What is Music Therapy?
Music Therapy is a health care profession that combines psychology and the art of music to improve the quality of life of a person of any age and level of ability. Music therapists use music based methods to address a person’s physical, emotional, cognitive, social and spiritual needs.
Music Therapy differs from academic and skills oriented training, as it focuses primarily on the client’s emotional expression, behaviour, personal experiences and overall well-being.
As everybody responds to music, no prior musical skills are needed for the client to benefit from this intervention.
A large body of international research and clinical work on the field has demonstrated the numerous positive outcomes of Music Therapy for people of all ages and levels of ability.
Everybody can benefit from this therapeutic intervention, and particularly people who need additional support. These include people with learning difficulties or special needs and adolescents with behavioural difficulties, as well as people with physical or mental health challenges, substance abuse problems, brain injuries and elderly with Dementia.
Common goals of a Music Therapy treatment plan include:
• To provide psychological support for people with emotional trauma, physical or mental illness
• To enhance family relations
• To promote greater self-awareness
• To assist in managing behaviour that challenges
• To provide opportunities for cognitive stimulation for people with intellectual disability
• To help in stress management
• To enhance the rehabilitation process for people with traumatic or acquired brain injury
• To provide comfort to people who receive end-of-life care.
How does it work?
Each Music Therapy programme is carefully designed, planned and evaluated on an ongoing basis alongside with the carer or team. Our person centred care plans ultimately aim to help clients function as independently as possible in their daily lives. Sessions can take place on a one-to-one basis or in group settings.
By using a variety of techniques (e.g. singing, instrument playing, movement to music, song-writing, song reminiscence, lyric analysis), the therapist works towards the goals that are specifically created for the individual or group, upon assessment of the clients’ strengths, needs and personal preferences.
For example, the therapist may help a bereaving person write their own song, enhancing their emotional expression and helping them through the grieving process. Or the therapist may use a variety of familiar songs in a systematic way to enhance vocalisations for a person who is non-verbal.
What Happens at a Session?
Each session (group or individual) is tailored to meet the identified needs and goals of the client. Just as no two people are the same, different techniques will elicit different outcomes in clients. Hence our delivery of a range of techniques are carefully tailored to meet each participant’s needs and abilities, as well as addressing their specific goals for intervention.
A variety of techniques may be applied at a session, including the following:
• Clinical Improvisation: Provides a platform for expression without the constraints and limitations of structured music or language.
• Music based games: Used to increase attention span, promote application to task (demonstrating how to complete a task, step by step), eye contact and turn taking.
• Instrument playing: To enhance motor skills and reduce agitation.
• Listening to music: Fosters relaxation and provides a means of emotional expression by enabling the client to relate to what is being expressed in the music.
• Song Writing and Composition: Helps clients express their feelings and communicate through the development of their own songs, giving them the freedom to express their inner thoughts and emotions. The written word gives the therapist a window to the client’s mind/world and opens up a route on which to build a therapeutic relationship to further explore their feelings.
• Singing Familiar Songs: Enhances speech and language skills, motivates, promotes a sense of belonging and connectedness and decreases levels of agitation.
• Lyric Analysis: Provides a platform to discuss and relate some of the person’s experience to what is being expressed in the songs.
• Relaxation to Music: Assists in emotional regulation and stress reduction.
• Movement to Music: Helps to reduce stress/tension and promotes self-regulation.
• Despite of confusion, disorientation, deterioration of speech and memory loss, people with dementia often continue to sing their favourite songs and dance to past tunes, when given the opportunity!!
• Research has shown that, even in late stages of dementia, the person can continue to respond to music, even when they are unresponsive to most other stimuli.
Music – A Powerful Intervention
Music has the capacity to encourage, energise and empower the release of a person’s true inner self. The planned use of music is being applied by music therapist worldwide to successfully address an elder person’s physical, mental, emotional, cognitive and social needs.
A strong body of international research supports the use of Music Therapy to help maintain or improve physical, mental, cognitive and psychological functions in the elderly.
By providing sensory stimulation and the opportunity to create, perform and move to music, a Music Therapy programme is a truly effective way of assisting the elderly in maintaining and improving their physical and psychological functions. The sense of joy and well-being that music induces has a calming effect on mind and body and is a powerful unifier when used in group interventions. It encourages conversation, sharing of reminiscences and, whilst not a pre-requisite to engage in Music Therapy, it may unleash a hidden or forgotten musical talent.
Our therapists have a vague experience working in the field of elder care, through partnerships with Hamilton Park.
Sessions are guided by the needs of our clients, as determined at the assessment phase and can be conducted on a one-to-one or group basis. Sessions can be delivered with or without instruments, with accompaniment (either live or pre-recorded) or acappella.
When working with groups, participants are placed in an environment that suits their personality and mental state. Some settle better in an open group, where they are free to come and go as they wish; others need to be placed in a closed group, where the make-up of the group is carefully composed to avoid placing additional conflict or unease on the patent.
Music Therapy’s positive outcomes in elderly care have been proven through years of research and clinical work on the field. We have carefully designed a range of Elderly Care Music Therapy programmes that focus on addressing the needs of the elderly in three main areas:
• Improves mobility, strength and muscle control
• Helps pain management
• Promotes relaxation and stress management; elicits positive physical reactions that reduce the risks of cardio-cerebral problems and high blood pressure
• Enhances the motivation for and engagement in physical rehabilitation exercises when these are combined with the use of music
Cognition & Communication
• Promotes sensory and intellectual stimulation
• Helps with reality orientation (time, place, person recognition) and information recall
• Improves attention/concentration and stimulates long and short-term memory
• Stimulates the mind through reminiscence and creative self-expression which helps to improve quality of life
• Provides an alternative means of communication when cognitive and language abilities are reduced
• Promotes a response, even in late-stage Dementia, when response to most other stimuli is impaired
• Provides the enjoyment of participation and promotes engagement, social interaction and a sense of belonging
• Provides an important way to cope with the stress of ageing, death or physical/ psychological failures, as it eliminates anxiety, depression and feelings of isolation
• Enhances self-esteem by providing opportunities for choice and control
• Facilitates expression of feelings and emotions
• Provides comfort and psychological support to clients and their families
• Improves mood, motivation, and overall well-being
• Decreases levels of stress and agitation and promotes positive behaviours
• Improves relaxation, sleep patterns and nutritional intake
• Song writing for self expression may help meet an elderly person’s bio-psychosocial and spiritual needs, as they approach the end of their life.