The Impact of Music on Health Video

Meet music therapist Deborah Gromack, director of Homestead program at Goddard House, who believes music provides a new doorway to healing and emotional balance for people suffering from a range of maladies.
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The Impact of Music on Health Mary Lynn Schiavl: Certain songs or music according to Gromack seemed to have a profound impact on patients because they are a testament to spiritual transformation for the authors themselves. Deborah A Gromack: Historically, sacred music, certain sacred songs like Amazing Grace, like In the Garden, like Precious Lord Take my Hand. These songs are testimonies to someone’s spiritual experience. Mary Lynn Schiavl: There are unique challenges in working with Alzheimer’s patients. For a music therapist, it is important to choose the type of music that should be employed and at the appropriate time. Even the time of day that a patient is exposed to certain music must be taken into consideration. Deborah A Gromack: In the afternoon, there can be an increase in agitation as a person gets tired and the resources they have available to them are played out because a fatigue so they can display agitation or certain behaviors that manifest because they’re fatigued or they’re uncomfortable and when presented with that I have used music that’s very slow, has a very steady beat. Maybe characterized as positive, uplifting, organizing. Sometimes classical music works, sometimes it doesn’t. Mary Lynn Schiavl: Gromack asserts that everyone chooses to work in their own way. Her approach is to take a queue from the emotional and physical state of the patient and finds the best way to move them into a positive experience. Deborah A Gromack: If they’re agitated, I may start by meeting them rhythmically in terms of their respiration, in terms of their energy level, and then slowly bringing them down to a peaceful, quieter place and modifying the music so sort of tuning them down. So, it depends. Sometimes you can play something, I could play something very common, very quieting and the person will be there right away, their agitation level will decrease. Sometimes I have to go where they are and be with them in the music for a while at that level of agitation and then slowly bring them down to quiter level. Mary Lynn Schiavl: According to Gromack, different types of music and lyrics can be more effective with certain people. The music therapist has to choose carefully and consider the individual needs of the patient. Deborah A Gromack: There’s a quality of music itself that can be uplifting happy. I’m careful when I use silly songs because some people may feel that it’s infantilizing to use something to say songs from childhood. So, I tend to stay away from those unless it’s appropriate for the moment but uplifting songs, songs about love, songs about positive emotions or feelings about caring. I’ve used modern songs like the Wind Beneath my Wings with my clients and they respond very positively to the lyric content. Mary Lynn Schiavl: Gromack recognizes that part of the disconnection that stems from the disease comes from a disconnection with the outer world as well as the disconnection from the patient’s scents of self. She employs a number of techniques to help them reconnect. Deborah A Gromack: If I can assist somebody or facilitate connection with outer world then the person also doesn’t feel like they’re so alone. The instruments that I use also are natural. They’re made of wood they’re not plastic, they’re not artificial. I try to bring elements of nature like plants and flowers, things that people can respond to on a non-verbal level on a common level too. So, I may bring those elements in to a music roof and we may do some song writing or improvise music around nature, an element of nature, quality of nature and that’s also healing. Mary Lynn Schiavl: Gromack is dedicated to helping sick and dying patients access peace, wholeness and comfort in their hour of need through music therapy. It is truly her reason for being. Art is not a pleasure a solace or an amusement. Art is great matter, it is an organ of human life transmitting man’s reasonable perception into feeling. These are the words of Leo Tolstoy to many

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