Music Therapy and Integrative Health
I have been passionate about integrative wellness since before I knew what “integrative wellness” meant. Three years ago, I was lucky enough to develop a music therapy program in a hospital setting. As I was exploring my own therapeutic style, I noticed that when I received a referral for pain management, what often helped alleviate that pain was giving voice (musically or verbally) to fears and worries. When I received referrals for infants in acute respiratory distress, I started to notice that simple, repetitive guitar patterns and nurturing, resonant humming would result in deeper, more productive breathing. When working with someone who was hospitalized long-term during pregnancy, I found that guided meditations paired with live music helped to provide respite from the four walls of the same room they’d been in for weeks by visualizing a personalized place in nature. Within each experience, what I was learning is that physical health and mental health are integrated in more ways than I had imagined.
Music is a unique medium with capacity to simultaneously impact our mind, body, and spirit; because of this, the impact can be powerful.
Being unemployed due to the pandemic forced me to pause and really consider how I believed music therapy could impact wellness, especially at this critical moment. At the same time, in conversations with friends I noticed that many of us were feeling that the pandemic had brought us face-to-face with the realization that we had been prioritizing “external” things like work, events, social gatherings, daily chores, and so on, and had neglected our core needs. Many of us have felt paralyzed by a deep understanding that change was needed, but didn’t know how or where to start.
Coming Home to Ampersand
As I searched for ways to move forward personally and professionally, joining the group at Ampersand felt like a homecoming. It is so grounding to be among people who all agree that we are complex individuals with diverse lived experiences, and we need our wellness strategies to be equally complex. While I believe music therapy is an incredibly impactful treatment option, I also know that music therapy alone cannot meet every need. As part of this integrative team, I feel fully confident that for anything that may arise, there is a practitioner here who can step in to collaborate in helping that person on their journey towards wholeness and wellness. What a gift to be able to treat people in the ways they want and need to be treated.
When we really pay attention to music that we’re listening to, we notice that the music is made up of individual moving parts that come together to create a song. If one part falls behind or fades out, it would impact the sound of the song in a big way. I like to view integrative wellness through the same lens; as individuals we are composed of unique, dynamic parts, each of which needs care and attention in order to create a cohesive, beautiful being.
Music therapist, Kenneth Bruscia, once said, “Health is wholeness–a harmony of the parts; thus, a common goal of music therapy is to help the client to make connections of all kinds, to put the parts of themself, their life, and their world together into a harmonious whole.”
When practitioners at Ampersand work together to help people develop an awareness of how to care for all of the interconnected parts of themselves, we are helping folks to move towards their own harmonious whole. I feel so fortunate to be part of that process, using music-based interventions to help people of all ages better understand themselves and uncover their inner worlds.
Music often communicates my thoughts better than my own words, so I made a playlist of songs that reflect the ways that I hope we are able to move into our individual and collective “harmonious whole” in the coming year. Click here to listen to the playlist.