How Music Therapy Might Help Someone You Love
How Music Therapy Might Help Someone You Love
Show Notes & Links:
- My Possibilities
- HIPSTER Golf Classic
- Donate to My Possibilities
- My Possibilities on Facebook
- Contact My Possibilities
The Story of Henry
Connect with us:
- Lifestyle Frisco on Google+
- Lifestyle Frisco on Facebook
- Lifestyle Frisco on Twitter
- Lifestyle Frisco on LinkedIn
- Lifestyle Frisco on Flickr
Scott: Welcome to the Frisco podcast. We are glad to be back and our first guest on the reboot of the podcast is Esther Craven, board certified music therapist. She has a Bachelor of Music in Music Therapy and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology both from SMU. Esther works in a non-profit called My Possibilities, where they do a number of things where particular area is music therapy. We’re going to let her explain a little bit more about what that really is and how it helps people, but it is a common treatment for use with people with disabilities, such as autism or Down syndrome. It is often used for people who have had traumatic head or brain injuries, who may have had spina bifida, epilepsy or any number of other neurological diseases. Quite frankly I never fully knew or understood what music therapy was, how it worked, if it worked well. She’s going to get into all of that with us and it was a really interesting story and in particular, we wanted to share this because not only it’s insightful and educational but it’s the thing that may also help someone out there. This is definitely a community-focused effort, so we hope you guys enjoy it and we’re going to let Esther tell you all about life of a music therapist. Esther, thank you for joining us today. Welcome to the Frisco podcast.
Esther: Thank you.
Scott: You work for a non-profit called My Possibilities, correct?
Esther: That’s right.
Scott: Tell us a little bit about what you guys do there.
Esther: Sure. My Possibilities is a non-profit in Plano, Texas that serves adults with disabilities. We provide continuing education for adults that are over the age of 18 for all of Collin County and all over DFW quite honestly. We serve about 300 of these adults and about a hundred … That’s 300 adults on a weekly basis and about 180 on a day-to-day basis. They go to classes very similarly to have a wood end school and public school and then we also have therapists available there; speech therapy, music therapy and then also counseling on site.
Scott: Very good. Your area of specialty is the music therapy.
Esther: Is music, yes that is what I do.
Scott: I want to cue this up a little nit for everybody that’s listening. We met Esther at an event at someone’s home a few weeks ago, where a string quartet was invited out to play and it was part of the Open Classical Mic series. Did I get that right?
Scott: It’s for relatively young men who were on tour and there are really a lot of fun, extremely good. You were there, we were there and that was an event in Frisco and we met and you and I got to chatting a little bit about what you do. It was absolutely fascinating to me because I’ve heard of music therapy but I never really understood what that is or what that means and what it can do for people. It just so happens that earlier that day I had seen a video on YouTube or Facebook or somewhere of an older gentleman who was in pretty bad shape. When they started playing him music from his youth, music that was very meaningful to him, he just lit up. He came to life and he was able to talk again and carry on a conversation at least for a little while. It really blew my mind that music could do that for somebody. I’m going to ask you to explain to us a little bit more about what music theory is or not music theory; we know a lot about that, about what music therapy is. Then let’s talk a little bit about that type of a scenario how does music help somebody almost come back to life that way.
Esther: Absolutely. Music therapy uses how music impacts the brain. The easiest way to summarize it is that when your brain hears music, it lights up like fireworks. It affects many difficult parts of your brain and there are ways that are very measurable that your brain responds to music that changes behavior, changes the human experience. It impacts your emotions. It causes you to want to move, maybe to want to cry. Maybe it pulls up a memory that otherwise would have been inaccessible. You described the video and this is a very commonly seen thing that music can help someone that has neurological differences or perhaps Alzheimer’s dementia to recall things that otherwise they’re incapable of recalling. Music therapy goes a step beyond just hearing of recorded music, which is probably what you saw and actually uses music in a live interactive way. If you think about how counseling works or really any type of therapy, they’re using a medium, so you can think about talk therapy. They are using talking through something to work on overcoming an obstacle or improving a skill or you can think about occupational therapy and how they’ll use certain processes to improve functionality and overcoming deficits. Music therapy does the same thing but it’s using the medium of music and how that impacts your brain. Occasionally, we will use recorded music, like you saw on the video, but most of the time it is with live instruments, like guitar and piano, voice. It’s not just me the music therapist making music, it’s myself and the client or the patient or the student making the music together. It’s that process that is music therapy.
Scott: Part of your job is to sing and play instruments with the people that you’re working with.
Esther: All the time.
Scott: We got a video of doing a little cover for us earlier and you sing very well. You have a love voice.
Esther: Thank you. Thank you.
Scott: That’s very fun and gratifying to get that kind of response and to work with people and get the reaction. What long-term benefits do you see them getting out of that? I can imagine there’s an immediate response. They were playing together, were singing together, but how does that impact them longer term?
Esther: Absolutely. You’re absolutely correct. In the moment, your brain responds and you will get some response. Maybe you have someone that is very minimally responsive for whatever reason. Maybe it’s a traumatic brain injury. Maybe they were born with some neurological developmental difference and they’re minimally responsive and they respond to music or maybe they have Alzheimer’s dementia and you get that initial response. Then the question is how are they responding to music and how can you harness that and over time stretch that responsiveness so that maybe they’re not just opening their eyes or blinking when they hear music or maybe they’re not just perking up and becoming more alert and maybe now they are looking around the room. They begin to vocalize just a little bit. Maybe it’s just a hum or it’s just a small sound with the music. Maybe there’s a communication thing there that you can then work on and then they work up to being able to speak again. Traumatic brain injury is a really good example of that. A lot of people have heard of Gabby Giffords.
Scott: She was the senator I believe in Arizona that got shot.
Esther: Correct, shot in the head. Music therapy was a huge part of her recovery process, so simply when it comes to communication and also a lot of motor skills as well. You could have damage in part of your brain maybe. Usually, it broken Wernicke’s area that deals with speech. You can use music to overcome those. A long-term benefit example might be that at the beginning. Gabby Giffords heard the music and let’s say I don’t know because I was not her music therapist, but I could guess that she could open her mouth and maybe singing 1 note and then as time went on she was able to sing a series of notes then maybe break those notes up into a rhythm. Then the therapist probably used matching her voice, pairing her voice with motor movement, like tapping, flapping or patting or anything like that to the rhythm of speech. Then we start imitating what speech sounds like and feels like in singing and then eventually we start adding specific consonants or specific vowels and then you take a phrase. Maybe it’s just, “Hi, how are you?” You set it to music. You learn it just in singing with the melody, with the vowels, you add the consonants. Then you start to take away the melody and see if you can just say it. The long-term goal there would clearly be be able to speak again, be able to communicate again and that really is the reality for Gabby Giffords and music therapy was a large part of it I understand.
Scott: That’s interesting. I hadn’t heard about that part of her recovery. It sounds like there’s a very well-defined process for helping people overcome those things and taking them from point A to point B and in getting back to a point that quite frankly most of us take for granted every day, which is something as simple as speech.
Esther: That’s one thing a lot of folks aren’t necessarily aware of. When they hear about music therapy, most people will think of a nice person playing piano and singing for you, but that’s not really the reality of it. There are specific goals and objectives that are set at the onset of therapy and then a specific process you go to in order to meet those long term. Part of the [BD 09:34] of it is how intentional that process is, really tends to get people to their goals. If you set the goal and your intention about why you’re doing what you’re doing through the music experiences then at the end of 6 months, a year, whatever it is then you tend to accomplish those goals because of the intentionality of the process.
Scott: How frequently does somebody have to come in for therapy in order to get the benefits of it?
Esther: Great question. All depends on the person. For my folks at My Possibilities, mostly I see them either once, twice or 3 times a week, usually for about 30 minutes to an hour. That 30-minute window is really great from those who have limited attention span. If I was going to work in a hospital setting, it could be anything from 10 minutes to an hour an a half. At some places like substance abuse recovery or psychiatric settings, you’ll have established times like you’ll have music therapy between 1:00 and 2:00 every day. It just depends. Really the time is set based on whatever the patient or client needs in order to meet there.
Scott: Makes sense. We’re going to go a little deeper now, because I’m getting more and more interested in some of the science behind this. You’re probably going to way over my head but that’s okay. How is it that if I lose the ability to speak or I have smother neurological issue that music allows me to still come back to functioning in some way? Maybe I can’t talk, but I can sing. I hear a song and I started singing along with it.
Scott: They seem like the same thing but they’re not, I’m guessing.
Esther: Let me clarify first; of course, I’m not a neurologist. Your brain is an elastic organ, which means that it’s constantly changing. The elasticity of the brain is something that is talked about all the time and so essentially what that means is that when 1 area of the brain fails has damaged, there’s an issue. Your brain can make new connections, new pathways for those neurons to connect and for synopsis to occur the same … so maybe the same pathway, the same connections happening but it’s through a different route. It redirects, connect your GPS, “We’re riding. We’re riding.”
Scott: Good analogy.
Esther: Your brain learns things clearly. That’s where we hold our knowledge and our memory and so music is one way of relearning those connections, those pathways. Basically, you’re simulating a different part of your brain through music and then helping your brain to figure out how to work around whatever that deficit is. I’m speaking mostly here of neurological differences and then traumatic brain injury and this thing, but also consider if there was an emotional issue going on. Sometimes it’s very difficult to express what’s going on if there’s a trauma to process that. Because music will affect these other parts of your brain sometimes that facilitates certain things like processing. It’s really difficult to talk about it but you can express it nonverbally through music and then eventually move into song writing about it and then you can talk about you wrote this piece of music, what does that mean. Again, maybe it’s not even necessarily that there’s a deficit in your brain, but it’s another way of going about to the same goal. You’re getting to the same place but through different route.
Scott:: That makes sense. Hopefully, we’re all able to follow along [inaudible 13:03]. This also is interesting to me because this has nothing to do with necessarily an injury or anything, but it makes sense to me why when I hear certain music while I’m working out, all of a sudden I get a lot more energy.
Scott: How does that happen? I’ll be fatigued and for people my age will relate to this. If eye of the tiger comes on, we all get rocky in our heads and we start … all of a sudden I’m running faster and I’m lifting more weights, whatever. How does that do that for me? Is it the same kind of mechanism that’s at work there?
Esther: Same kind of mechanism. Again, neurologist could tell you a lot more about specifics of it. Your brain will … It’s called entraining. Your body will entrain to a beat to a specific rhythm to music. It responds. Your body responds physiologically to that stimulus appearing in that beat that music in very significant way. When I work in a hospital, we would use music for babies in the NICU. They would respond to very, very, very slow lullabies. They’re very quiet. The stimulus is very minimal, but their bodies would entrain to that and then if we were to say speed up that music, their physiological, their heart rates, their breathing, their O2 rate would also be affected, would change in relation to how the music is changing and our bodies to sign of regular basis. There’s some music psychology out there that at least how grocery stores or stores in general will use music to either get people in and out really quick or to get them to hang around for a long time to check out everything. The next time you’re in the store think about it.
Scott: Oh no.
Esther: You were absolutely being manipulated by music all the time.
Scott: I’m just wearing my [noisy-busy 15:06] headphones everywhere I go so I don’t have to worry about that, my tinfoil hat I guess.
Esther: I don’t remember the name of the company right now, but there is actually a company that sells specific types of music to companies that want to accomplish specific thing with their music, so like elevator music. Why is elevator music elevator music? Scott: That’s a great question.
Esther: I don’t have an answer for that, but it’s obviously that kind of beat jazzy stuff …
Scott: It’s still calming.
Esther: Like I said, it’s just very neat. We entrain to the music just naturally.
Scott: When I hear music, especially certain types of music or certain songs and it makes me feel in certain way more energetic, happy, whatever. It’s not just in my head. There’s something … It’s largely in my head but there’s something very physiological happening there too not just my interpretation.
Scott: Interesting. As a non-profit; I’m going to segway here, I’m sure you guys are always in the mode of raising funds and doing things and needing to support your business and the people that you work with. Before we get in to how people can reach you and learn more about this or if they have somebody in their home or know somebody that benefit from your services, how can the rest of us help out?
Esther: I love being asked that question. My Possibilities holds fundraisers regularly all year around. The one that’s coming up the soonest is on August 31st. It is our … We call it our HIPster Golf Classic. You might say, “Why hipster?”
Scott: That was my next question.
Esther: We call our clients hugely important people. They are hugely important people; H, I, P, HIPsters. We call them our HIPsters. This is really a name that they’ve really embraced and they own it. They call themselves, “I’m a HIPster. I am a hugely important person.” Anyhow, this golf classic is being held for them to fundraise for them and that is again on August 31st and probably the most immediate way to help out would be to go join, go play golf, go register.
Scott: Go play golf. What a great way to help.
Esther: Absolutely. Then if August 31st isn’t your cup of tea then in December we also have Santa Run and this is … I don’t know how to describe how much this is, but it’s a huge event where a bunch of walkers, runners, anybody, families, dogs come to the Dr. Pepper Center. It’s actually very close to Frisco; Dr. Pepper Snapple. Everyone assembles in Santa suits and you register for the event and you get a free Santa suit. You don’t worry about that at all and then participate in this walk. I don’t know how to describe how amazing it is to see thousands of Santas walking or running for such an amazing cause.
Scott: Does that happen just in the area of Dr. Pepper Snapple as it run …?
Esther: Correct. It’s on that campus and around the streets there.
Scott: Dr. Pepper does a lot of stuff with us in Frisco. We got the arena and the ballpark and on and on and on, so that sounds to be a very good tie in of us.
Esther: If you might want to see all those Santas or be one of them, like our Facebook page. That’s the best way to get updates right now, so it’s just My Possibilities Facebook page. Then finally for helping out, we always are looking for sponsors. For the golf tournament, right now we’re looking for sponsors. If you’re a company or an individual that happens to really want to dig in, that’s one way that you can help. If you’re on the other side of it and you want to volunteer, I believe that we also need volunteers. Again, go to the Facebook page. It’s probably the best way or mypossibilities.org.
Scott: Dot org. We’ll keep notes to all of the stuff or links to all of the stuff in the show notes. If you’re listening, go out and hit the blog post that’s associated with this podcast and all of that info will be right there. Last but most important. If I know somebody that could potentially benefit from year services, how do people get in touch with you? What is the process for onboarding somebody? What should I plan for in terms of cost or what I need to accommodate force so that I can help somebody get the help that they need?
Esther: Absolutely. Let me stick to 2 different things there, because there’s a general My Possibilities program and then there’s also the therapists that we provide. For the general program, best thing to do is to go to the website. There’s an application there and the people that would be interested maybe in attending My Possibilities would be adults with special needs or disabilities that are graduating or aging out of the public school system. I believe it’s 22, once you reach 22, there’s no more education as far as government funding goes, but My Possibilities is attempting to create that or is creating that I should say. There’s vocation education. They can work on getting jobs on their social skills, spending good time with their peers and then like I said the therapy is so … If you have an adult that has disability or some special need and you’re looking for somewhere, a day program for them to go after they graduate high school, go to My Possibilities. It is hands down the best facility that I’ve ever seen that provides a service, so that’s on the general program side. Then we offer therapist to both those that attended program and then folks in their communities. For the general program, we only accept adults. It’s over the age of 18. For therapies, we can accept all ages. If you have a 2-year-old that was just diagnosed with autism and you want to start early intervention with speech and music therapy, give us a call. Again, you would just go to the website and probably call the … They have all the numbers on there but the front desk and they would redirect you. Then for specifically, we have speech therapy, music therapy and counseling right now in the therapy program and then soon we’re going to have OT and PT as well, occupational and physical therapy. The application process is not yet online. It will be very soon. The best way to access that is you think that you might have a student or an adult that could benefit from one of the therapies would be to send an email or to give us a call. If you think it would helpful, I could provide my direct contact. You asked another question about who specifically would benefit from music services? Go ahead and expand on that. Scott: I think that’s a good place to end on is who would be the most likely candidates for specifically for the music therapy that we’re talking about today.
Esther: Absolutely. Music therapy uses music and improves musical skills but even more so than that works on communication, social skills, emotional expression, motor skills, cognitive abilities, the things that help us to function on a day-to-day basis. My biggest recommendation is if you have someone that has some deficit in 1 area but responds to music to whatever degree or that you think might respond to music if they love listening to it, if all they ever talk about is Taylor Swift, you notice that when you go to the grocery store and they’re playing that music we talked about that they’re constantly tapping their toes. Maybe they don’t like to talk very much, but they’ll sing their hearts out to their favorite song when in their room behind closed doors. Music therapy is perfect for the folks that really lighten up, really turn on when music is entered into the picture as a stimulus. That’s my recommendation if you see that. If they’re really engaged by that then music therapy is often a really good fit.
Scott: That makes a lot of sense and I would imagine from some of the things that you’ve described, there are probably going to be people and parents who might identify some of those characteristics in their kids of any age and music therapy might be helpful.
Esther: Absolutely. Of course the beauty of it is that it doesn’t feel like work. Of course you’re constantly working on these goals. Your communication goal, your ability to make decisions, maybe it’s an emotional expression goal, but it doesn’t feel like work. It really is just using the beauty of how music affects your brain to make progress to learn to improve.
Scott: As somebody who once worked in the field of psychology, I have to ask one more question before we go. How is it for you? Is it emotionally draining? Is it always exciting and invigorating? When I worked in psych, it was very draining for me. I worked in a very high risk, very challenging area. This sounds like a lot of fun, but I would imagine you get to see a lot of ups and downs, too.
Esther: Absolutely. It changes on a day-to-day basis. There’s always a good fit for each therapist. I remember I had a supervisor that recommended … She said, “Take note of what sessions you have that are energizing to you and which ones that you feel you have to generate energy for.” I paid attention and I thought, “Wow, I think I figured part of it out.” For me, with the population I work with now, adults with disabilities at My Possibilities it’s an energizing space. Usually, I go in with my cup of coffee, “Oh goodness, got to start the day.” By the end of 3 consecutive sessions I go, “Wow. This is why I do what I do, why I get up in the morning.” Gosh, what a beautiful thing to be able … I’m so grateful to be able to work and have it be a rewarding, energizing space where I also get to share, make somewhat of a difference in folks lives through music, so I’m very grateful for that.
Scott: I’m guessing you make a big difference for a lot of people.
Esther: Doing best.
Scott: Thank you very much for joining us, Esther Craven, mypossibilities.org. If you know of anybody that you think might be able to benefit from any of the services we’ve talked about today, please reach out to them. Thank you very much for joining us, Frisco. We’ll talk to you next week.