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.

What Does a Music Therapist Do Anyway?

Learning about music therapy.

 

 

When I was in high school, I remember one person saying she was interested in going into Music Therapy. I also remember thinking, that’s a thing? It seemed like something pretty neat, but I had no context for it.  

 For many years that has been the case with the majority of people, but thankfully that is changing. 

Music and emotions.

I’m going to talk to you about music from a layperson’s perspective here.

Let’s not make it complicated, we all know that music impacts us, don’t we? That’s why we put on certain kinds of music when we need motivation to work hard physically (whether it’s on the basketball court or mopping the floor). Melancholy music suits us when we have a broken heart. Joyful music is used in all kinds of celebration. Orchestral music, while it doesn’t have a literal story line often tells of a mood that we can collectively agree on. Composer John Williams is well known for writing the theme music which carried us along in our favorite films.

We know this, we know that somehow music gets into us and the effect runs deep.

Music therapists study the scientific components of what happens emotionally and neurologically to a person when music is played, then uses that knowledge to integrate music in therapy. More study is being done on the effects on the brain and development of children when music combined with music are a routine part of their lives. The possibility that music aids in healing is being explored as music is brought into hospitals for children, babies and older patients. Children and young persons with autism are benefitting from therapy involving music, often one on one with a therapist. And there is some exploration of bringing music therapy into schools.

So much has been gained in the area of research, but I hope to see it continue so that more people can benefit from music therapy.

It seems to me that music therapists, while relatively new in profession, bring to the table one of the oldest friends of mental and emotional health, making it accessible to those who need it most. You see, those who are very young, very old, physically or mentally sick often don’t have access to music the way we do. 

If a teen with a broken heart can find a little comfort in the rhythm and words of this song by going to Youtube and dancing to something like this. Dancing in itself can be soothing. But the key thing is having that access.

When I was going through a really devastating and depressing year I listened to these songs over and over. Medicine for my soul indeed!

[Tweet “We know that somehow music gets into us and the effect runs deep.”]

One of the problems is that not everyone has access to music.

The residents in elder care depend on family, friends and recreation directors to bring music into their lives. Without them, the lives of many elderly in eldercare facilities wouldn’t have the music they love. And it’s important to have the music they love, not only for their emotional wellbeing, but also for mental stimulation that good memories bring.

Research in music therapy helps professionals who work with aging persons know what a difference music in their lives makes. I think it would be wonderful if each nursing home had a music therapist either on staff or hired to work with the recreational activity director.

How about in our schools? How about in conjunction with children who have anxiety? Or how about just to break the ice so all of the kids feel more connected to each other. I hope the trend for more and more research and more music therapists in each town and city continues. And it is, read this article to see it from one music therapists perspective as she sees her profession become more understood and recognized: And What Exactly is That Anyway?

 

Would you like to learn more about music therapy?

Here are some links for you to explore if you would like to know more about what music therapy is, what is does and the research that is ongoing with music therapy:

About music therapy:

http://www.musictherapy.org/about/musictherapy/

Music therapy in hospitals:

http://www.musicasmedicine.com/about/mtinhospitals.cfm

http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/features/healing-with-music-therapy#1

Music therapy in schools:

http://mtp.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2015/04/14/mtp.miv012.extract

http://www.musictherapy.org/assets/1/7/MT_Music_Ed_2006.pdf

http://www.coastmusictherapy.com/our-services/in-school-programs/

Music therapy in eldercare:

http://www.ascseniorcare.com/music-therapy-seniors/

https://www.longtermsol.com/benefits-of-music-therapy-for-seniorsblog/

http://www.caringheartsofrochester.com/the-benefits-of-music-therapy-for-the-elderly/

Now it’s your turn, help spread the word about music therapy and its benefits!

http://sessioncafe.com/lets-flourish/

You can read this very personal post from Janet, founder of Bear Paw Creek, about the therapy her daughter received while fighting cancer:

Fighting cancer and music therapy

Comment below and tell us what songs lift you or soothe you. Do you have a favorite song or style? I bet you can still a song you learned when you were little… ahh the power of music.

Afte that, would you please share this post and others like it, so that we can start to get the word out and help people understand what music therapy is and what it’s potential is for future therapy? Thank you! 

 

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 their story, connecting them to customers online.

You can find Jenette’s business website at www.mywordsforhire.com.

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Stretchy Band Activities Round Up

Stretchy Band Activities Round Up

 

 

Every few months I like to do a search to see if anyone has written any new blog posts on using the stretchy band.

I am always excited to find one and also humbled. It’s a humbling thing to see something that you’ve created and sewn up, used by someone else.  It is usually used as a teaching tool and brings happiness and fun in the process.

This will be a round up of the posts I have found this year. Thank you to all that take the time to share so others can learn and be inspired!

The Many Names of the Stretchy Band

  • Rainbow Scrunchie
  • Mr. Stretchy
  • Rainbow Ring
  • Stretchy Band
  • Rainbow Elastic

Do you call it something different?  I’d love to hear! Leave a comment below.

On to the great round up!

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Bumpin’ Down the Hill in My Little Red Sled by Toneworks Music Therapy

Sticky Bubblegum from Fairy Twins Book Time

From Magical Movement Company

  • Singing “The Old Grey Cat” song
  • Stepping to the Beat & Clapping Rhythms
  • “Bouncing” rhythm patterns with our “Giant Rainbow Elastic!”

Look what we can do with a giant rainbow elastic

Stretching Learning with Stretchy Bands by Sing Play Creatively

Using a Giant Scrunchie by Rhythm Express

Seven Jumps by Mrs. Miracle Music Room

Hope you enjoy this round up! If you have a blog or share things please comment or email Janet at [email protected]

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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.

Stretchy Band Movement Prop, Music, and Dementia

Stretchy Band Movement Prop, Music, and Dementia

 

 

A few years ago we went with our neighbor’s to a local assisted living facility. Caroline’s Dad lives there, and they head over once a month with their guitar, banjo, voices and meet some friends to put on a show for the residents.

 

Some of our children were able to join in the band that night, while some of us joined the audience. Music is a universal connector of people, isn’t it?

 

One lady in particular could sing every song, and belt it out perfectly.  Yet – once the music stopped, it’s as if her brain froze. 

 

The power of music on the brain fascinates me. I am so glad there is more research being done and those of you that are working  to bring care and awareness.

 

This post will showcase some ways you can use the stretchy band in dementia care.

Music Stretchy Band Dementia

The Connect-a-Stretchy Band and Dementia

The Connect-a-Stretchy Band from Bear Paw Creek, is a staple in my bag of tricks! I love it because it can be used with all age groups to meet a variety of goals.  An indispensable feature is that it can be re-sized easily and immediately to fit the size of your groups.  One of my favorite places to use the Connect-a-Stretchy Band is with my groups who have dementia. I often walk into these facilities to find people sitting together in a room, but not interacting with each other.  They may be sleeping, watching t.v., confused, depressed or irritable.  The Connect-a-Stretchy Band is an invaluable tool to help clients who have difficulty socializing, become engaged and “connected” to others.

After a warm up period of singing familiar songs and perhaps, a Hello, song, I introduce the Connect-a-Stretchy Band.  While sitting in a circle with everyone holding it, I strum the autoharp to encourage gross motor movements – up & down, in & out, side to side.  We’ll move and sing to familiar songs like Edelweiss or Take Me Out to the Ballgame.  I also use recorded music so I can also participate and help guide movements.  People who are sleeping or perhaps confused, are automatically connected and supported by their neighbor’s movements. It’s not unusual to see clients wake up, begin smiling and singing. It’s important to remember to keep movements simple and take into account health issues that may impact their abilities such as arthritis. However, once they hear a favorite song or dance, you may find your clients moving to the beat in ways they haven’t in years.

Head on over to Rhythm Works Music Therapy and see the rest of Linda’s ideas (including some polkas!)

 

[Tweet “@RhythmWorksMT shares the way they use the stretchy band with dementia care.”]

Is Music the Key to Trigger Memories?

This beautiful article features the stretchy band in use at an amazing event in August 2016.  The workshop was created by Marigrace Becker of the Memory and Brain Wellness Center, part of the UW Medicine Neurosciences Institute. Its underlying purpose, she said, is to empower people living with memory loss and their care partners to become social activists in raising  in community awareness. 

Activities were designed for people of all ages and abilities. In a seated circle dance led by Susan Wickett-Ford of Silver Kite Community Arts, everyone held onto a stretchy band of rainbow-colored fabric, which they moved up and down and side to side to a classic Breton folk song. The circle’s members had to work together and rely on each other to maintain the dance.

Life with dementia_ Seniors expand children’s awarenessBrain wellness center creates workshop to enhance community understanding and empower people with memory loss

I agree wholeheartedly with Becker when she states: “Ultimately, I want to see more and more of these workshops happening all around the world, simultaneously,” Becker said. “The time has come to recognize that people living with memory loss can lead the way in building communities that are welcoming, understanding and accessible to all.”

Take a moment to see some clips from their day. Truly inspiring.

 

Movement, Dance, and Dementia Resource

From professional papers to advice and music resources, you may want to take a look at this “Movement, Dance and Dementia Resources” page. 

A few highlighted quotes from the article:

There is a growing recognition that exposure to the arts can help dementia sufferers to reconnect with themselves and even slow their rate of decline. Increasingly, music is helping doctors and carers reach those who have become stranded by this debilitating condition.

These 60-minute sessions reveal previously hidden aspects of the patients to their carers; likes and dislikes, talents and memories – it all helps piece together the jigsaw of an identity obscured by illness. “Perhaps that patient reveals a love for a film or a place, a time or an event; something that carers didn’t know about but can use in their communication with that patient, another way to connect with a seemingly closed personality. It’s a glimpse of the real person underneath,” said Meynell.

Some of the movement props suggested are: scarves, feathers, stretchy bands, parachutes, balloon, hats, and fans. 

I hope this post will encourage your engagement with sufferers of dementia.  I hope we can continue to integrate the aged with the young, we all benefit greatly from multi-generational activities.

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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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3 Bean Bag Games For Thanksgiving

Games to Encourage Thankfulness.

Are you looking for a few low-prep games to inspire thanksgiving on the part of your students, your family and even yourself?

Well, here are three you can play with bean bags.

For two of the games, bean bags are all you’ll need. For the last one, you’ll need some buckets or a few bowls (or boxes… Whatever you have handy.) Each of these games can take up just fifteen minutes or can be played as long as you like.

active-games-to-encourage-thankfulness-1

Thanksgiving is good for the soul.

Autumn is a time to enjoy sweaters, cool walks, and baking sweets and bread without overheating the house.

It’s cozy.

Yet everything seems to speed up this time of year and we can find the holidays upon us if we dare to blink. In the stores we see Thanksgiving items laid out beside Christmas decorations before October has even closed her door. This used to frustrate me, but honestly, this year I’m filled with anticipation because Thanksgiving has become one of my favorite celebrations. 

grateful03-fb

Woven throughout my family’s history, is a struggle with various kinds of depression and anxiety. As I grew into a woman, my mom shared that history with me and she also shared with me the role thanksgiving can play in refocusing our thoughts.

My mom relied on three strategies when she was depressed:

  1. Focusing on her belief in the goodness and love of God and casting her cares on Him.
  2. Giving thanks for past graces and gifts in her life.
  3. Finding ways to bless other people.

Depression is no light matter, and these are not easy-as-pie strategies, in fact, body chemistry is often involved in depression. However, these strategies have played a part in keeping me going through my bouts with nonclinical depression. 

  • A spirit of thankfulness helps us and blesses other people as we express our appreciation for them.
  • Thanksgiving is an attitude we want to instill in our children as much for their benefit as for the benefit of others.
  • Memories of hard times and how we made it through, are especially strengthening (as much as those memories of good times.)

In the midst of the coming Thanksgiving season, these fun games can turn our hearts toward being thankful and perhaps spark some good conversations about memories of times past.

“The unthankful heart… discovers no mercies; but let the thankful heart sweep through the day and, as the magnet finds the iron, so it will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings!” -Henry Ward Beecher

[Tweet ““…but let the thankful heart sweep through the day and, as the magnet finds the iron, so it will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings!” -Henry Ward Beecher”]

Here are three fun & simple bean bag games for promoting thankfulness.

These games can be played in or out of doors depending on the weather in your neck of the woods. They work great:

  • In a preschool with little ones.
  • For a rainy day recess at school.
  • In your living room for a circle-time homeschool activity.
  • For recreation time in a nursing home.
  • For Sunday school or youth group time.
  • For your family on Thanksgiving Day, when the kids are restless. 

Game 1:

You’ll need one bean bag for this game. 

  1. Have everyone sit in a circle facing each other (on the floor or in chairs.)
  2. One person has a bean bag in his hand.
  3. He tells what how he is thankful for someone else in the circle, then tosses the bean bag to that person.
  4. That person tells how she is thankful for someone else in the circle and tosses the bean bag to that person.

Make sure the teacher is also seated in the circle so that he or she can make sure that thankfulness can be expressed for each child in the circle. If needed the teacher start by being the one to express thankfulness for each child and having that child toss the bean bag back after she has tossed it to him. The teacher then repeats this until each child has heard what the teacher is thankful for in that child.

 

How long has it been since you've played with bean bags-

Game 2:

You’ll need one bean bag for this game.

  1. Have everyone sit in a circle facing each other.
  2. Start by saying something you are thankful for that starts with the letter A.
  3. Toss or hand the bean bag to the person beside you.
  4. That person tells something she is thankful for which starts with the letter B.
  5. Continue around the circle until you get to Z.

Don’t worry if this gets a little silly. The point is to have fun and get the juices going about being thankful. Another variation is to put on music and pass it around until the music stops, then have that person tell the thing that he is thankful for. Turn the music back on and continue around until it stops, then let the next person say what he’s thankful for.

 

Game 3:

You’ll need a dozen bean bags for this game and twelve sheets of paper.

  1. Put the sheets of paper side by side in sets of threes on the floor or on a table (no drinks, snacks or breakables on the table please.)
  2. On the papers write one of the following words, so that each set of papers has one of each word:
    • People.
    • Things.
    • Memories.
  3. Divide everyone into four groups (each group will have three bean bags). If you only have a few people, then just make two groups.
  4. When you say, “Go!”
    • The person at the front of the line says a person’s name for which he is thankful then tosses a beanbag in the bowl marked People.
    • He then tells something he is thankful for and tosses the bean bag in the bowl marked Things.
    • Lastly, he tosses a bean bag in the bowl marked Memory as he tells of something he’s thankful for doing.
  5. He then picks up the bean bags out of the bowl and passes it to the next person in line.
  6. The next person repeats steps four and five.

A few important notes: If you have a student in class who has trouble with speech, skip saying “Go!” and having the groups race each other. Instead, make it a turn-taking activity. You can still split large classes into four groups but have them go to different corners of the room to take turns.

This is a game which would be fun to play intergenerationally as younger people could share in the memories of their grandparents. 

A variation of this game which might work well in a nursing home would be to tape off the floor in the middle of the sitting area into four squares with a subject for each square which could be marked: Place, Person, Memory, Food. The residents could sit in the chairs and in wheelchairs surrounding the squares. If the bean bag lands on memory, the person tossing the bean bag can tell of a person they are thankful for. If the bean bag lands on place she can tell of a favorite place she is thankful for. 

 

 

 

Print out these bean bag games and take them with you.

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I know it’s handy to be able to file ideas like this, so feel free to print out this pdf of these games and take them with you to class, or wherever you’ll be using them.

If you’re looking for a great resource to buy fbean bags, Bear Paw Creek has got them for you. You can buy a dozen bean bags and they’ll come with a handy tote to store them in. Speaking of storage, have you taken a look at this post Julie Palmieri wrote about storing movement props and musical instruments? She has great tips and links for organizing. Take a look!

 

What games will you be playing to connect and get the “wiggles” out with your kids this Thanksgiving? Leave a note in the comments and share your ideas with us.

 

Hello, my name is Jenette Clay. I’m a freelance writer, but most of all a wife, mom, daughter and friend. I blog at www.mywordsforhire.com about how small businesses can improve their internet presence. I’m thankful for the inspiration and encouragement Janet has given me as a friend and client through Bear Paw Creek. If you’re looking for an example of how to build an effective small business website, Bear Paw Creek is a great place to start.

 

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