Advocacy Archives - Access Music Therapy
Alive Inside

Alive Inside

“Sit beside me, please.” People with dementia and Alzheimer’s still want someone to sit beside them. They want us to talk to them, pay attention, spend time, and remind them of who they are and use to be. When we are with them, there are things to keep in mind. We need to be patient so that when they remember those moments, we experience it with them, and help them through the emotions that come alive.

If we just give them iPods and playlists, they can enjoy the time listening to music alone.

But, imagine this…a music therapist and a family member are sitting beside an elderly woman with dementia. There is no emotion on the patient’s face, her head is down, and she can’t speak a full sentence to save her life. Then, the music therapist begins to play the patient’s favorite song from the 1940’s, “A Bushel and a Peck”. Slowly, the patient lift’s her head, she has a huge smile on her face, and her shoulders begin to dance. She starts to sing along, except she is verbally slower than the tempo the music therapist is playing. Music therapist notices her response and slows the musical tempo a bit so that the woman can sing along. The woman continues to sing every single word along with facial expressions and blowing kisses to her family member. This, by far, is an amazing response for the family member to witness and be a part of. The experience awakened the patient and transitioned her to a much better emotional state which can contribute to decreased negative behaviors. It made a wonderful memory for the family member who was able to see a beautiful glimmer of who the older woman use to be.

“Alive Inside” is a film created by Michael Rossato-Bennett – Writer, Director and Producer. The film accompanies Dan Cohen, founder of a non-profit, Music and Memory as he visits elderly folks with dementia and Alzheimer’s who live in nursing homes. In giving the patients headphones and iPods with personal playlists, they film the positive responses. The film gives the impression that it is music therapy because of the research quoted, and the individuals in the music therapy profession who were interviewed. It has created some confusion in the public as to what music therapy really is. I haven’t had the privilege of viewing the film yet, but Rachelle from Soundscaping Source has seen it. You can read her “Alive Inside” film review here.  In another article, Rachelle offered her thoughts about the Music and Memory Program with some concern,

“The American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) supports music for all and applauds the efforts of individuals who share their music-making and time; we say the more music the better! But clinical music therapy is the only professional, research-based discipline that actively applies supportive science to the creative, emotional, and energizing experiences of music for health treatment and educational goals.” (American Music Therapy Association, 2014,
According to the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA), the film is not clinical music therapy. The movie trailer is emotionally moving. It shares positive, exciting moments of individuals reacting to the recorded music. However, keep in mind, it is not the clinical use of music therapy to facilitate expressive and receptive communication, increase alertness, decrease behavioral and psychological symptoms related to Dementia, increase engagement, increase mobility and physical functioning and validate life experiences. My mission and the AMTA’s mission is to advance public awareness of the benefits of music therapy and increase ACCESS to quality music therapy services in a rapidly changing world. In consideration of the diversity of music used in healthcare, special education, and other settings, we recommend the unique knowledge and skill of board certified music therapists.

I am a Music Therapist!

I am a Music Therapist!

Hooray! It’s Music Therapy Advocacy Month. In the music therapy world, we are centering on exploring and honoring our identity as music therapists and as a distinct and stand-alone profession. I am so excited for what the next year will bring! Help us give a special shout-out for the music therapy profession on social media including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and wherever else you share with your community. The following is a guest post from Judy Simpson, MT-BC, the Director of Government Relations, American Music Therapy Association.

(more…)

Celebration of Life

Celebration of Life

Calvin & Hobbes ponders…

Many of you know that I work with some awesome children and young adults with special needs. I also work with hospice patients through Essentia St. Mary’s Hospice. I have dedicated this blog to sharing my observations, experiences, and suggestions with my readers. Over the years, I have witnessed a number of hospice deaths, attended, and performed for many funerals, including five of my family members. As a musician, it seemed natural to perform for some of those personal funerals, but I knew when it would be too difficult for me. I’ve worked in hospice care as a music therapist for nine years, and with that I’ve been involved in performing the music for many patient funerals and memorial services because of the connections made through music therapy sessions. Altogether, I’ve witnessed funerals that had much love and attention invested in them thus making them very meaningful, and others, not so much. There were times when a preacher didn’t even remember the deceased person’s name during the eulogy! Nobody wants that. Obviously, planning such an event takes a lot of preparation to make it meaningful and less burdensome on the family. For a many reasons, I am proposing that you think hard about planning ahead for your own funeral.

“When the time comes to die, make sure that all you have to do is die!” ~Jim Elliot”
Elisabeth Elliott,

The Journals of Jim Elliott

It’s never too early to plan and share your own end of life wishes with those you love. Preparing for your celebration of life allows others to make informed decisions. It gives you time to communicate your wishes to those who may be left with the responsibility of making decisions on your behalf. The funeral or memorial service alone is a huge undertaking. Would you want to leave the funeral planning to your family members who are in the midst of their sadness? (more…)

AMT Recital on August 5th

AMT Recital on August 5th

Recital 2013

AMT is having it’s 2013 Music Therapy Recital. Come and watch as Jody’s current clients share their love of music and their hard work. Recital is on August 5th at 2:30pm at Primrose Assisted Living in Duluth. Address is: 724 Maple Grove Road, Duluth, MN. Click on the link below to see the program poster.

Aug 5 MT Recital

Session Video

Session Video

I have a new session video to share with you all. I have the honor of working with some fabulous kiddos! Their parents have allowed me to share bits of their music therapy sessions with you to help build awareness and education about the power of music therapy. Enjoy! Please leave your feedback in the comments section below.
Jody St. George

Pin It on Pinterest