If you walk into MALO Health and Wellness Clinic in Rutherford, NJ, you may hear the sweet sound of music playing. But, it isn’t just any sweet music. It’s the sweet sound of music therapy, treating children (and adults) who struggle with ADHD, autism spectrum disorders, anxiety and mood disorders, learning difficulties, behavioural disorders, and other neurological concerns!
Music therapy is a non-medication and evidence-based therapy that is used to achieve specific and individualized goals for a patient. “Music therapy, when conducted by a credentialed and approved music therapy program, can be an effective treatment for people who have psychosocial, cognitive and communicative needs,” explains the director of Creative Arts Therapy at The Center for Neurological and Neurodevelopmental Health (CNNH) at MALO. “There are various types of music therapy, including the evidence-based approach of Neurologic Music Therapy, which we use at CNNH.”
What is Important about Neurologic Music Therapy (NMT)
Neurologic Music Therapy (NMT) is the only medically recognized model of music therapy spearheaded by the Center for Biomedical Research in Music (CBRM) at Colorado State University. NMT uses research-based techniques that employ music and rhythm to directly affect brain functioning. It focuses on specific, non-musical goals that are relevant to an individual’s everyday life, and produces changes in the brain that extend far beyond the music therapy session. Rhythm activates many areas of the brain (on both hemispheres) simultaneously, and for this reason can be used to build new connections (neuropathways) in the brain. These new pathways can lead to parts of the brain that are not accessible by other means of therapy.
So how does it work?
A variety of assessments are administered for each client to measure auditory and visual attention in and out of a music therapy session. Goals and objectives for each participant are created based upon the assessment outcomes. Clients do not need any prior music experience or knowledge to participate in music therapy.
Music therapy sessions are specially designed to assist in enhancing auditory processing, fine and gross motor skills, speech and language skills, and cognitive functioning through fun musical activities depending on each individual’s needs. (This type of therapy is appropriate for children, adolescents, and adults!) Music therapy interventions can stimulate attention and increase motivation to become more engaged in activities at home, at school, and in the community, focusing on areas including but not limited to:
· Cognitive Goals e.g. developing cognition and focus by combining instrument play with musical elements such as melody and rhythm to train attention and memory in the brain.
o Example: Drum playing- The music therapist would play a rhythm on the drum, prompting the individual to repeat the rhythm, and slowly increase the complexity of the provided rhythm.
· Social Goals e.g. relationship development, learning to listen, take turns, anticipate changes, and pick up on cues through musical play. These are also often common goals in group music therapy sessions where clients interact with peers
· Speech & Language Communication Goals e.g. using a steady beat to anticipate (supporting initiation) and organize (supporting sequencing) speech through speaking, chanting, or singing; using specific melodies and rhythms to simulate normal speech patterns
· Emotional Goals e.g. using songwriting or lyric analysis to promote emotional expression, self-esteem, manage frustration or anxiety
· Motor Goals e.g. therapeutically playing instruments with rhythmic support developing gross and fine motor skills (most commonly using piano, guitar and percussion instruments); using rhythm to prepare the motor system for movement and improve body awareness
What Patients Say
Music therapy, and other creative arts therapies, can have a profound effect on patients’ functioning. One mom from Laurel Springs, NJ recalls, “We had a feeling that music might be a link for our son to the “real world” because most of his spoken words have been songs he has heard. It wasn’t until his first independent request was made using a made-up chant from his music therapist that we realized how powerful the connection really was for him. We would never have thought to sing our instruction. And the best part?...he sings back the answer.”
In the words of Dr Michael Thaut, Professor of Music and Neuroscience at Colorado State University, “The brain that engages in music is changed by engaging in music.”
Gillian Zambor has an MS degree in Music Therapy and an additional certification in Neurologic Music Therapy. She is one of a team of music therapists working within the Creative Arts Therapy department at The Center for Neurological and Neurodevelopmental Health (CNNH), conducting individual and group music therapy sessions with children and adolescents. CNNH has locations at MALO Health and Wellness in Rutherford, NJ and in Monmouth and Camden Counties in NJ and King of Prussia PA.
By Gillian Zambor, MS