On my placement in acute care, one of the OTs was mentoring a musical therapy student. This student specialized in the guitar and would discuss with her preceptor which patients could benefit from musical therapy. Often, she would go to palliative care or play music with the elderly. She ran rhythm circles and told me that her clients really enjoyed participating in these groups. I was in neuro acute care and one of the most memorable clients had an anoxic brain injury. As this patient was recently admitted, the rehabilitation team had high hopes for a recovery but was also weary about whether or not the client would improve. The musical therapy student told me that when she went into the room and played music, the patient was sleeping but was tapping his/her fingers to the beat. The student then began strumming the guitar, singing a song and singing out the patient’s name. In that moment, the patient opened his/her eyes and looked at the student- He/she appeared to be connecting to her and to the music. The spouse, who was in the room began to get emotional and cry. Through this experience, the spouse felt a glimmer of hope and felt that maybe there was potential for recovery. When I heard this story, I found that music can be so powerful. Whether or not the patient was understanding what was happening, the patient along with the spouse and musical therapy student seemed to be silently communicating through music.
Research about musical therapy:
Maratos, A., Crawford, M. & Procter, S. (2011). Music therapy for depression: it seems to work, but how?. The British Journal of Psychiatry, (199), 920-93. Retrieved from http://bjp.rcpsych.org/content/199/2/92.full
This article discusses the benefits of musical therapy for depression. The researches suggest that music therapy partly is effective because active music-making within the therapeutic frame offers the patient opportunities for new aesthetic, physical and relational experiences.
OT Innovations has a good website writing about music therapy and OT practice:
OT Innovations. (2008). Music & sound therapy. Retrieved from http://www.ot-innovations.com/content/view/36/57/
(OT Innovations, 2008)