Guest Author: Wendy Chossek, CTRS, Life Style Consultant
Most people would agree that listening to music is therapeutic. How many of us use music to get through the average day? We use it to motivate us to start exercising or run that extra mile. For some music can help manage the morning commute on the subway or bus or bring on sleep at the end of the day. Listening to music is often an ideal way to take a break and just feel good. While we might recognize music as therapeutic, we may not recognize that music used therapeutically by trained medical professionals, can have health benefits for so many people and in many different ways.
Gabrielle Gifford’s remarkable recovery from a gunshot and specifically, regaining speech through the use of intensive music therapy, has brought new interest in music therapy and increased calls for more research to quality its effectiveness. In Congresswoman Giffords case, singing her favorite songs enabled her to regain the ability to speak. This is a common therapeutic intervention for stroke patients, as singing will come easier than speaking. They can often be stunned that language is still with them and that singing can restore speech. Research shows that these patients will use parts of the brain that are undamaged to initiate singing and in time, this part of the brain will then be called upon for speech. The same remarkable ability of the brain to find a way to “bypass” damaged neurons lets someone who stutters, sing flawlessly and someone with advanced Alzheimer’s or other dementia sing when they hear a familiar song, long after they have stopped engaging in conversation. Here is an excellent report from NBC Nightly News.
In our senior communities, music plays an important role in our programming, including music for just simple appreciation. Music therapy is used very specifically to reach clinical goals. Music therapy can be used with a prescriptive approach, for memory enhancement or speech recovery as with Gabrielle Giffords or part of wellness efforts, specifically intervention efforts with people with early stage Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s.
Listen to The Healing Power of Music on PBS NEWSHOUR, February 27, 2012, Spencer Michael reports about the versatility of music therapy in medical settings and the new studies to quantify effectiveness, beginning with Gabrielle Giffords.
Music therapists use multiple music experiences, singing, song writing, music playing and movement to help people hold on to memory function, speech integrity and flexibility of movement for as long as possible. Music therapy can also be effective with people suffering from chronic pain, such as fibromyalgia, to express emotion and fight fatigue. Music therapy has another key advantage as therapies go; it is enjoyable. For example, our music trivia program targets memory recall and cognition but at the same time brings on many smiles. Similarly, sing-alongs let everyone reminisce and benefits cognition, but it is also fun.
All this attention to music therapy and its efficacy is very welcome for those who work in the profession. Music therapists are board certified and in some states licensed. If you would like to learn more about music therapy, here are some recent news reports that have caught our eye.
Would you like to learn more about music therapy? Ira Flatow host of Science Friday, together with a panel of experts talks in depth about the effectiveness of music therapy on December 16, 2011. Guests: Oliver Sacks, Professor of Neurology and Psychiatry at Columbia and author of “Awakenings”, Connie Tomaino, Executive Director of the Institute for Music and Neurologic Function, Joke Bratt, Associate Professor, Creative Arts Department, Drexel University and Andrew Rosetti, Music Therapist at Beth Israel Medical Center.
Wendy Chossek has been helping seniors stay active for over sixteen years. She is a CTRS-Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist and earned a Bachelor of Science in Therapeutic Recreation from UW-LaCrosse. Wendy is also a former Fit Over 50 Exercise Instructor and an active member of the Arthritis Foundation.