Music therapy uses sounds to accomplish positive changes in people’s behavior, thinking, communication, social skills or emotional and physical well-being.
In collaboration with VCU Health, the VCU Music Therapy Program works with patients in multiple settings such as hospitals, schools and homes to address their mental health or physical concerns. These medical issues include but are not limited to brain injuries, pediatrics, burns, adult oncology, women’s health and psychiatry.
Treatment plans for this program depend on the type of patient. For example, individuals who experience pain or anxiety would be treated through music assisted relaxation to reduce the perception of pain and teach coping skills while the brain injury groups focus on singing to increase communications. Sessions may include singing, music improv, writing songs and analyzing song lyrics.
“The music therapists determine, with patient and staff input, the intervention that will best address the patient’s goals. Some patients engage in more than one type of activity, while others find that they enjoy one specific activity,” said music therapist Melissa Owens in an email. “Personal preference in music is very important when working with our patients, therefore the type/genre of music differed with each patient/session.”
Owens previously worked as a music therapist in Richmond Public Schools for almost eight years before joining the team at VCU Health.
“I think it’s important to differentiate music therapy from entertainment or bedside musicians,” Owens said. “Music therapists have a degree in music therapy and follow strict code of ethics and standards or practice and engage in ongoing training and education in order to fulfill the requirements for maintaining their board-certification. In order to work as a music therapist, a degree and certification is required.”
On average, the program sees around 10 patients a day, but it depends on if both music therapists are seeing patients. In a year, the music therapists see more than 2,000 patients.
For more information on the music therapy program, call (804)-827-9962.
Article by: Logan Bogert, Contributing Writer
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