Integrative health through music therapy: Accompanying the journey from illness to wellness

Integrative health through music therapy: Accompanying the journey from illness to wellness The field of music therapy welcomes many different approaches to clinical practice that are informed by the evolution of our wider healthcare system. With a growing interest in integrative health and wellness becoming more prominent in Western culture, I welcomed the recent opportunity to read and review Suzanne Hanser’s new book, Integrative Health Through Music Therapy: Accompanying the Journey from Illness to Wellness. Though Dr. Hanser is the sole author of record, as I was reading this book I also perceived the influence and guidance of a second author: Hanser’s late son, Sam. I learned from my reading of the text that Sam died at the young age of 27, shortly after defending his master’s thesis in somatic psychology. Sam was a student and advocate of an individual’s ability to self-heal, and this book is in many ways Hanser’s continuation of her son’s work. This aspect of the book immediately pulled me in as a reader, as I connected with the underlying inspiration for this inquiry into the music therapist as “healer.” In the book’s preface, Hanser admits that prior to this writing she had avoided the word “healing” throughout her career as a music therapist, believing it to be in contradiction to the empirical backbone of the field. She has now embraced the word as a complement to her existing pragmatic clinical vocabulary. She writes that “it is possible to become well, even if we are not healthy” (p. 1), and that “The purpose of this book is to explore ways to reveal this inner healer through combining empirically verified music therapy techniques with holistic practices” (p. 1). As suggested by the title, the theme of Hanser’s text centers on accompanying clients on a journey “from illness to wellness,” and the book is divided into three parts designed to guide the reader along that journey. In Part I, “Maps for the Journey,” Hanser lays the groundwork for the intersection of music therapy and the holistic practice of healing. It is in this section that the reader is introduced to the terminology associated with integrative health and wellness. Chapter 1 serves as the Introduction and clearly outlines the topics that will be covered throughout the text. Chapter 2 begins to describe what it means to be well and to explore the notion that an individual can be well in the presence of illness. This chapter also introduces the concept of “flow” and the ways in which music and music therapy may bring the client into a state of flow, thus achieving a sense of wellness even in the presence of illness. Chapter 3 gives background information on integrative health, the term that has recently replaced “alternative medicine.” The chapter defines “integrative medicine” as “an evidence-based approach that includes non-traditional therapies in a comprehensive treatment plan to heal the whole person, not just the diseased part of a patient” (p. 25), and goes on to clarify the role of music and music therapy in integrative medicine. Chapter 4 provides an overview of holistic health systems, with a focus on Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurvedic medicine. This chapter was slightly overwhelming due to a plethora of foreign terms and symbols; nonetheless, the information presented here is a fundamental component of the core premises of the text. Chapter 5 discusses the history of musical healing practices from the ancient to the present, leading up to the holistic practice of integrative music therapy. An additional feature of Part I is a collection of vignettes depicting Hanser and/or her son, Sam, woven throughout each chapter to further illuminate the concepts in familiar ways. Part II, “The Journey,” shifts the focus to the relationship between the music therapist and client, referred to by Hanser from this point on in the text as the music therapist’s “companion” on the journey. This section is written in the first person and has a more personal, instructional feel. Chapter 6 includes reflections meant to prepare music therapists for the multifaceted aspects of being fully present with your companion in a music therapy session. In the words of the author, this chapter “seeks to enrich your formal training as a music therapist, taking you beyond the skills-based training,” and “addresses your preparation as a whole human being and an emotional and spiritual guide to your patients” (p. 74). Chapter 7 takes the music therapist though the music therapy session while providing guidelines for enhancing the therapeutic relationship through being fully present, setting an intention, actively listening, creating rituals and ceremonies, assessing, and more. Even as a somewhat seasoned music therapist, I found this chapter to be revitalizing, and it challenged me to rethink some of the ways that I currently engage my clients. Chapters 8 and 9 present several thought-provoking case studies that emphasize clients’ journeys to achieve wellness in the presence of illness with implications for both integrative medicine and integrative music therapy approaches. Part III, “Pathways through the Journey,” explores music therapy techniques that have the potential to evoke in clients the transformation from illness to wellness. Chapter 10 focuses on music therapy techniques for comfort, including breath work, music paired with massage, progressive muscle relaxation, drummassage, imagery, meditation, mantra, toning, and singing. Chapter 11 provides instruction for more active music therapy interventions meant to “awaken” clients, including more active breath work, movement to music, yoga and music, drumming, chanting, singing, and the use of singing bowls. In Chapter 12, the music therapy interventions that are presented are meant to provide a creative outlet and allow the client to explore their “musical self.” Two brief case studies lend support here for various approaches to songwriting and improvisation that allow clients to “reframe the experience of illness to one of musical discovery” (p. 215). Chapter 13 addresses coping with grief and pain through poetry, lyric analysis, and personal anecdotes. Music therapy applications for both the client and the music therapist are explored as we are reminded to take the time to “sync the head and heart” (p. 219) to be fully present with our clients. Finally, Chapter 14 concludes the text with a discussion of music therapy practices that explore acceptance, ritual, gratitude, and spirituality at the end of life. Applications are presented for both the client as well as the music therapist who is grieving the loss of a companion. Hanser writes that “Because we are neither family nor friends, we cannot share in the rituals for grieving, nor reveal our emotional connections with those who knew the deceased” (p. 254). Throughout the text, the necessity for self-care for the music therapist is a significant and ubiquitous refrain. This text is an enjoyable read and a unique addition to the music therapy literature, as it seeks to bridge the gap between widely accepted, empirical interventions and more holistic approaches to clinical practice. Hanser writes: “This book, though written by a trained musician, therapist, and scientist practitioner, suggests that true healing can be found when we practice with a new openness to strategies that are as yet undocumented, in deep respect for their origins and sometimes inexplicable mechanisms” (p. 3). The book succeeds in prudently exposing the reader to these strategies, tempered with familiar language and guidance. The reader is challenged to broaden the way they conceptualize music therapy work, in a convergence of East and West. I would recommend this book to both novice and experienced music therapists who may be seeking a new philosophy of music therapy or looking to reinvigorate their existing clinical practice. © American Music Therapy Association 2017. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Music Therapy Perspectives Oxford University Press

Integrative health through music therapy: Accompanying the journey from illness to wellness

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Publisher
Oxford University Press
Copyright
© American Music Therapy Association 2017. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com
ISSN
0734-6875
eISSN
2053-7387
D.O.I.
10.1093/mtp/mix010
Publisher site
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Abstract

The field of music therapy welcomes many different approaches to clinical practice that are informed by the evolution of our wider healthcare system. With a growing interest in integrative health and wellness becoming more prominent in Western culture, I welcomed the recent opportunity to read and review Suzanne Hanser’s new book, Integrative Health Through Music Therapy: Accompanying the Journey from Illness to Wellness. Though Dr. Hanser is the sole author of record, as I was reading this book I also perceived the influence and guidance of a second author: Hanser’s late son, Sam. I learned from my reading of the text that Sam died at the young age of 27, shortly after defending his master’s thesis in somatic psychology. Sam was a student and advocate of an individual’s ability to self-heal, and this book is in many ways Hanser’s continuation of her son’s work. This aspect of the book immediately pulled me in as a reader, as I connected with the underlying inspiration for this inquiry into the music therapist as “healer.” In the book’s preface, Hanser admits that prior to this writing she had avoided the word “healing” throughout her career as a music therapist, believing it to be in contradiction to the empirical backbone of the field. She has now embraced the word as a complement to her existing pragmatic clinical vocabulary. She writes that “it is possible to become well, even if we are not healthy” (p. 1), and that “The purpose of this book is to explore ways to reveal this inner healer through combining empirically verified music therapy techniques with holistic practices” (p. 1). As suggested by the title, the theme of Hanser’s text centers on accompanying clients on a journey “from illness to wellness,” and the book is divided into three parts designed to guide the reader along that journey. In Part I, “Maps for the Journey,” Hanser lays the groundwork for the intersection of music therapy and the holistic practice of healing. It is in this section that the reader is introduced to the terminology associated with integrative health and wellness. Chapter 1 serves as the Introduction and clearly outlines the topics that will be covered throughout the text. Chapter 2 begins to describe what it means to be well and to explore the notion that an individual can be well in the presence of illness. This chapter also introduces the concept of “flow” and the ways in which music and music therapy may bring the client into a state of flow, thus achieving a sense of wellness even in the presence of illness. Chapter 3 gives background information on integrative health, the term that has recently replaced “alternative medicine.” The chapter defines “integrative medicine” as “an evidence-based approach that includes non-traditional therapies in a comprehensive treatment plan to heal the whole person, not just the diseased part of a patient” (p. 25), and goes on to clarify the role of music and music therapy in integrative medicine. Chapter 4 provides an overview of holistic health systems, with a focus on Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurvedic medicine. This chapter was slightly overwhelming due to a plethora of foreign terms and symbols; nonetheless, the information presented here is a fundamental component of the core premises of the text. Chapter 5 discusses the history of musical healing practices from the ancient to the present, leading up to the holistic practice of integrative music therapy. An additional feature of Part I is a collection of vignettes depicting Hanser and/or her son, Sam, woven throughout each chapter to further illuminate the concepts in familiar ways. Part II, “The Journey,” shifts the focus to the relationship between the music therapist and client, referred to by Hanser from this point on in the text as the music therapist’s “companion” on the journey. This section is written in the first person and has a more personal, instructional feel. Chapter 6 includes reflections meant to prepare music therapists for the multifaceted aspects of being fully present with your companion in a music therapy session. In the words of the author, this chapter “seeks to enrich your formal training as a music therapist, taking you beyond the skills-based training,” and “addresses your preparation as a whole human being and an emotional and spiritual guide to your patients” (p. 74). Chapter 7 takes the music therapist though the music therapy session while providing guidelines for enhancing the therapeutic relationship through being fully present, setting an intention, actively listening, creating rituals and ceremonies, assessing, and more. Even as a somewhat seasoned music therapist, I found this chapter to be revitalizing, and it challenged me to rethink some of the ways that I currently engage my clients. Chapters 8 and 9 present several thought-provoking case studies that emphasize clients’ journeys to achieve wellness in the presence of illness with implications for both integrative medicine and integrative music therapy approaches. Part III, “Pathways through the Journey,” explores music therapy techniques that have the potential to evoke in clients the transformation from illness to wellness. Chapter 10 focuses on music therapy techniques for comfort, including breath work, music paired with massage, progressive muscle relaxation, drummassage, imagery, meditation, mantra, toning, and singing. Chapter 11 provides instruction for more active music therapy interventions meant to “awaken” clients, including more active breath work, movement to music, yoga and music, drumming, chanting, singing, and the use of singing bowls. In Chapter 12, the music therapy interventions that are presented are meant to provide a creative outlet and allow the client to explore their “musical self.” Two brief case studies lend support here for various approaches to songwriting and improvisation that allow clients to “reframe the experience of illness to one of musical discovery” (p. 215). Chapter 13 addresses coping with grief and pain through poetry, lyric analysis, and personal anecdotes. Music therapy applications for both the client and the music therapist are explored as we are reminded to take the time to “sync the head and heart” (p. 219) to be fully present with our clients. Finally, Chapter 14 concludes the text with a discussion of music therapy practices that explore acceptance, ritual, gratitude, and spirituality at the end of life. Applications are presented for both the client as well as the music therapist who is grieving the loss of a companion. Hanser writes that “Because we are neither family nor friends, we cannot share in the rituals for grieving, nor reveal our emotional connections with those who knew the deceased” (p. 254). Throughout the text, the necessity for self-care for the music therapist is a significant and ubiquitous refrain. This text is an enjoyable read and a unique addition to the music therapy literature, as it seeks to bridge the gap between widely accepted, empirical interventions and more holistic approaches to clinical practice. Hanser writes: “This book, though written by a trained musician, therapist, and scientist practitioner, suggests that true healing can be found when we practice with a new openness to strategies that are as yet undocumented, in deep respect for their origins and sometimes inexplicable mechanisms” (p. 3). The book succeeds in prudently exposing the reader to these strategies, tempered with familiar language and guidance. The reader is challenged to broaden the way they conceptualize music therapy work, in a convergence of East and West. I would recommend this book to both novice and experienced music therapists who may be seeking a new philosophy of music therapy or looking to reinvigorate their existing clinical practice. © American Music Therapy Association 2017. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com

Journal

Music Therapy PerspectivesOxford University Press

Published: Jul 1, 2017

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