ARTICLE COURTESY OF SUSQUEHANNA STYLE | DECEMEBER 8, 2022 | by KAREN HENDRICKS
Music as Medicine
Take note, music therapy positively affects our health and wellbeing.
Music has the power to move us—sometimes, literally! Whether you’ve noticed its ability to energize you, inspire you to dance through your day, soothe you after a hard day’s work, or even tear up during a movie’s tender moment, then you’re in touch with the power of music.
But the idea of music therapy, tapping into melodies and rhythms—as medicine—is truly music to our ears. Board-certified music therapists Kristyn Beeman and Melanie Walborn of Harrisburg’s WB Music Therapy explain how to find harmony and healing.
How is music beneficial for our overall health?
“If we just think about listening to music, whether it’s a song that brings up memories from a wedding—a special dance with a spouse or parent, or when you were a child—a song your parent or grandparent sang to you or that you sang to your child,
or at a live concert singing in community with 80,000 people—most everyone has a song that has touched their heart and triggers that emotional part of our brain,” says Melanie.
What are some of the effects that Christmas music can have on us?
The answer to this question depends on each of our experiences and connections with the holiday season. While Christmas music can “trigger negative connections and trauma such as grieving the loss of a loved one who won’t be here for the holidays,” Kristyn explains, it can also conjure up warm memories of baking cookies.
For those in music therapy, the connections can go deeper: “If you have a couple that is older—one might have Alzheimer’s disease and not remember their spouse’s name—but when they sing Christmas songs together, they’re immediately reconnected,” says Melanie.
What are some of the applications for music therapy?
WB Music Therapy has experience guiding clients with autism, AD/HD, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, addictions, anxiety, intellectual disabilities, and depression.
“When somebody is experiencing depression, there is definitely some brain chemistry that is involved,” Kristyn explains, “Music is actually processed on both hemispheres of our brain, so when our brain is affected by a mental health issue, music is able to form pathways on other parts of our brain.”
It’s important to realize that music isn’t necessarily a quick fix, but it can be a powerful tool—a catalyst—sparking helpful conversations, working through trauma, and sparking the healing process, Kristyn adds.
Ultimately, why is music therapy so effective?
“Across the world, across humanity and history, we know there’s a relationship between someone trained to use music in a way that’s intentional and personal for you, that also helps empower you as the person receiving music therapy,” says Melanie. “I think the versatility of music and the human connection is the ‘why.’ Using music as a tool and not diminishing its beauty—it’s not clinical and sterile.”
You’re invited to witness—and participate in—the power of music! Join WB Music Therapy at the Holiday Sing, December 3 at the First United Methodist Church of Hershey, 64 W Chocolate Ave. It’s an event, open to the public, that brings the community together with clients—adults with intellectual disabilities who receive music therapy at Hershey’s Hope Springs Farm. WB Music Therapy has coordinated the event for six years—check their website for full details.
“It is the most joy-filled time of the season, because you have people coming together from all walks of life, all backgrounds, all genders, all ages, with no judgement—just to enjoy and love and celebrate together,” says Kristyn, “I encourage people to come and spend time around those who look or act differently, to learn not to be afraid of them—they’re so joyful.”