Music Therapy                          

How you respond to music? Do you use Rock ‘n Roll to motivate housecleaning? Do you use Bach to wake up? Country to keep you awake while driving? James Taylor to relax? Mahler to be still? And what do you choose to listen to when you’re gathering with friends? When you want to be distracted?

Humanity is connected by music. The brain has only one speech area, but many areas that decipher music. When a person has a stroke or wound in the speech center, a music therapist can aid in bringing speech back.

Of course, while music itself can be therapeutic, that doesn’t make it Music Therapy. Therapy requires a trained and experienced Music Therapist to develop a relationship with the individual to best understand his/her needs and to set goals to benefit the patient, using music as the tool to do that.

Drew Laney works with Guided Imagery/Music Relaxation, Rhythm Activities, Song Writing, Movement to Music, Playing Instruments, and Singing to reach the individual and to help achieve their goals.


1. Relaxation:   It is very likely that the client and his/her family are experiencing strong negative emotions (anger, depression, anxiety, frustration….) about their situation. These feelings are appropriate and need to be respected and processed. When relaxed, a person can view his/her own feelings with more clarity and therefore deal with them more effectively.

2. Easing Pain:   Anxiety often increases muscle tension, which, in turn, can increase physical pain. The pain can also become the sole focus of the client’s attention. The appropriate music can be a distraction from the pain,a new focus for the client’s attention. This allows the client to think less about the pain and to relax more completely. The more the muscles relax, the greater
chance of reducing pain.

3. Enhancing Communication:    Music is a universal language. Although music may touch us in different ways, we are all affected by it.  Listening to the same music in a given setting increases the shared experience of the immediate environment. This also aids in the  client and possible family members to be more relaxed and more inclined to talk about feelings.

4. Sharing Experiences and Activities:    Often the person dealing with a terminal illness, stroke, Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s Disease, a healing or detiorating broken bone, etc., has so many challenges that the only activities shared with others are the care taking duties provided by family and/or staff .Despite the care behind the effort, this often simply reminds the patient of his/her helplessness. Listening to music, singing songs, discussing song lyrics or memories evoked by the music, offers the client an opportunity to participate equally in an activity.

5. Offering the Client Some Control:    Music activities provide a variety of ways the client can exert some control over what is going on. The client can select the music to be played, the client can direct the musician by hand motions (my first hospice friend would speed up the song I was singing or slow it down – we joked she could point to the door for me to leave but she never did).The client can also make requests of various activities offered. In these small ways, he/she can reclaim some authority over what goes on around them – unlike the next dose of medicine or effects of what they are dealing with.

6.  Affirming Life Through Creativity:   Appreciating musical creativity can be a creative experience for a client. In addition, writing poetry or songs allows the client to make personal statements without necessarily feeling vulnerable. It also heightens and awareness of life’s lasting importance – of their lasting importance.

7. Evoking Memories and Feelings:   Songs from our youth, especially ages 14 – 24 can often evoke powerful feelings and/or memories. These feelings can help foster a renewed appreciation of how full the client’s life has been and enable him/her to claim the good feelings associated with those accomplishments and experiences.


For those of you interested in the human brain’s reactions to music, here are a few points to consider, gathered from experts in the field:

  • – When we sing, more air flowing means more oxygen to the lungs, through the veins and to the brain. This is especially important for older adults with respiratory conditions like pneumonia and other bronchial problems.
  • – Singing also strengthens the vocal chords, helping the speaking voice stay stronger, longer.
  • – When listening to music or being involved in some way, the hippocampus/memory center lights up. This is very encouraging for older adults who are concerned that their memory is becoming rusty. This is also rewarding for Azheimer’s clients who have lost so much information, and who can hardly speak but can sing all of the words to their favorite songs. This is also an important activity family members, who can share music with their loved ones when so many other things have been forgotten.
  • – Emotional reactions to music cause activity in the amygdala, cerebellum and the nucleus accumbeus.
  • – Music with a strong beat can stimulate brain waves.
  • – Music can release endorphins, helping to lower blood pressure and anxiety.
  • – Sing-a-longs are an easy and fun way to connect, communicate and to be part of a group, especially when folks are limited by mobility and communication challenges.

Music offers so many powerful ways for us to interact with each other. Music  can have an incredible effect on an individual’s recovery and well-being. Music is “medicine for the soul”.

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