People of all ages love music. Whether toddlers are bobbing in time to “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” or octogenarians are snapping their fingers to Glenn Miller, music clearly has the power to calm people down or rev them up.
It can also be a form of treatment.
Music therapy can help children and adults who are experiencing behavioral, physiological, psychological, or emotional need. “Anyone who responds to music in a positive way can benefit from music therapy,” said Amanda Scott, a Board Certified Music Therapist who practices in and around Athens.
Music therapists typically have a bachelor’s or master’s degree in their specialty and have been certified by a national professional board. They are in private practices or in daycare centers, schools, hospitals, nursing homes and other community settings.
For example, Scott recently began working in an early intervention program for parents and preschool children.
As parents and children make music together, the music therapist can pinpoint issues that could turn into behavioral or psychological problems over time.
Later in life, music therapy is used to help adults suffering from confusion or loss or who are recovering from trauma. Music, Scott says, is experienced “in the here and now” -- and it enables people to re-organize thoughts. It can bring feelings back to the patient.
In Gray, Ga., a music therapy team – volunteers from Henderson Road Baptist Church – comes to the Lynn Haven Nursing Home every Thursday and Sunday. Pianist Wendy Hollowman, 37, plays hymns and songs of yesteryear for a roomful of enthusiastic listener.
Resident Alice Hughes, 73, played the piano her whole life until it became too difficult. “Now I’m glad someone else plays the music and gives me the opportunity to just listen,” she said.
Mary “Tillie” Bass, 85, was never a musician. She had a stroke last year and was discharged from the hospital to Lynn Haven. The music therapy program is the highlight of her week. “I love it, it takes my mind off of the fact that I have had a stroke, and helps lift my sprits while putting a pep in my step,” she said.
Not everyone responds to music therapy, Scott said, but most people do.
Rhythms and chord progressions reshuffle thoughts, help people get out of mental ruts, and can exert a powerful nostalgic pull that “takes the patient back to a place of positivity,” Scott said
People with serious anxiety disorders, including post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) often respond well to music therapy. There’s no single magic song for any of this, she says, and therapists have to figure out what works.
“Most people prefer music that they learned in their formative years,” she said. So a World War II veteran may find solace in the Andrews Sisters, while the Beatles might work for a Vietnam vet. “The purpose of song selection is to bring the patient back to a calming place,” Scott said.
Music can even help people who find most sounds unbearable. Children with misophonia, a disorder that makes them hypersensitive to sound, may shy away from all interactions.
Sometimes an exercise as basic as playing rhythmically on a triangle has helped such children become less reclusive.
The sound of music, and experiencing what it is like to make music, can reduce feelings of insecurity and ease anxiety for people whose daily lives have been undermined by these problems, Scott said.
For more information about music therapy in the Athens area, contact Amanda Scott or Shannon Sausser at Georgia Music Therapy at (706) 372-3758 or firstname.lastname@example.org.