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Music Therapy at Foothills Gateway Helps Build Autonomy

November 17, 2017

“Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent.” – Victor Hugo

Walking around the building on a Tuesday morning at Foothills Gateway, you’re bound to hear guitars, maracas, drums, singing, and other whimsical sounds coming from a conference room. For several years now, Foothills Gateway has coordinated with Colorado State University’s music therapy program to bring music therapy to Foothills through practicum students. These students (and their supervisor) provide an hour of music therapy to a group of individuals in different Day Programs. This semester’s music therapy students include Anne Marie, Susan, and their supervisor, Carly.

So what exactly is music therapy?Susan makes her way around the room with her guitar, opening the music therapy session on a Tuesday in October.

“Music therapy is the clinical use of music based intervention to meet non-musical goals or objectives,” said Anne Marie. Carly noted a unique trait about music therapy, “In music therapy we work based on strengths rather than weaknesses.”

For the individuals we serve specifically, Anne Marie explained, “Music therapy focuses on the individual. Through music therapy we’re able to work on things like increasing and strengthening mobility and increasing autonomy.” For example, one exercise is designed specifically to provide each individual with choice. The group was given hand percussion instruments to play while Anne Marie sang Charlie XCX’s popular song, “Boom Clap.” Throughout the song, Anne Marie would ask different individuals how they wanted to play their instruments and alter the lyrics to fit the style the individual wanted to play. Everyone in the group got to choose their preferred way of playing. Cheryl S. wanted to play fast, while others requested playing slow. Kirby J. finished the exercise off with a bang by suggesting the group play loud.

Susan explained other ways music therapy can benefit individuals…

Susan has CeCe choose her favorite thing about fall using photos“Through the use of music individuals are able to engage socially, emotionally, and make choices on their own.” Susan led the group in singing the season appropriate song, “Autumn Leaves” while they played along with bells. After the song, Susan presented each individual with a sheet filled with pictures of things related to fall such as: pecan pie, the changing leaves, going on a drive, the Broncos, and carving pumpkins. After singing about autumn, Susan went around and asked each individual to pick one of their favorite things about fall by pointing to the corresponding picture on the sheet. Eden R. picked the picture of going for a drive and explained why it’s her favorite, “I like going on drives with my grandma. I enjoy spending one-on-one time with her.”

Susan shared how she came to be involved with music therapy, “I’m a cancer survivor and while I was at the hospital I volunteered to sing to other cancer
patients.” She noticed the positive impact music seemed to have on these cancer patients and decided she wanted to learn more about how music could be used to help people. “I had a whole other career as an IT manager but decided I wanted to do something more meaningful,” she said. So Susan came to CSU to study music therapy.

In order to become a certified music therapist one must complete either four years of undergraduate study in music therapy or a graduate level equivalency program. Once schooling is complete, a six month internship is required followed by an exam to become board certified.

We are grateful to have music therapy at Foothills Gateway and enjoy the music that echoes through our halls on Tuesday mornings.

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