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Music Therapy with Older Adults

Music therapists use music to achieve non-musical goals with a variety of populations. There are many ways in which music therapy can enhance the lives of older adults. Because almost everyone enjoys music and it activates so many parts of the brain, a music therapist is able to address many goals and objectives in ways that feel fun and motivating for the participants. Whether in a group or individual setting, a music therapist uses client-preferred music as much as possible. Some of the most common goals we address are related to speech, fine and gross motor movement, cognition, emotional expression, reality orientation, and social engagement.

What Can One Expect From A Music Therapist?

When individualized music experiences are designed by a professionally trained music therapist to fit functional abilities and needs, responses may be immediate and readily apparent. Participants without a music background can benefit from music therapy. Music therapy provides opportunities for:

  • Memory recall which contributes to reminiscence and satisfaction with life
  • Positive changes in mood and emotional states
  • A sense of control over life through successful experiences
  • Awareness of self and environment which accompanies increased attention to music
  • Anxiety and stress reduction for older adult and caregiver
  • Nonpharmacological management of pain and discomfort
  • Stimulation which provokes interest even when no other approach is effective
  • A structure which promotes rhythmic and continuous movement or vocal fluency as an adjunct to physical rehabilitation
  • Emotional intimacy when spouses and families share creative music experiences Social interaction with caregivers and families (Source: American Music Therapy Association, 2006)

Here are some examples of how music therapy can help older adults:

Dementia/Alzheimer’s: By using familiar songs, we’re often able to orient clients to the present moment, spark memories, and facilitate singing and movement. We’re able to create opportunities for interaction with fellow residents, family members, and staff. Research shows that music supports the maintenance of memory organization and thought processing. As dementia or Alzheimer’s disease progresses and individuals lose their ability to speak, they may still able to sing favorite songs or hum. Music therapy can be an effective modality for older adults to help maintain and slow the regression of speech and language skills in the areas of expressive and receptive communication, choice-making, oral motor, sequencing, motor planning, answering questions, phonemic awareness, speech intelligibility and patterns of language.

Parkinson’s Disease: Rhythm-based exercises paired with words can enhance speech intelligibility for the stroke patient or person with Parkinson’s disease. Rhythmic Auditory Stimulation (RAS) can support gait training and enhance movement.


Angie Kopshy, MM, MT-BC
Angie Kopshy, MM, MT-BC

Angie Kopshy, MM, MT-BC, is a board-certified music therapist and founder of Big Sky Music Therapy. Upon completion of her Master’s in Music from Boise State University, Angie returned to Portland to study music therapy. Before moving to Montana, her work included a private practice that incorporated neurologic music therapy techniques, the supervision of practicum students and interns and a teaching position at Pacific University. Angie is also a singer/songwriter with the band, Stoneface Honey.

 

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Integrated Movement Therapy for Children

This workshop was facilitated by Molly Lannon Kenny, the founder of IMT. One of the many great things about Molly is that she was a speech-language pathologist before turning her passion into a yoga-based therapy. In addition, she also has a lot of experience with children diagnosed on the autism spectrum.

Having been clinically trained as a speech language pathologist, it has always been my passion to see and articulate the specific effects of different yogic practices, bridging the clinical/yoga divide with common language and sound principles.

– Molly Lannon Kenny

The IMT framework Molly created incorporates “step-wise criteria for a therapeutic mode as a clinician, and also speaks to my heart as a yogini, starting from the perspective that we are all perfect and whole as we are.” In addition to studying the six core principles of Integrated Movement Therapy, we learned how to create schedules that incorporate yoga into goals and objectives created for each child. Yoga freeze, Yoga Bowling, Yoga Transformer, Obstacle Course and Shavasana are a few of the techniques we’ll be incorporating into our sessions. The skills that are being developed during these techniques are intended to positively impact a child’s life during the session and our time together, but outside our sessions as well.

Learning about these techniques at this time is particularly inspiring and exciting as The Global Music Therapy Project prepares for our next International trip to Nepal and India at the end of April. We’re scheduled to meet music therapists and observe their work within these countries and look forward to sharing what we discover.

Our music therapy groups for March are on the 5th and 19th. In between these two groups, Kate and I will be in Boise, Idaho, at our Western Region’s Chapter of the American Music Therapy Association conference, where we’ll attend sessions on the latest innovations and concepts in music therapy. This will be a month full of new approaches and ideas within our clinic!


Angie Kopshy, MM, MT-BC
Angie Kopshy, MM, MT-BC

Angie Kopshy, MM, MT-BC, is a board-certified music therapist and founder of Big Sky Music Therapy. Upon completion of her Master’s in Music from Boise State University, Angie returned to Portland to study music therapy. Before moving to Montana, her work included a private practice that incorporated neurologic music therapy techniques, the supervision of practicum students and interns and a teaching position at Pacific University. Angie is also a singer/songwriter with the band, Stoneface Honey.

autism, music, music therapy, music therapy for autism, musical stories, neurologic music therapy, singing, special needs

Creating a musical story for ASD

The idea of a musical story for ASD was inspired by social stories that are being used with more and more frequency within the ASD world. Carol Grey officially created Social Stories in 1990 after working with a team of incredible parents, professionals, and students for many years. One of Grey’s first stories was a step-by-step story that described how to follow and complete directions in a sewing pattern.  We were creating a curriculum that would enable us to teach from a distance, one story and social packet at a time. Grey provides an in depth example while writing about a student named Eric in The Discovery of Social Stories (1990-1992).

The three principles of the Social Story philosophy that guide the development of each Story.

  1. Abandon all assumptions.
  2. Recognize that the social impairment in autism is shared, with mistakes made on all sides of the social equation.
  3. When Typical people interact with people with autism, both perspectives are equally valid and deserving of respect.

While embracing the practice of taking the unique perspectives of ourselves and those with whom we are working into account, a musical story also embraces the impact of music upon the brain. An article published in Autism Research revealed that “functional fronto-temporal connectivity, disrupted during spoken-word perception, was preserved during sung-word listening in ASD, suggesting alternate mechanisms of speech and music processing in ASD.” If you’re a visual learner, the images in this article, particularly the one on page 6, may give you a better idea of these implications. According to this research, singing rather than speaking, enhances neural activity.

At Music Therapy Services of Portland, we want to coach parents, caretakers and allied health professionals working with ASD on how to create a musical story. Our workshop will walk you through the process of creating a social story from your child’s perspective.

We will take you through the three primary steps involved in creating a musical story. Come with a challenge in mind that you’d like to help your child overcome through a musical story. Some examples for inspiration:

  • Going to the bathroom independently
  • Eating lunch at school
  • Taking a shower
  • Getting dressed in the morning
  • Getting ready for bed

Eventbrite - Workshop: Creating Musical Stories for ASD

The next workshop is on March 15th from 6-8pm for $25. Register here or contact us with any questions: angie@musictherapyportland.com, 971-221-7144. We are offering 20% off for a group of 3 or more. Please contact us for the discount code.


Angie Kopshy, MM, MT-BC
Angie Kopshy, MM, MT-BC

Angie Kopshy, MM, MT-BC, is a board-certified music therapist and founder of Big Sky Music Therapy. Upon completion of her Master’s in Music from Boise State University, Angie returned to Portland to study music therapy. Before moving to Montana, her work included a private practice that incorporated neurologic music therapy techniques, the supervision of practicum students and interns and a teaching position at Pacific University. Angie is also a singer/songwriter with the band, Stoneface Honey.