music therapy

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.

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Banner Photo by OC Gonzalez on Unsplash

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

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

 

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Learning Concepts Through Music Therapy

Have you ever asked your child to put something "in" the box and he/she puts in elsewhere? Then it is most likely that you child may have challenges with differentiating basic concepts such as in, on, over and under.

I have worked with many children who are confused with these everyday concepts and have no idea how to differentiate between in, on, over and under. This is a common challenge for most children and especially common for children with special needs and those on the autism spectrum disorder. 

Over and over again I have parents and other professionals asking me how I teach children how to differentiate between these concepts. I simple tell them, "I use music" as a fun and motivating tool to help them learn, understand and practice these basic concepts.

Just the other day I used the drum to help a 3 year old boy on the spectrum differentiate between "on", "under" and "in". We were singing 5 Little Monkeys jumping on the DRUM. I revamped the lyrics to make it more applicable in our music therapy session. When we were done with the monkey I asked him to put the monkey in various locations such as, "on the drum", "in the drum" and "under the drum". The little guy had so much fun hiding the monkey in all the areas he had no idea he was learning these concepts.

After this session I was inspired so I wrote a song to help you and your child learn these basic concepts through music. Feel free to adapt the words of this song to make it your own as well as to match the concepts to the particular environment for you and your child. In this song I kept all the concepts familiar to a music therapy setting (as it's mostly my working environment), but you may want to adapt the lyrics to school or home. For example, the first line is "I put my mallets in the box when it's clean up time". You may want to change it to, "I put my crayons in the box when its clean up time.

Please feel free to share your personal lyrics with us as we love to hear from you!

I hope you and your child will have fun learning these basic concepts and finding creative new lyrics to adapt to your particular environment. Have fun making the most with MEWSIC!

Download the song here! or by clicking the image to the right.

 

 

 

Click below to hear a sample of the song.

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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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Top 10 Musical Toys For Children With Autism

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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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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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The drum set every music therapist "must have"!

When I first began my music therapy practice over ten years ago, I carried around a small suitcase full of rhythm and percussive instruments. I also took with me a heavy hand-carved African djembe drum.  I would often have a sore back at the end of a long day.  I would often wish they made these things lighter!

And wishes often do come true. A few years later that I discovered Remo’s Sound Shapes®. These were a blessing to me as I'm sure they are to music therapists around the world! These are fun, colorful, stackable and light drums that you can carry under your arm. Oh, and they also come in packs of 6, so you are totally set up for a group.

I have used these drums in the following ways to support children with developmental disabilities.

soundshapes.jpg
  • Pre-Reading Skills - Playing and matching colors from left to right.
  • Gross-Motor Skills - Playing the drums and moving them from high to low and from left to right.
  • Color Recognition - Reading and matching colors to each drum
  • Social Skills - Taking turns, listening to each other and sharing drums with one another.

I have even created an early music education exercise to help children learn the fundamentals of music, music note value and colors with REMO Sound Shapes®. 

I think you’ll find these drums very useful and easily portable in your music therapy sessions. I have used them primarily for children but I'm sure you can find them useful for all ages and populations.

For more details on REMO Sound Shapes® Click Here!

Remo Connectors

Remo also makes connectors that you can use to join the drums together to make a full drum set. 

For more details on REMO Sound Shapes® connectors Click Here!

 

 

 

Here are other Remo products that I recommend:

To find out more about Remo click here!

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

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Mewsic Moves in the Media - The Acorn

Mewsic Moves in the Media - The Acorn

Mewsic Moves in the Media - The Acorn

On August 13th, 2014, I had the opportunity to announce the Glee Choir in front of Calabasas City Council. I was honored to stand before the council members and share my passion and joy in providing music therapy programs for families of children with special needs, especially the Glee Choir program.

A few days after the meeting, I was thrilled to receive a request for an interview from Sylvie Belmond, who is a reporter for The Acorn newspaper.

Sylvie had lots of questions, and we talked for almost an hour.  She wanted to know more about music therapy and the Glee Choir program that I had created. At the end of our interview, Sylvie said she felt it was important to let others know the importance of music therapy and how it is very different from music lessons.  A few weeks later, Sylvie’s article appeared in the September 4, 2014 edition of The Acorn.

I am very grateful to Sylvie for writing such a wonderful article, and to The Acorn for publishing it. I also want to thank Debi Frankle, MFT/Owner of Calabasas Counseling and Grief Center, Calabasas and Ping Ho, Founder – UCLArts and Healing for contributing to the story.

Credits to: Sylvie Belmond – Reporter at The Acorn

www.theacorn.com

Click here to read the article: http://www.theacorn.com/news/2014-09-04/Community/Glee_Choir_for_adults_with_special_needs.html


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

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