After more than 25 years operating without a facility, the SHSU music therapy program finally has a clinic to call its own, a space that associate professor and director of music therapy Karen Miller says will create “numerous opportunities for both our students and the community.”
While the music therapy program has operated in the Huntsville community for almost 30 years—with students working in schools, hospitals, and nursing homes—this past February marked the first time services were offered in a clinical space created specifically for music therapy students and their clients.
With the new music therapy clinic, those services will expand, according to Miller.
Music therapy is the prescribed use of music and musical interventions by nationally certified music therapists for the purpose of restoring, maintaining and improving emotional, cognitive, social, physiological and spiritual health and wellbeing. It has been found effective for people of all ages, from young children to adults.
“We’re constantly educating people about the profession, about the variety of applications for music therapy,” said Miller. “Music therapists use music’s effects on the brain to bring about improvement in motor skills, communication, cognitive processes, and social/emotional health. Most often, they treat individuals who have disabilities or illnesses, though music therapy is also used in wellness programs.”
Through the SHSU clinic, students will reach out to individuals in the community who have difficulties resulting from strokes, brain injuries, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, developmental disabilities, mental health challenges, illnesses or situational challenges necessitating additional support.
“We’ve had a music therapy group for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities meet here faithfully since February,” said Miller. “We have also treated individual clients with a variety of psychosocial, neurological and developmental needs.”
Music therapy clients do not need to be musically inclined; they only need to have a positive response to music.
Sessions may involve active music making by the client and therapist—for example, singing, instrument playing, or songwriting, or a more passive approach during which the therapist provides the music for the client who responds in a nonmusical way. Music-assisted relaxation is an example of a more passive approach.
Some of the outcomes that frequently result from music therapy services include improved walking and functional movement, increased speech and language functioning, improved social communication, and decreased anxiety and perception of pain, just toname a few.
The music therapy clinic is the result of the efforts of former School of Music director Mike Bankhead, Computer Science Chair Peter Cooper, and Provost Jamie Hebert, who recognized the need and allowed for the renovation of an old computer science space in Academic Building I. Room 201, where the clinic can be found, is a large room peppered with instruments, an office for graduate students, and an observation room, Miller said.