passionate about learning and sharing along the way.

Songs at My Speed by Margie La Bella

Margie La Bella from Music Therapy Tunes explains where the vision for her newest cd, “Songs At My Speed,” came from. It is available as a physical cd and also digital cd.

She is also adding a cd to our back to school giveaway.  With over $400 MSRP in prizes, it is the biggest giveaway Bear Paw Creek has ever done to date!

Keep reading to learn more about it.

Margie La Bella with CD

Ask Margie

What is the idea behind your CD?   “SONGS AT MY SPEED” has been purposefully crafted to allow kids the opportunity to sing along to their most desired, time-tested songs through the slowing of the lyrics but NOT the drive and movement of the Beat. 

Margie La Bella Songs at My Speed

How did your project start?     A speech pathologist friend of mine suggested I make a CD of slowed lyrics because the kids on her case load weren’t able to sing along with their peers during class circle time. 

Why not?  The kids in my school all have speech/language delays and other related issues.  Speech is insanely complicated and requires precise manipulation of breath, lips, tongue, jaw, and hard and soft palates.  Not only that but the movement has to be in the correct intensity and sound sequential order.  So, my music and the slow lyrics allow these kids to plan, sequence and coordinate their whole oral structure.  In other words, it allows them extra time to get their words out and be heard!  The rehearsal of this all fosters acquisition of new skills. 

I hear that music and language are related….    That couldn’t be more true! Think of it.  Music and language both require auditory perception,  give and take, listening and responding, coordinated attention , auditory discrimination, correct volume,  pitch (intonation),  proper speed, auditory processing and assigning of meaning, syllabic emphasis (think meter/pulse.) The list could go on and on.

So is music really on the right hemisphere and language on the left?  

Music and Brain

Music is all over the brain.  So many things are happening at once. Singing is linguistic, motoric, muscular, respiratory, cognitive and more.  Part of what makes music so powerful is that it is a whole brain experience. (Science used to believe that language was on the left side, but this has changed.)  That’s why it is such an immense,  vital tool for teaching.  Songs teach.  This website has it right! If a part of a system is affected, an different part can help make up for it.  The brain has so much plasticity,  and music is such an intrinsic motivator and reward that if an issue occurs, then  a new alternative neuropathway can be established and strengthened.  This is what I take advantage of as a music therapist!  

Here are some video snippets of what you can expect from her cd.  Enjoy!

[Tweet “Margie Labella’s newest cd – Songs At My Speed – interview! Plus enter to win it.”]

Any last words?   My intent with this CD is to create a situation where kids and their adults explore and play with sounds and language,  and where learning happens as a happy (but deliberate on my part) byproduct.    Listen to the sample songs and you’ll “see” what I mean! 

Janet Stephens is the founder and creator behind Bear Paw Creek’s creative movement props and bags. She is passionate about learning and sharing along the way.
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