Art, Music, Therapy!

September 1, 2009 at 2:41 am Leave a comment

Have you ever heard of music therapy?  Sounds kind of fishy, right.  However, the field has studies to back it up as well as some scientific claims to soothing the heart and helping stroke patients, CHD patients and other heart problems.  The following excerpts are from an article by Bianca Tora:

“One such patient is an 18 year old girl profiled in the July 1 2009 issue of the Wall Street Journal. At age 9, she had her second heart transplant. Her body was determined to reject the first heart. She went into cardiac arrest six times in 2 hours. She recalled being “awake” when the doctors were frantically trying to revive her.

Fearing that they would pull the plug on her, she tried desperately to tell the people in the hospital room that she was alive.Recuperating at home was no easy matter; she kept having recurring nightmares in which she watched herself suffering cardiac arrest.

Things, however, began to change when she took up the pen. She began writing down her thoughts about being helpless and scared. She turned these details into poems and stories. Eventually, the nightmares disappeared.

Now 18, she has successfully completed high school and is looking forward to nursing school in the fall.She credits her writing for helping her deal with her heart and surgery. It was her creative expression through writing that enabled her to transform something frightening and painful into a positive goal – to make something of her life.

Researchers are taking note of the positive relationship between art therapy and the heart. Some current clinical data on this relationship include the following:

a) Psychosocial factors like depression and stress have been found to be strong risk factors for heart attacks. In fact, these emotional factors are considered as strong as physiological factors like high blood pressure and diabetes.

According to researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, depression increases the risk of heart disease more than genetics or the environment. This means that any intervention that can reduce depression can benefit the heart. Scientists are working to determine how artistic expression can be considered a valid form of clinical intervention to be used along with exercise, diets and medication for reducing heart disease.

b) Researchers at Temple University in Philadelphia have found that music can offer substantial benefit to patients who are stressed and anxious about undergoing treatment for coronary heart disease. Listening to music decreases blood pressure, heart rate and levels of anxiety in heart patients. In fact, music therapy is getting increased recognition as a viable form of treatment for depression and mood.

Take for example, Justin P, a young boy born with a heart defect. At 8 months, he had heart surgery. Since he was five years old, he has been experiencing attention and behavior problems at school. Unable to “settle down” in the classroom, Justin nevertheless responds well to music, especially songs with a strong upbeat tempo.

His parents decided to place him in a music therapy class when he turned six. Now 7, Justin can play the piano; he is more focused in school; he is just starting to read and he is a happier child.
According to his parents, music relaxes him and makes him more open to their suggestions.

Creative expressions in art, writing and music can be very effective therapeutic processes for children with heart disease.”

These therapies are good for patients and soothing.  They encourage healing and recovery as well as rehabilitation.  The Congenital Heart Information Network claims that “Music Therapy can be defined as the clinical use of music by a music therapist, as a therapeutic intervention for persons who have special needs. It does not claim to cure or to prolong life in the medical sense, but rather seeks to develop the potential of the individual and to improve the quality of human life. Music Therapy uses music as the basic tool for dialogue in much the same way that traditional therapies use language. Because music has universal appeal and is a form of nonverbal communication, music therapy can benefit persons who might be less responsive to verbal therapies. Benefits of music therapy treatment may include the development and maintenance of motor skills, reduced pain perception, enhanced self-esteem, improved speech and language skills, and alleviation of anxiety and depression (Wilfrid Laurier University, 1991).”

If you don’t believe any of these medical claims, then just take it from Paul Cardall.  Cardall is an accomplished musician and amazing pianist.  He was also born with tricuspid atresia, a CHD and is currently on the heart transplant list.  He has been awaiting his transplant for just over a year.  His blog, Living For Eden, has a post entitled “Music Therapy and Good Friends”.  The blog entry shares some great video footage of his friends who include Ryan Shupe, Peter Breinholt, Sam Payne, Charlie Jenkins, and Mindy Gledhill, all musicians who visited and shared a night of music and healing.  Cardall tells his readers “Thought I would share with you some brief video from an intimate night of friends and music that I’ll never forget. I am forever indebted to friends. I’ve said many times doctors have the ability and skills to heal your body but friends heal your mind and transport you from your suffering.”  All scientific evidence aside, Cardall claims that music does lighten the load and promote the healing of his broken heart!

Entry filed under: CHD Hospitalization, Congenital Heart Defect, Music Therapy. Tags: , , , , , , , , , .

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