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Music Therapy Expands Services With New Clinic Space

Aug. 8, 2012
SHSU Media Contact: Kim Mathie

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Student music therapists Noelani-Mei Ascio and Frank Castillo work with Owen Grimes (center), son of SHSU School of Music opera director Rebecca Grimes, who has autism, in the new music therapy clinic at SHSU. The clinic is now accepting clients by appointment for therapy sessions, which have been proven effective for restoring, maintaining and improving emotional, cognitive, social, physiological and spiritual health and wellbeing. —Submitted photo

 

After more than 25 years operating without a facility, the SHSU music therapy program finally has a clinic to call its own, a space that associate professor and director of music therapy Karen Miller says will create “numerous opportunities for both our students and the community.”

While the music therapy program has operated in the Huntsville community for almost 30 years—with students working in schools, hospitals, and nursing homes—this past February marked the first time services were offered in a clinical space created specifically for music therapy students and their clients.

With the new music therapy clinic, those services will expand, according to Miller.

Music therapy is the prescribed use of music and musical interventions by nationally certified music therapists for the purpose of restoring, maintaining and improving emotional, cognitive, social, physiological and spiritual health and wellbeing. It has been found effective for people of all ages, from young children to adults.

“We’re constantly educating people about the profession, about the variety of applications for music therapy,” said Miller. “Music therapists use music’s effects on the brain to bring about improvement in motor skills, communication, cognitive processes, and social/emotional health. Most often, they treat individuals who have disabilities or illnesses, though music therapy is also used in wellness programs.”

Through the SHSU clinic, students will reach out to individuals in the community who have difficulties resulting from strokes, brain injuries, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, developmental disabilities, mental health challenges, illnesses or situational challenges necessitating additional support.

“We’ve had a music therapy group for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities meet here faithfully since February,” said Miller. “We have also treated individual clients with a variety of psychosocial, neurological and developmental needs.”

Music therapy clients do not need to be musically inclined; they only need to have a positive response to music. Therapists will conduct an initial assessment with each client or group to help them determine potential benefit and the styles of music and treatment procedures that will likely work best.

Sessions may involve active music making by the client and therapist—for example, singing, instrument playing, or songwriting, or a more passive approach during which the therapist provides the music for the client who responds in a nonmusical way. Music-assisted relaxation is an example of a more passive approach.

Some of the outcomes that frequently result from music therapy services include improved walking and functional movement, increased speech and language functioning, improved social communication, and decreased anxiety and perception of pain, just to name a few.

“Through the clinic we can offer more to the community, and students get a good grasp of the diversity in the field of music therapy,” said Miller.

The music therapy clinic is the result of the efforts of former School of Music director Mike Bankhead, Computer Science Chair Peter Cooper, and Provost Jamie Hebert, who recognized the need and allowed for the renovation of an old computer science space in Academic Building I.

Academic Building I Room 201, where the clinic can be found, is a large room peppered with instruments, a small lobby, an office for graduate students, and an observation room, Miller said.

Having a dedicated clinic provides the program with the best of both worlds: a secure space to provide therapeutic services as well as providing a crucial educational component.

“Students can gain clinical experience right here on campus; the clinic allows them a variety of observation opportunities as well as the chance to spend more time on the development of clinical skills in preparation for the full-time internship required at the end of the program,” said Miller. “Observation opportunities may be especially beneficial to our first- and second-year students since they will now be able to observe live therapy sessions prior to the start of their clinical rotations.

“There are very few board certified music therapists (MT-BCs) practicing in the Huntsville area, so in order for SHSU music therapy students to gain necessary clinical experience they are supervised directly by SHSU music therapy faculty. Until now, that has required a great deal of time and travel on the part of both students and faculty, and opportunities to observe practicing MT-BCs have been very limited.”

Assistant professor of music therapy Hayoung Lim also emphasized that the clinic is essential for music therapy research.

“Music therapy is an applied science and exclusively based on research,” she said. “With the new music therapy clinic, more evidence-based practice and research in music therapy will be possible, which will develop not only the music therapy program at SHSU but also the entire music therapy field.

“Students will learn so much from observing others’ sessions, gaining professionalism and responsibility for their practice and work,” she said. “It also prepares them for internship and job applications.”

A permanent space will also allow clients to have easier access to music therapy services and effective consultations from a music therapy supervisor to ensure their progress, according to Lim.

The services are free and offered to those who indicate potential for benefit during an initial assessment process. Sessions will be held by appointment only.

So far word-of-mouth brings in the most clients.

“We’ve had a music therapy group for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities meet here faithfully since February,” said Miller. “We have also treated individual clients with a variety of psychosocial, neurological, and developmental needs."

As this understanding grows, more clients might seek out their services.

“Through the clinic we can offer more to the community and students get a good grasp of the diversity in the field of music therapy,” said Miller.

The next goal of the music therapy clinic is to secure a graduate assistant to manage the clinic and a few much needed items from their wish list including instruments of all kinds (especially rhythm instruments), locked storage cabinets and video equipment.

SHSU’s music therapy program is ideal for students who have the potential to be excellent musicians and excellent therapists.

“They need a core musicianship that makes them flexible,” Miller said. “They will need to develop broad skills in different instruments and different types of music. Music Therapists have to be able to offer the music that’s going to work for the individual client, and research indicates that music that is familiar to and preferred by the client is usually best.”

Miller also said music therapists need to be passionate about helping and working in the healthcare profession—they must be nurturing, empathetic and emotionally stable.

The SHSU School of Music offers bachelor’s and master’s degree in music therapy or, for the student who already holds a bachelor’s degree in a related field, a master’s equivalency combination. Programs are accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music and approved by the American Music Therapy Association.

For more information about the music therapy program, contact Miller at 936.294.1376 or karenmiller@shsu.edu, or to schedule an assessment, contact the music therapy clinic at 936.294.3972.

 

 

 

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