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Maryville: Music Therapy Heals in Wonderful

Posted by ElJay Arem (IMC OnAir) on January 25, 2012

By Doug Miner

(January 25, 2012) Maryville’s music therapy program is fully accredited, and the only school in the area where it is offered.

Music therapy is on a lot of radars these days, partly due to the impressive improvement Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords has shown using the approach after being shot earlier this year. Town and Country’s Maryville University has offered the field of study since 1972.

Music therapists uses music for therapeutic goals, just like an occupational or speech therapist.

“Music and speech have a lot in common,” said Cynthia Briggs, director of Maryville’s music therapy program. “Techniques using music and singing are helping (Giffords) rebuild her language.”

Briggs said Giffords can understand speech, but she’s working on speaking herself. She’s also using music to help regain her coordination.

“Humans are so rhythmic that when we set something to a very steady beat, it enhances their learning, their rehabilitation,” she said.

Crystal Weaver earned a master’s degree from the Maryville in music therapy in 2010, and is now part-time professor there, and puts it to work fulltime at Saint Louis University Cancer Center. She uses the therapy to help patient with their fears and pain management during their treatment process.

She sets the music to about 66 beats per minute, and the stressed patient’s heart rate begins to slow down to match the music.

“Our bodies have a way of adapting to the rhythms around us,” Weaver said.

And the kind of music doesn’t matter–whatever the patient prefers is what she uses–it’s not true that classical music is the most calming, Weaver said.

Music therapy began to organize as an occupation about 60 years ago, after World War II, when hospitals were full of veterans and musicians had started working with them. Briggs said it’s growing around the world.

Maryville has two fulltime and six part-time faculty, and about 70 students. The first two years of study looks like a music major. A student reads music, plays an instrument, and learns music theory and history. Then they take courses that put music into therapeutic settings.

After fieldwork and a thousand-hour internship, a student is eligible to sit for the board for their exam to be a board-certified music therapist.

Two years ago Maryville launched Kids Rock Cancer, a program to help kids at Children’s Hospital and Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center deal with their disease. Children in the program write lyrics with music therapist, Tracie Heuring, a Maryville music therapy alumnus.

“It gives them a chance to open up and talk about how they’re feeling,” project director Kristie Skor said. “They go back and look at the notes together and start to put together some lyrics. And there’s usually a theme that emerges.” After the words are written, they use a computer program called Garage Band to produce it and burn it onto a CD.

Through the process, the children think and talk about what they’re what they’re going through.

“It’s a wonder gift for that family to have sort of a snapshot of how the child is thinking and feeling and to hear their words,” Skor said.

(Source: 01/25/2012 – TownAndCountry-ManchesterPatch | Schools, Local Connections)

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