Music to Their Ears–and Hearts, Minds and Bodies

“Music is what feelings sound like,” says music therapist Amy Wilson, quoting a sign posted in the home she shares with her musician husband. A board-certified music therapist, Amy explains how she works with residents of Country Home Assisted Living here in Elbert County.

Amy has been providing weekly, hourlong music therapy sessions at Country Home for three years, bringing rhythm instruments such as maracas, drums and bells, recordings, and dance props such as scarves—all whose purpose is to engage our residents socially, emotionally, cognitively and physically.

Music itself has “therapeutic” benefits for many populations in many settings, but music therapy as a medically based profession is the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals by a professional who has completed an approved music therapy program. That’s what we provide at Country Home Assisted Living to improve the quality of life for our residents.

“Individualized” is key.  At Country Home Assisted Living, our music therapist pays close attention to the individual needs of our residents, watching for facial expressions or behaviors that indicate a reaction to the music—for example, whether it calls up happy or sad memories.  We want to know what kinds of music they like, what music they don’t like, about music in their past. Is it big band, country western, classical?  Because our setting accommodates a small number of residents (generally eight or fewer), Amy can address the needs of each person.

Once she assesses the strengths and needs of our Country Home residents, Amy provides the indicated treatment, including creating, singing, moving to, and/or listening to music.

The concept of music as a healing influence on health and behavior is as least as old as the writings of Aristotle and Plato, according to the American Music Therapy Association. But the profession was formally established when community musicians visited veterans’ hospitals around the country to play for the thousands of veterans suffering physical and emotional trauma from the World Wars. The patients’ physical and emotional responses to music led doctors and nurses to request that hospitals hire professional musicians. The first music therapy programs at universities began in the 1940s.

We’re fortunate to be able to provide professional music therapy to our residents at Country Home Assisted Living, and encourage people whose loved ones need it are able to benefit from music therapy’s healing powers.