Music Therapy Technique: Entrainment

Music therapists use many specific techniques to improve the lives of their patients.  We are trained to design and implement interventions that use elements of music to stabilize, improve, or enhance functioning.  One of the techniques I use daily in my individual clinical work is called entrainment, which means matching.

I use this most often with babies, patients in low awareness states, and patients needing non-pharmacological pain relief.  I first assess the patient and choose a tempo from their body – it could be a baby’s rhythmic screaming, a teenager’s breathing rate, or a heart rate from a monitor.  Then, I create music with my voice and/or an accompanying instrument that matches that tempo.

Matching a patient’s body rhythms often produces a relaxation response.

We get in sync and then slow down together.  In the hospital setting, I can watch their monitors and see their heart rates decreasing and oxygen saturation increasing.  This means they are calming and their breathing is becoming more effective. Continue reading

Turning Loneliness into Joy

I recently attended a presentation about music and health by Renée Fleming, superstar soprano opera singer.  She was in Indianapolis preparing to perform with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra.  A few days prior to her performance, she visited Riley Hospital for Children and spent some time with me and the other music therapists.  I was very honored to have her be part of one of my music therapy sessions – she even sang along during a couple of the songs!  I sang with Renée Fleming!!!  ::pause to geek out::

Anyway, her presentation was wonderful, and one part in particular stuck out for me.  She mentioned a study that examined the detrimental health effects of loneliness.  I found some more information about that study here.   Loneliness in older adults is actually linked to Alzheimer’s disease!

I immediately thought about the “grandfriends” in our Intergenerational Music Classes.  Older adults in senior living communities can easily become lonely and disengaged in the community.  I knew that bringing children and families into senior living communities to make music with grandfriends was improving their quality of life, but this information suggests that these classes could actually have a positive effect on their physical health, too.   Continue reading

This Song Helps Toddlers Manage Emotions

Do your toddlers ever get upset?

Of course they do.  They’re toddlers!

A few months ago, I was visiting my friend Mary.  We were singing together at her piano, like we did so often when we both were in the Michigan State University College of Music.  Her 3 year old son began to get upset, wanting us to play with him instead of sing.  Watching his tension rise, and seeing that he might be headed towards a meltdown, I jumped into music therapist mode and sang this song:

Continue reading