Memory Archives - Access Music Therapy
Dress Up Baby Doll

Dress Up Baby Doll

I grew up dressing and primping my Barbie’s and baby dolls. My mom had sewn clothes for all my dolls. So, when I had girls of my own, I made clothes for their dolls too. Playing dress up with the baby dolls was part of the fun. The developmental skills learned by having and caring for dolls is priceless.

Research shows that when kids play with dolls, it teaches them about themselves and those around them. On a basic level, it teaches them fine motor skills and self-help skills by dressing and undressing the dolls. Speech and language development through pretend play. Socio-emotional skills develop through caring and nurturing for Why Kids Should Play with Baby Dolls…Yes Even Boys.

So, is it okay to give a someone with Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia a baby doll to use therapeutically? A study in Nursing Times in 2007, found an increase in positive behaviors and decrease negative behaviors when a doll was given. They found doll therapy to be a promising and effective approach to use in the care of older adults with dementia. Of course, there are always two sides to an issue. Some people believe it is demeaning to treat loved ones like children or to see their loved one caring for a baby doll as if it’s real. A controversial conversation. Leave a comment below with your opinion


Stressed? Sew a Dress.

Stressed? Sew a Dress.

Do you have stress? I bet you do. Most people have some level of stress. Do you like to craft, paint, sew, or make music? I do. In regards to stress, I deal with stress everyday. Stress over family issues, business, money, and the dreaded upcoming Minnesota winter! Lately, I have found myself doing a lot more sewing than I had been in the past few years. Unfortunately, I had stopped sewing for a number of years despite how much it was part of my life. It happened because back in 1999, when I decided to go back to college to get a degree, I made the decision based on my two talents, sewing and music (violin player). My music influence started when I was 10 years old in the public school system, and continued on until graduation. I played the violin occasionally over the next ten years before going back to college. My sewing influence came from my mom and the sewing/vacuum store my parents operated. I used to sew all of my girls clothes, and anything else I needed.

Keep calm and play violin
In thinking about these two talents and possible careers in either area, I decided to go the music route. I thought I would become a violinist with a Music Performance degree. However, three weeks into violin lessons, as my instructor was asking me questions about my life to see how music performance could fit. And, since I was 27 years old at the time, a mother of two little girls, I had already done some living, and she suggested other music career ideas. She told me about music therapy. I just happen to be at one of the two schools in the state of Minnesota that offered the music therapy degree (Augsburg College).
I checked into the degree, and I was SOLD! I never looked back. However, sewing was always there for me. As I started college, I made the mistake of selling my sewing machines as I thought that I wouldn’t have time with all the demands of college and running a family. After a few years, I started sewing again.
Now, another ten years later, I am sewing a lot more. Especially with the creation of the Guitten. I am finding myself thinking about other sewing projects that I could do. When I shop for clothes, I find myself thinking, “I could just sew that for less money, and I could make it exactly how I want it.” It makes me feel good to be creative, and I love brainstorming new ideas.
This creative thinking and doing is actually healthy for anyone. With all my busy-ness with my business and family, I have been sewing more, and realizing how relaxing it is to my well-being. It’s really good to be in the moment with any task, but with sewing you have to be completely mindful of what you are doing. Multi-tasking is not an option.Keep calm and craft on
Did you know that creative expression helps you to relax, reflect, distract your mind, and relieve stress. I love to be creative in many ways. One way is sewing. I also like to collage, resurface furniture, and remodel areas of my home. When I sew, I can’t multi-task. I must devote all of my attention to the project. Sewing requires you to be in the moment. I have found that sewing helps me to slow down. I love the creativity of designing the product that I plan on creating. I start by putting on my “Happy” iTunes playlist while I sew. For me, playing music while I create adds to the therapeutic benefits of creative expression. Happy Playlist
Research has found that crafting activities involves many areas of your brain. It works your memory, attention span, visuospatial processing, creative side and problem-solving abilities. Whether you draw, paint, craft, quilt, sew, or chainsaw wood into beautiful works of art, crafting has been found to have physical, psychological and spiritual benefits. Gail McMeekin, MSW, a career coach in West Roxbury, Massachusetts, and the author of the books “The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women,” said “Crafts are a way of valuing yourself and giving to yourself. They allow you to express what’s inside.”
Professionals in the creative arts such as music and art therapy use these and other unique forms of expression to communicate, and release tension. In working with elementary children and teens, I often use collaborate with a fellow therapist, Nikki, on using art in our music therapy groups.
Not only can crafting ease stress, increase happiness, but it could protect the brain from damage caused by aging. According to CNN, “Neuroscientists are beginning to see how studies on cognitive activities such as doing crossword puzzles might also apply to someone who does complex quilting patterns.” Scientists are studying these type of activities. The Journal of Neuropsychiatry reported that you could reduce your chances of developing mild cognitive impairment by 30%-50%.
Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmigalyi first described this phenomenon as flow: a few moments in time when you are so completely absorbed by an activity that nothing else seems to matter. “Flow” can dampen and calm internal chaos. It’s like a natural anti-depressant.
I certainly like that data. It’s motivating for me and encourages me to KEEP ON being creative. So, for all of YOU, get that project out of the box that you’ve been procrastinating! Turn on the tunes, complete it, create more, and you could be contributing to your own health!


Lewis, R. (2011). Engaging in cognitive activities, aging, and mild cognitive impairment: a population-based study. Journal of Neuropsychiatry.

McMeekin, G. (2011). The 12 secrets of highly creative women.Conari Press; 10th Anniversary Edition edition.

Wilson, J. (2014) This is your brain on knitting.

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.

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