How Can Music Therapy Help Those Who Are Blind and Visually Impaired?

It was always interesting to participate in discussions about music therapy for adults with disabilities in my master’s program, because even as I thought about how I could be of assistance to that population, I had to recognize that I could actually be considered a part of that population. What could music therapy do, or have done, for me as a blind person? 

 

Early intervention 

 

For children who are born blind, or lose their sight at an early age, music therapy can be a powerful tool for teaching valuable skills and redirecting negative behaviors before they become ingrained.

Common “blindisms”, such as eye-pressing or rocking, may be reduced. Social skills, such as directing one’s gaze, learning to hear body language, and developing one’s own gestural communication can be improved. It may also aid blind or visually impaired children in developing motor skills, learning to identify and discriminate between sounds, and learning to use auditory cues for orientation and navigation. 

 

Social Engagement 

 

Blindness can often be associated with isolation and social exclusion. In addition to teaching essential social cues, music therapy provides an opportunity for quality social interaction. This is true regardless of age or ability level.

 

Confidence building 

 

Whether working with a child at 7, or an adult of 50, confidence in one’s skills as a blind person is hugely important, and could be the difference between a fulfilling, independent life, and an empty existence trapped at home. Participation in music therapy has been shown to develop confidence in other populations, and could certainly be applied in this context as well.

 

Creativity and adaptability 

 

Disability in general always brings challenges, but it’s the way that one responds to those challenges that makes all the difference. An ability to problem solve, find new ways to do old things is an invaluable skill. Musical improvisation and collaboration may be one way to improve in this.

 

Coping with grief, depression, and anxiety as the result of vision loss 

 

Losing one’s sight is traumatic in and of itself, and depending on the cause of vision loss, can also be associated with other traumas that need to be addressed. Music therapy offers an opportunity for creative self-expression and a healthy option for working through difficult emotions in a safe space.

 

Looking back, I know I could have benefited greatly from music therapy in the ways I’ve mentioned. Indeed, I think I have benefited in some of those ways even just from participating in music therapy as a student and practitioner.

 

If you or your child are blind or visually impaired and would like to explore music therapy further, feel free to get in touch by emailing:

Contact.OpportunityUnleashed@gmail.com

Visiting our facebook page, or contacting another music therapist in your area.

Also check out:

Why We Love Music Therapy for Our Blind Son

How Can Music Therapy Help Those with PTSD?

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a psychological condition that results from long-lasting symptoms associated with a traumatic event. These symptoms may include anxiety, irritability, flashbacks, intrusive and unwanted thoughts, paranoia, night terrors or other problems with sleep, physical pain, nausea, shaking, or sweating, emotional numbing, and avoidance of possible triggers. Untreated PTSD can make daily functioning difficult or impossible for those affected by it. While medication may be helpful, it can be associated with negative side-effects. Music therapy is one treatment option that may be beneficial in addition to or in stead of chemical interventions.

 

The modern music therapy profession was born in the early to mid-1900’s as musicians began serving veterans suffering from the lingering trauma of war. Music therapists continue to serve in that capacity, catering not only to the needs of veterans, but also to victims of abuse, violent crimes, accidents, natural disasters, or any other event that has resulted in chronic mental distress. Here are a few ways music therapy may help those with PTSD.

 

Expressing Emotion 

 

As with other therapies, a music therapy session is a safe place for clients to express whatever thoughts or feelings that they need to. Music therapy is unique to some other types of treatment, however, in that the client can express these things both verbally, through speech or song, and non-verbally, through instrumental improvisation or music listening. Sometimes words are hard to find, and in music therapy, that’s A-okay.

 

Developing Coping Methods

 

A music therapy session will likely only be once or twice a week, so it may be important for the client and therapist to identify and work on some strategies to ease symptoms and improve functioning during the rest of the week. This may include breathing techniques, selecting music to sing or listen to at difficult moments, music-lead meditation, or prompts for music making or song writing at home.

 

Promoting Community 

 

Some studies demonstrate that people with PTSD can benefit from being part of a music therapy group. This may involve musical improvisations, singing, group story-telling or song writing that focusses on sharing and working through the experiences of group members. Since PTSD can involve social withdrawal or feelings of isolation, group music therapy may be an effective and unthreatening way to connect with others.

 

If you think you or someone you know could benefit from music therapy, feel free to get in touch by emailing:

Contact.OpportunityUnleashed@gmail.com 

or sending a message through our facebook page..Learn more about PTSD here, or find out more about how music therapy can help those with PTSD here.

Songs with Significance, Spring 2020

Spring 2020 brought some sudden, and quite extreme, changes to the whole world. I think we all reacted to said changes in different ways, depending on our unique personality or circumstances. I did not like the changes one bit, nor those that quickly followed in my personal life, and found it very difficult to adjust to them. There were times in that period when I tried to handle things in my own strength. They were the worst days, but there were other times when the Lord enabled me to lean on him instead. When I felt alone, I knew he was with me. When I was despairing, I could find hope in him. When I had no energy to do school work, he gave me the motivation to keep going. Sometimes he accomplished this through his word, sometimes through prayer, and frequently through music. Some of these are the songs that he used to speak to me during that month and a half. Others were ones that reminded me of loved ones I was missing. Some are just songs that I thought were interesting or fun. I hope you’ll enjoy them, too.

Abide with Me, Indelible Grace Music 

April, Come She Will, Simon and Garfunkel 

Pass Me Not, Fernando Ortega 

How Firm a Foundation, Fernando Ortega 

I Will Wait for You (Psalm 130), Shane & Shane/Keith & Kristyn Getty

He Will Hold Me Fast, Keith & Kristyn Getty 

Though you Slay Me, Shane & Shane

Good to Me, Audrey Assad 

North Star Lover, Fionn Regan 

The Lakes of Pontchartrain, Paul Brady 

And I Love You So, Perry Como 

Dark Hollow, the Grateful Dead 

Moon River, Audrey Hepburn 

Siúl a Rún, John Spillane 

In the Palm of Your Hand, Alison Krauss 

Baby Mine, Alison Krauss 

I put together a playlist for my friend’s baby shower, and ran across this song. I’d never heard it before and thought it was so sweet! Here are a couple more songs from that playlist. 

Everything Changes, Sara Bareilles

Return to Poo Corner, Kenny Loggins 

That was a long list, but I honestly had a hard time narrowing it down that far! Music is such a gift, and I’m grateful to have had it during this season.

Songs with Significance — Winter 2018/19

In the fall, I decided to start a 

seasonal series on the significant songs in my life. This is the list I have compiled for winter 2018/19.

Lost Sparks (Canyon City)

Firework (Canyon City)

I know all the words to this song.

Agape (Bear’s Den)

Above the Clouds of Pompeii (Bear’s Den)

Isaac (Bear’s Den)

Come Thou Long Expected Jesus

My favorite Christmas song this last Christmas season and one I had the opportunity to sing at our candle-lit service.

Be Alright (Dean Lewis)

Because unrequited love is a bear.

Ocean Side (the Decemberists)

Because requited love means you need songs to listen to while you are separated over the holiday break.

The Upswing (Bel X1)

We got to see them in concert with the strings in February and it was a great show!

Some Surprise (Lisa Hannigan and Paul Noonan)

I’m still somewhat surprised.

When You Were Sweet Sixteen (The Fureys)

This song will forever remind me of my clients at my first music therapy placement.

Oh Love that Will Not Let Me Go

Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing

This has been a refrain for me in so many prayers over the last few months, and I think will continue to be.

As before, it is so profound to listen to all these songs in the same sitting, and relive some of the  experiences they are attached to. Some of it is painful to relive, some joyous, some simply peaceful. It’s amazing how music can evoke so much, even just in the listening. I look forward to doing it again in the Spring!

 

The Soundtrack to my First Six Weeks in Ireland | Songs with Significance, Autumn 2018

There is an assignment this semester for one of my classes that asks us to create a musical tapestry, that is, a collection of songs that reflect different stages or elements of our lives.  For the assignment, we are also supposed to involve various music therapy concepts and research, but it gave me the idea of preserving the music that is meaningful to me now, so that I can look back on it in the future.

I think perhaps I will organize this by month, or maybe season, so here are some of the most significant songs for me this fall.

“Leaving on a Jet Plane”, John Denver 

Because I did, you know, leave on a jet plane, and left everyone in my country behind… I was thrilled to be going, but there is that piece of you that does “hate to go” even so.

“The Parting Glass”, Ed Sheeran 

There are many variations of this song, and this is not the first one I heard, but it was playing in the airport just as I was about to board the plane for Ireland, which I thought was cool, given it’s an Irish song as far as I know.

“Gold”, from Once 

Again, the Irish connection, but actually I just love this song in general, and have been listening to it pretty regularly for a while.

“My Heart Is Filled With Thankfulness”, Keith & Kristyn Getty

I love Ghetty hymns, but this one has been particularly relevant lately because my heart IS SO FILLED with thankfulness to the Lord for his provision in recent times.  A year ago, I never would have thought I would be in another country 12 months on from then.  I wanted a job, not more education.  I certainly wasn’t crazy enough to actually think an international move was in my future, but God had other plans, and he’s been so faithful with every question mark and concern in the process.

“Empty”, Ray LaMontagne 

Just such a nice sound, and reminds me a bit of Tennessee and Virginia.

“Let it be Me”, Ray LaMontagne 

“Boston”, Mick Flannery 

Such a sweet song.  I saw Mick Flannery in concert at my university a couple of weeks ago, and this was one of the only songs I really loved.

“No Name”, Ryan O’Shaughnessy 

Granted, I’ve always adored this song.

“Eve, The Apple of My Eye”, Bell X1 

Good song.

Okay, if you don’t like Damien Rice, stop here, because every other song is one of his from here on out hahaha.  A friend and fellow musician here introduced me officially to Irish song writer Damien Rice, and I’m kind of in love with a lot of his songs.  I tried to narrow it down to a couple for this, but I just couldn’t!

“Older Chests”, Damien Rice 

Just really pretty 

““Volcano”, Damien Rice 

I like duets.

“The Blower’s Daughter/Elephant”,“, Damien Rice 

My first favorite. ❤ 

“Colour Me In”, Damien Rice 

My second first favorite! Ah I can’t even it’s just so good!

Wow, that was more extensive than I thought it would be, but kind of cool to see all the songs I have been listening to on repeat for the last few weeks all laid out in a list.  I didn’t realize how many Irish song writers and singers were on this list until now haha.  Irish people just write good music… what can I say?

Thankful for Birdsong

I’m a musician, and melody is a constant presence in my life.  My roommates can attest to that.  They often comment, or tease, about my humming, and singing, and piano improvising at all times of the day, and occasionally the night.  I think maybe that’s what makes me appreciate birdsong so much.  They are participating in the same music-making that fuels my energy from hour to hour, and it’s life-giving, enchanting, even.

It reminds me of all the Disney princesses that make friends with birds.  Cinderella, Snow White, Mary Poppins (although she’s not exactly a princess), either way they all have this magically musical relationship with winged whistlers of various varieties, and in a way it’s quite representative of the reality.  There is something magical about it, an animal that can produce music at will, and does so as a regular part of their routine.  There aren’t many other animals like that.  May it serve as a reminder to make magic with our own music in our own routines.