Making “Great Days” with Music Therapy at Sojourn!

Making “Great Days” with Music Therapy at Sojourn!
Jennifer Hicks, MT-BC, E-RYT

Music therapy is the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program. (American Music Therapy Association definition, 2005) In other words, music therapy is simply the use of music to accomplish non-musical goals, generally related to the improvement or maintenance of mental and physical health.

Research shows that music therapy can reduce anxiety and depression, enhance social and emotional skills, decrease pain and challenging behaviors, improve mood and self-image, increase recall and reminiscence, expand verbal and nonverbal communication, strengthen interpersonal relationships and group cohesiveness, and provide both an opportunity for control and a safe emotional release for our clients. Research has shown music therapy to be effective with adults who have physical, psychological, cognitive, and social challenges, even when they are resistant to other forms of treatment. Music provides a form of sensory stimulation while still allowing our clients to feel secure in the familiarity of the music utilized. When words fail us, music becomes a means of expression. Even at the end stages of our lives, we respond to music.

Here at Sojourn, I (as a board-certified music therapist) have the privilege of seeing results such as these each week during my group music therapy sessions on Mondays and Tuesdays. Music therapy is included in the care plans of several of our clients as a therapeutic intervention. Our goal is to increase engagement, as evidenced by our clients making eye contact, smiling, verbalizing, humming, singing, moving, and/or playing instruments. I document daily and monthly on this goal for each of these clients.

As important as this documentation is so that our clients will receive the best care possible, my favorite moments are those when I help our clients shine – when those who are otherwise quiet or withdrawn start to sing along to a familiar song and then begin to smile and engage with me and with their peers. Seeing their eyes sparkle and their faces light up when we sing their favorite songs truly fills my heart with joy!

I also genuinely enjoy having the opportunity to work with our incredible interdisciplinary team here at Sojourn and with the many future healthcare professionals who complete part of their
training with us, not only in music therapy but also in nursing and in social work. In addition to earning at least a bachelor’s degree from a college or university approved by the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA), future music therapists must complete 1200 clinical practicum hours under the close supervision of an experienced music therapist and must pass a standardized exam given by the Certification Board for Music Therapists (CBMT). It is an honor for us at Sojourn to provide a supportive and nurturing environment for our future colleagues completing their clinical training as students and interns!

Even if you are not a board-certified music therapist, you can still use music to help you and your loved ones relax and to provide opportunities for shared positive experiences with your loved ones. The following are two concepts you can incorporate today to enhance your wellness and that of your loved ones:

  • Our bodies synchronize to the external rhythms around us. In music therapy, we call this entertainment and utilize the iso principle in our work, starting by meeting our clients musically in their current state and then gradually adjusting the tempo and dynamic level of the music we are using to help our clients move to a healthier state. You can use this as well. If you need to motivate yourself to get moving, start with music that matches your current state and then gradually increase the beat of the music. If you need to relax, start with music that matches your current state and then gradually decrease the intensity. You can even make playlists to help you!
  • Music and memories are profoundly linked by neural pathways in our brains. Songs or pieces associated with important events or individuals from our pasts can trigger memories of both the lyrics and the experiences. However, be aware that this applies to both positive and negative memories. This is one of the reasons why music therapists have such a strong foundation in psychology! Choose songs to sing or play with your loved ones with wisdom and discernment and be prepared to process, verbally or nonverbally, whatever connections are made. As you get to know the songs that evoke different memories, you can use this knowledge to create additional playlists for you and for them!

Please feel free to visit the AMTA website at or contact me if you have further questions about music therapy. Above all, know that I – and the entire interdisciplinary team here at Sojourn – are available as resources for you and your loved ones! It is truly an honor and a joy to use music therapy to “make great days” for you and for them!

With gratitude,
Jennifer Hicks, MT-BC, E-RYT
Joyful Noises LLC