Written by Ben Dwyer, OPG Staff
Though Music Therapy is relatively young within the health care field, music has been used as a form of healing dating back to the writings of Plato and Aristotle. In today’s modern society, Music Therapy interventions are now used to accomplish individualized goals for a vast array of conditions.
At OPG we utilize Music Therapy as a therapeutic tool to improve the lives of individuals with intellectual disabilities and those with Autism Spectrum Disorder. While we understand the importance of therapy and the difference it makes in the lives of the people we support, it isn’t just limited to supporting intellectual disabilities.
Dating back to World War II, Music Therapy has been used to treat anything from depression and speech delays, to schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress disorder. With the inception of the National Association for Music Therapy in 1950, to the modern American Music Therapy Association in 1998, the rise has been dramatic – with OPG’s growth of a single Music Therapist back in 2004, expanding to 18 board-certified therapists in 2017 exemplifying this.
Music Therapy matters as it’s able to help in ways traditional medicine cannot. As music stimulates both hemispheres of the brain, Music Therapy is able to address cognitive, emotional, motor, and social skills within individuals – often far more effectively than alternative forms of therapy. It provides an outlet, one which demonstrates a heightened level of interest and meaningful response.
"Music Therapy helps people gain skills and accomplish their dreams. The people who receive Music Therapy from OPG consistently rate that they are extremely satisfied with the therapy and that is likely because they are making progress while participating in musical experiences that were created based on their specific musical preferences."
- Lindsey Wright, Executive Director of Music Therapy
Music is a malleable medium, able to reach each person in its own unique way. It’s because of this that evidence has shown people with intellectual disabilities respond extremely well to individualized Music Therapy. That malleable nature goes hand-in-hand with the conditions it’s able to assist – both intellectual and physical.
Soon after his 18th birthday, Virginian teen Forrest Allen almost lost his life in a tragic snowboarding accident. He suffered traumatic brain injuries and was unable to speak for over two years. Ultimately, with the help of his Music Therapist, Tom Sweitzer, Forrest found his voice. Now 24-years-old, Forrest is living life to the fullest and will soon be featured in the upcoming documentary “Music Got Me Here”.
Music Therapists observe and adapt for each individual’s goals to foster growth. Utilizing finger movement on a keyboard, for example, can lend itself to the skill of using a computer keyboard. A person’s daily life can see significant improvement, even for those non-musically minded. Our bodies are hard-wired to keep a rhythm, with these rhythmic elements assisting at organizing sensory systems.
Music Therapy matters as it encourages active participation. Through music’s interactive qualities, therapists are able to explore personal feelings and bridge individuals within a non-threatening atmosphere. Real positive change in a person’s mood, emotional state, and communication levels are accomplished through research-based interventions conducted by a board-certified therapist.
Furthermore, active participation between individual and therapist supports turn-taking, listening, and responding – invaluable skills which can be applied across every avenue of life. Each of these elements add together to make a huge difference; boosting self-esteem and improving both relationships and motivation in the process.
Through therapy, people have gained skills in their life that they never thought they would have. Now rapidly expanding through the health care field, Music Therapy has an exciting future, one which is undoubtedly going to change more lives than ever before.
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