music therapy

What is Your Brain Doing During Music Therapy?

hand draws brain sign

A review of a recent case study on how the brain reacts to music therapy. 


“For the first time researchers have been able to demonstrate that the brains of a patient and therapist become synchronized during a music therapy session, a breakthrough that could improve future interactions between patients and therapists.” 

On July 25, 2019, a new study was published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology. It was the first research that utilized a procedure called hyperscanning in music therapy research, which allowed researchers to better understand the interaction between two people by recording brain activities in both brains at the same time. 


Both EEG (electroencephalogram) and video recording were used to capture data of the session from both the therapist and the client in a guided imagery and music session. GIM music therapist guided the client through an “imaginary journey” while incorporating music listening and images to elicit memories, emotions, and feelings from the client, and to help the client understand life issues. 


In this dyadic case study, the goal was to engage the client in a supportive music experience while discussing strong emotions. A series of classical music was played during the session while the client shared and discussed issues and concerns in her life. The researchers specifically looked for the “moment of interest” which was defined as a therapeutically important moment. Brain synchronization was observed through brain scan and video recordings during moments of interest. During one of the moments of interest, the brain scan showed that the client experienced a shift of emotion from negative to positive, which shortly followed by a similar shift in the therapist. The researchers concluded that the client and the therapist truly connected during the session, and such a therapeutic setting provided a safe environment to work on negative emotions, fear, anxiety, etc. 

This study marks a milestone in music therapy research by demonstrating the brain synchronization between a patient and a music therapist during a music therapy session. It allowed us to see what "moment of change" looks like inside the brain. The findings could set the foundation on understanding emotional processing in therapeutic interactions, and determining the effectiveness of music therapy in psychodynamic settings. 

Original Source

Jörg C. Fachner, Clemens Maidhof, Denise Grocke, Inge Nygaard Pedersen, Gro Trondalen, Gerhard Tucek, Lars O. Bonde. “Telling me not to worry…” Hyperscanning and Neural Dynamics of Emotion Processing During Guided Imagery and MusicFrontiers in Psychology, 2019; 10 DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01561


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Music Therapy and Mental Health: A Form of Treatment

Music puzzle

Music Therapy

& Mental Health Awareness

In most of my music therapy groups this week I dedicated time away from engaging in music but rather to engage in conversations around music and mental health since May is mental health awareness month. I know some of you just gasped and thought, how dare a music therapist do a session without engaging in music !  Well, I did and it was quite powerful!

In most of the sessions the clients were engaged in some deep and emotional discussions around music in our culture and artists that have contributed a great deal to our music as art; many from their own experiences with mental health challenges.

Artists names such as Michael Jackson, Amy Winehouse, Britney Spears, and so many others came to surface. Clients shared that these artists music has touched their lives in so many ways over the years of their personal struggles with mental health issues. Some have expressed, “It was the only thing that got me through” while others expressed “It was a relief to know that I was not alone”.

Client's have described these songs as being a "source of strength in times of adversity". I encouraged the clients to share songs from artists who gave them words of encouragement that in turn were also dealing with similar mental health challenges.

Music in all forms has been therapeutic for centuries and I want to highlight that even though many of these artists songs are therapeutic I want to honor and thank them that they had the courage to step into vulnerability and share their hurt and challenges through words and song with us. These artists shared personal stories in their songs that continue to support, validate and help many of the clients that I work with in our music therapy groups. 

This month let's recognize that much of the music we listen to on a daily basis very likely has been a form of music therapy for the individual artists themselves. Its been a way for them to share their story, their pain and help support others along their journey. That's the beauty in music and creativity -- it can often come from pain but then transform into something beautiful and powerful, similar to the Eminem song, “Beautiful Pain”. 

I encourage you to share your story, share your song, share your art and help others find comfort and peace and normalize that mental health issues are real and we can shed some light in the darkness.

Find a list of songs below that clients have chosen in music therapy groups throughout the month that were created and performed from artists that too have struggled with mental illness. This is just a small representation of the many artists out there that struggle and have used their voices and creativity as an outlet, a way to help heal others and help empower their listeners from not feeling alone in their experiences with mental health challenges. (click on song titles to view the video)

  1. Britney Spears - Stronger 

  2. Eminem - The Monster

  3. Amy Winehouse - Back to Black

  4. Natalie Grant - The Real Me

  5. Demi Lovato - Skyscraper

  6. Alessia Cara - Scars to Your Beautiful

  7. Macklemore - Otherside

  8. Lady Gaga - Perfect Illusion

  9. Rachel Platten - Fight Song

  10. Justin Bieber - Love Yourself

Do you have other songs that you could add to this list? If so, I would love to hear from you. Please leave a link to the video or artist below in the comment section. Thank you. #musicandmentalhealth

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Music Therapy Addressing Back to School Needs

Schoolboys playing musical instruments in music class

September and October can be very challenging months for both parents and children transitioning back to school from a relaxing and non-structured summer. Going back onto a routine can be tough for both parents and their children.

Once school starts, most teachers will be very attuned to each child's needs in their classroom. Perhaps you've gotten a call to have your child taken from class because of your child's performance, behaviors or even social isolation? If this happens, it can make the transition even more stressful for both the parent and the child.

Parents then might try to find services that will support their child and address the concerns of their teachers. What kinds of therapy might help? occupational therapy? speech and language therapy? physical therapy?

What about music therapy? Maybe you've never even considered it. This form of therapy has been around for almost 80 years, yet surprisingly people are still unaware of its effectiveness, particularly for helping children with special needs.  

The fascinating aspect of music therapy is that you can be working on multiple goals simultaneously, such as speech/communication, fine/gross motor, social skills, emotional regulation, and others. For example, when playing a drum, a child can work on their gross motor skills, and at the same time be learning to regulate by maintaining a steady rhythm.  If you add in vocalizations, it can help them with communication.  Very few forms of therapy can compare to the versatility and efficacy of music therapy. 

Here are a few examples of why music therapy can be an effective therapy for your child to help with any of the goals and concerns that may arise during this hectic transition starting back to school.

1- Music can increase social skills

2- Music can help regulate your child

3- Music can increase your child's attention span/focus

4- Music strengthens your child's auditory skills

5- Music helps with memory and sequencing skills

6- Music is fun, engaging and rewarding

7- Music can help increase communication skills and language development

8- Music can help with understanding and processing children's feelings

9- Music can help with social-emotional development

10- Music can help with fine and gross motor skills

 

If you would like to learn more about music therapy please contact me: john@mewsicmoves.com

Let's Stay in Touch!

 

For FREE songs, videos and tips on how to support children with special needs through music click here.

 

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Autism Parenting Magazine Lists Music Therapy/Mewsic Moves as a Resource!

I've had the privilege of writing multiple articles for the autism parenting magazine over the past few years. They have covered many great topics and have been an amazing resource for parents, educators and therapists over the years. Some of my articles they've published are:

Last year the Autism Magazine also awarded us with the Top Music Therapy Writer for their magazine in 2014!

Just last month they have created an online resource for parents and I am so excited to announce that Mewsic Moves has made the list! We are so grateful to the Autism Parenting Magazine for all they do for families across the country, online and around the world. Thank you for being such a great tool and resource for so many. 

You can find the resource list by clicking HERE.

You can also get your FREE copy of the Autism Parenting Magazine by clicking HERE.

Please share this resource with families of children with special needs and others who may benefit from any of these resources. 

             Let's Stay in Touch!

 

For FREE songs, videos and tips on how to support children with special needs through music click here.

Please share, like and leave your comments below as we love to hear from you.

Mewsic Moves Wins an Award!

I am so thrilled to announce that I have received the “Top Music Therapy Writer” award from Autism Parenting Magazine for 2014!  This is a terrific magazine that provides education and support to families of children on the spectrum.  The Autism Parenting Magazine was also proud recipients of the 2014 Gold Award for Online Resources (websites, eMagazines and blogs) in the category of Family/Parenting from the Mom's Choice Awards®. 

Here is a list of some of the articles I contributed to the Autism Parenting Magazine:

I encourage you to check out this excellent magazine!  Also, look for more articles from me this year.  If you have questions or are interested in learning more about music therapy, please reach out to me.  Your question might even inspire me to write my next article!   

Autism Parenting Magazine

Click on the picture to the right to subscribe to the Autism Parenting Magazine.

Musically,

John Mews, BMT, MA, MFTI

john@mewsicmoves.com

www.mewsicmoves.com

You can also check out the Autism Parenting Magazine by CLICKING HERE

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Top 10 Musical Toys For Children With Autism

MM Top 10 Musical Toys Autism.png

This is the time year most people are out shopping for things to put under the Christmas tree.   This can be an especially challenging time for parents of children with Autism.  So many of the available toys are far too over-stimulating for these children

Over the years parents have asked about buying musical instruments for their child.  I think these make great gifts, because they help the child engage in music making at home, which helps to reinforce what was learned during the music therapy session. 

Here are my top ten musical instruments I recommend for children with Autism.  For each one, I explain how the instrument can be utilized in a therapeutic and beneficial way. What a great dual purpose, a toy that’s also beneficial therapeutically! ( you can also click on each image or title for more information on the instrument). 

1. Ukulele

The small size of the ukulele makes it great for small children and adolescents.  It’s lightweight and narrow neck make it easy for the child to grasp.  I find the Ukulele is useful for fine motor control when picking or strumming.  You can also work on gross motor control if you rock the arm up and down to create strumming patterns. The Ukulele is also great for working on eye-hand coordination.

2. Recorder

Recorders are very popular with children and come in many colors. I often use this for language and speech development, primarily to aid in breath support and control. The recorder is also useful for working on fine motor skills that are needed to create different tones on the instrument. 

 

 

3. Sound Shapes®/Drums

I enjoy using the Sound Shapes®, because they are colorful, fun and come in different sizes, shapes and sounds. Sound Shapes® are easily stacked they don’t take up much room like most other stand-up drums and they are lightweight. The Sound Shapes® can provide therapeutic value in supporting eye-hand coordination, impulse control and to provide controlled sensory input.

 

4. Hand bells

Hand-bells come in various sizes and price ranges. I like these because they have a smaller scale (8 notes), are less expensive then others, and are quite durable. They are useful for developing fine motor skills, since you can simply press the top with your finger to make a sound. You can also use them to develop gross motor skills if you pick them up and ring them. I often use these to increase reading skills as well.  I create color-coded music, which the child “reads” by playing the correctly colored bell.  This also helps with visual tracking skills.  

 

5. Cabassa

Cabassas come in various sizes.  I prefer to use the larger ones, particularly if I want to use sensation and movement in my therapeutic approach. The weight of the cabassas can be useful for grounding a child, and you can roll the cabassa on the child’s arm, legs or back to create different sensations. A word of caution here – you should practice on yourself before using it on the child so that you know to use the right amount of pressure.  The cabassa also can be useful for fine and gross motor skills, as well as visual and auditory stimulation when you roll it around and around.

 

6. Melodica

I often use the Melodica to support a child’s fine motor skills, breath control and eye-hand coordination.  This is a less expensive option to purchasing a piano or keyboard.

 

 

 

7. Ocean Drum

Of all the drums I use in my practice, the Ocean Drum is by far the most popular.  This drum comes is different sizes and colors. I prefer the ocean drum with fish inside, since it provides added visual stimulation. This instrument can be used to aid with relaxation, grounding, sensory-input, gross motor and impulse control. The sound of the ocean drum ranges from a loud crescendo of crashing waves to the gentle white noise of the sea foam bubbles dissipating on the warm sand. 

 

 

 

8. Castanets

Castanets are fun, small and the least expensive instrument that most children love to play, mainly because they are touch-responsive. I have used this instrument to help children slow down from a fast paced-rhythm to a slower more regulated rhythm. This can be used as an auditory cue for children to understand their current energy levels and how they can learn to self-regulate. This instrument is also useful for developing fine motor skills, particularly for differentiating between using and isolating different finger movements.

9. Piano/keyboard

I recommend buying a less expensive keyboard for therapeutic use.  Children particularly seem to enjoy keyboards whose keys that light up as they are played. I use keyboards to help with fine motor skills, as an outlet to help children be creative and have fun on their own without direct instruction.  Make sure your keyboard has a record button so your child can record their creative masterpieces and play it back.  This helps them to feel good about their accomplishments, and allows them to share their work with others.  This is particularly useful to enhance social skills and to promote sharing.

10. Xylophone:                

Colorful or Wooden

Like most of the instruments listed here, xylophones come in various sizes, colors and prices. For use at home I suggested something smaller, more colorful and less expensive. I prefer the wooden xylophones since they produce a lower-pitched sound, which helps to prevent over-stimulating a sensitive child’s auditory system. The xylophone can also help with a child’s eye-hand coordination, impulse control, gross motor skills as well as reading skills if you use color-coded music to match the notes on the xylophone.

I hope you find these list of instruments helpful in bringing some of the therapeutic benefits of music into your home.   Please feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions about the appropriateness of a particular instrument for your child. If you are not working with a music therapist already, in most cases I can refer you to a qualified therapist in your area that can support your child’s development through music therapy. 

As Seen In Autism Parenting Magazine

This article has also been featured in this December issue of Autism Parenting Magazine.

 

 

Happy Holidays everyone!

Give the Gift of Music This Holiday Season!

Musically,

John Mews, BMT, MA, MFTI

john@mewsicmoves.com

www.mewsicmoves.com

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