MUSIC THERAPY By Cord Prettyman, MPT
A tiny infant lies in a neonatal ward. An incubator substitutes for the warmth of her mother’s arms. Tubes filled with nutrients replace her mother’s milk and every breath is a struggle. She is surrounded by other infants in distress – their monitors beeping in time with their struggle for life. Even through these infants are not fully conscious of their surroundings, the stressful noisy environment affects their ability to relax and sleep, which is essential for their survival.
Into this tragic hospital scene walks a harpist. As she begins to softly play an ancient lullaby, the monitors stabilize, the infants breathe more easily and many fall asleep – the first sleep they have had since the harpist’s last visit. These infants are fortunate enough to be in one of the 15-percent of American hospitals that incorporate music therapy into their health care protocols. Today, music therapy is being used in some of our leading hospitals – like Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City and Kravis Children’s Hospital at Mount Sinai Hospital. At Mount Sinai St. Luke’s, adolescent psychiatric inpatients are enjoying music therapists, while researchers at Harvard Medical School are investigating the connection between music and the brain.
The idea of music as a healing influence had its introduction into Western Allopathic Medicine in the 20thcentury, when musicians began going to Veteran’s hospitals after World Wars I and II to play for the thousands of veterans suffering from both the physical and psychological trauma of warfare. The patients’ notable healing response to music led the doctors to request the hiring of musicians by the hospital creating a demand for some type of educational curriculum. The first music therapy degree program in the world was founded at Michigan State University in 1994 and the American Music Therapy Association was created in 1998.
Today, music therapy is rapidly gaining recognition as an effective tool in addressing the physical, emotional, cognitive and social needs of individuals of all ages – infants to centenarians. Interventions can be designed to promote general wellness, manage stress, alleviate pain and help individuals express feelings. Research scientists contend that music’s ability to alter brainwaves creates changes in bodily functions governed by the autonomic nervous system – such as breathing and heart rate – which can help counteract or prevent the damaging effects of chronic stress and help calm children with ADD. Other studies have demonstrated the positive benefits of music therapy on treating depression and anxiety, lowering blood pressure, boosting immunity, easing chronic pain and helping cancer patients.
Today, there are over 66 colleges and universities offering degrees in music therapy – including Colorado State University. Certified music therapists are treating children and adults who suffer from Autism, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Cerebral Palsy and Down syndrome, as well as stroke victims. You’ll find music therapists working in psychiatric and medical hospitals, outpatient clinics, agencies for the developmentally disabled, senior centers, nursing homes and in private practice. Professionals are reporting that music can enhance social interaction, emotional expression and cognitive and motor skill development.
Here’s a testimonial from the website of NeuroRhythm Music Therapy Services in Colorado Springs: “Music therapy uses my son’s love for music to teach him how to learn, play and interact with people. He used to be very unhappy and appeared unteachable but music therapy broke down that wall and opened the door for him to learn in other settings. Now he is excelling in all of his therapies and schooling. It seems that every major accomplishment he does first happens during a music therapy session.”
– Parent of a child with autism
Perhaps there’s someone in your life who could benefit from the miracle of music.
Cord Prettyman is a certified Master Personal Trainer and owner of Absolute Workout Fitness and Post-Re-hab Studio in Woodland Park. He can be reached at 687-7437, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org through his website at www.cordprettyman.com.