music therapy awareness

Music is a Companion: Music Therapy and Mental Health Awareness

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In my 15 years of work as a music therapist I have supported many clients who struggle on a daily basis with mental health challenges depression and anxiety to mention a few. Many of clients throughout Los Angeles share the same story of feeling isolated, alone and like no one understands. Others also share the immense levels of shame and stigma that accompany these psychological mental health diagnoses. In my sessions I open up a safe space where each can share their experiences and stories of these intense feelings of embarrassment, shame and even stigmas that they face (many by their own family members!).

Just this past week in a music therapy mental health support group I encouraged clients to create a list of musical artists that they were aware of that lives with mental health condition(s) and shares it openly and publicly. This sparked a huge discussion around the topic and led us to share songs that reflected mental health awareness tat were either written or performed by these specific individual artists.

Musical artists that came to mind for most of the group members were artists such as: Lady Gaga, Demi Lovato, Eminem, Macklemore, Pink, and Kesha just to name a few. We then shared specific songs and discussed the artists realness about their mental health struggles in their songs and lyrics. Many clients shared, not only did they connect to the artists and their lyrics but that the music was also a “companion” for them when they felt like “no one was around” or “like no one understood”. One client shared,

“when I was all alone and depressed I would listen to Kesha and felt like she was there with me; through her lyrics I knew she understood and therefore helped me with my loneliness and knowing others do understand”.

May being mental health awareness month, I am grateful to so many music artists (as well as other public figures) that step into vulnerability and share the truth about their own mental health challenges. This place of vulnerability and sharing as Brene Brown speaks of in all her social platforms and books is pure “courage” and helping others to connect and not feel alone in their time of hardship.

If you feel alone, or like no one else understands please find solace in some others stories and music that many artists have shared. And furthermore, allow music to be that therapy in your life during during this difficult time. Find below a short list of songs that clients have shared this week in honor of mental health awareness and how music and many artists are shedding light, awareness and education.

If you are experiencing and forms of mental health challenges please do not hesitate to reach out to local therapists and or treatment centers, we are here for you. This is not a time to give into shame or embarrassment as majority of people struggle on a daily basis with mental health challenges and you do not need to do this alone. "You are not alone”.

Some songs clients chose that reflect Mental Health Awareness:

Throughout mental health awareness month we will be posting a song each day on our facebook page that reflects mental health awareness in music. Let music be your therapy, guide and your companion. Please feel free to share some of your songs as well in the comments below or on our social media platforms. We love to share and connect through music.

Let’s Be Social:

Banner Photo by OC Gonzalez on Unsplash

Top 5 Qualities to Look For in a Music Therapist

I recently read a blog on the top 5 qualities to look for in an individual therapist or family therapist. It got me thinking. What do parents or other professionals look for in a music therapist? What are the key qualities to look for in a music therapist?

Here are the qualities I have come up with for top 5 qualities to look for in a music therapist working with children.

1. Team Player

It is very important to find a music therapist who works well in a multi-disciplinary team. When I first began my practice I was so "green" and I consulted with other therapists such as Occupational, Physical and Speech Therapists. I learned so much from them and more over, I learned how to work together to make sure the best success was achieved for the child. Make sure that your music therapists has a wealth of consulting and works well with others in the child's team support system.

2. Creative and Fun

It is important for a music therapist to be creative. It is often imperative that a music therapist be able to make up songs and activities "on-the-spot" to match your child to where they're at. A music therapist often needs to adapt songs and activities to engage or motivate a child in the desired activity to achieve various goals.

3. Adaptable & Knowledgable

Just because a music therapist has a bachelor or masters degree it doesn't end there. Music therapists are required to follow up on continuing education and researching the latests educational resources in their specialized client population.

4. Compassionate and Patient

Working with children with special needs, especially autism can be most challenging at times. It is very important that the music therapist you are seeking to work with your child has a deep desire and compassion to work with children with special needs. You have every right to ask your therapist what inspired them to choose to work with children with autism. It is also crucial that music therapists working with children with autism have a great deal and gift of patience. Considering children with autism function and experience the world in different ways than we do, it is crucial that the music therapist you choose has a great deal of patience in waiting and understanding how your child acts or reacts in certain situations.

5. Problem-Solver

Working with children with special needs considers a great deal of problems-solving skills. It's imperative that the music therapist that you choose can "think on their feet" and come up with a solution that your child is dealing with through a musical activity or therapeutic intervention. You can simply ask your therapist in an interview, "what is the most challenging client you have worked with and how did you problem-solve to come up with a solution?"

I hope you find this list helpful in choosing the music therapist that is the best fit for you and your child's needs. For a list of music therapist in your area you can contact your local music therapy association or the American Music Therapy Association website. 

If you have other qualities that you think are important I would love to hear from you, please write them in the comment section below.

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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

Check out my other blogs below

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A Music Therapists Adaptation of "Leaves are Falling Down"

A music therapist will often be called upon to come up with a song in the spur of the moment to facilitate a positive therapeutic intervention.  Over the years, I’ve built up quite a collection of these “on-the-spot” creations to help children with special needs relax and learn special skills.  It occurred to me a while back that other music therapists might find these songs useful, so over the past year I recorded some and wrote out the musical score.

Jennifer Hezoucky, MT-BC, Jacobsburg, OH.

I recently I received a very touching email and newsletter from Jennifer, a music therapist in Jacobsburg, Ohio who bought my fall song, “Leaves are falling down.” She shared with me a beautiful video of how she used the song with young pre-school children.  Here is what she wrote:

What's Happening this Fall!

“At Creative Learning Daycare my preschool music class has been singing songs about fall. What a great way to incorporate learning when you have a seasonal theme! I love searching for new songs to use with my groups and I came across a song written by John Mews who is a music therapist and owner of Mewsic Moves. His song is called "Leaves are Falling Down.” There are many ways to use this song but I chose to use my new NSL 30" drum and scarves. Instead of using the stand that the drum came with I chose to set it on the floor so that the children can sit around the drum and experience playing one instrument as a group. I placed colored scarves in the middle of the drum (preferably fall colors) and held up each scarf as we sang what color was picked up. This was a great activity to introduce group drumming and color recognition.”

This song was created and written by John Mews, music therapist and owner of Mewsic Moves. I am always looking for songs to use with my music students. This one was fun to sing while drumming!

Click on the video to the right to watch how Jennifer adapted this song on the gathering drums with pre-school aged children.

Watching her video with those beautiful children really warmed my heart. Seeing the wonderfully creative way Jennifer used my song to create that moment made me feel very glad that I’d recorded it.

I love your stories, and am so grateful when you share them with me!  Thank you Jennifer for your amazing work and for sharing this beautiful video.

To view Jennifer’s webpage go to: http://lifesongtherapy.com

Now that you get a sense of how this song can be used in creative ways I would like to offer each reader a discount on this song!

Now you can get a 50% discount of “Leaves are Falling Down” through the end of November. (Offer expires November 30th)

Click on the "buy now!" button to the right and enter this code at checkout: LEAVES

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For FREE songs and tips on how to support children with special needs through music  Click Here!

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5 Reasons Why Music Therapy is Effective For Children With Autism

March is music therapy awareness month and I would like to highlight some of the reasons why music therapy is effective especially for children with autism.

1.     It is multi-sensory

            Music is appealing to most of our senses, which makes music therapy unique in that we can work on multi goals simultaneously. For example, a drumming exercise helps with eye-hand coordination, eye contact, motor and impulse control.

2.     It is fun, safe and engaging

            Music therapy provides a fun, safe and engaging environment for children with autism to explore and play. It also provides many opportunities for successful outcomes which helps to builds self-esteem and increases motivation.

3.     It is structured and predictable

            Music therapy can provide a structured and safe environment for children with autism to explore.  Music that has a lot of repetition is predictable, which makes learning much easier for children with autism.  The musical repetition helps them to self-regulate, because they know what is coming up next.

4.     It is processed in all areas of the brain

            Recent research shows that when we listen to music, all areas of the brain are lit up.   Music therapists have known this for a long time, but now have the science to back it up. Music can help with speech and communication challenges, for social connection, for emotional regulation, motor control, and many other things.

5.     It facilitates communication

            Perhaps you’ve heard that “music is the universal language.”  Taking this literally, we can use music in therapy to increase non-verbal communication through improvisation. Children with autism connect to music to express their feelings, emotions, and life stories. The interplay between the music therapist and child with autism is done in a non-threatening way, opening up many channels of communication.

Please feel free to share and comment on how you find music therapy to be effective for children with autism.

#mtawareness

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

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