Telling Stories: Music Therapy Advocacy

Woman walking with caneIn honor of Social Media Advocacy Month for Music Therapy…..

  I can’t tell you how many times I have been asked “What is music therapy?.”  I wish I could instantly     record parts of my day and play them back on the spot so people could see music therapy in action.  The camera, tripod, batteries, getting the right angle etc. don’t always work out at the right time.  You may not be able to follow me through my day, but I do have stories. I have lots and lots of stories.

I can show you data from my sessions. I can point you to research studies. Ultimately, these things don’t mean a whole lot unless you understand that the client in this story could be your mother, or your father, or even YOU!  I hope that this story will help you understand that music therapy is not a far out concept, or one of those things that sounds great in theory but really doesn’t help much in real life.  In fact, your brain is already wired for music, and you could be a great candidate for music therapy right now. So, here we go with a story:

  I once worked with a woman who would have identified herself as an unlikely candidate for music therapy. She had never been a “touchy-feely” kind of lady, and her stroke did not change that. I think she actually rolled her eyes when she saw me walk in with a guitar over my shoulder. She might have been described as gruff and a bit resistant.  Aphasia may have limited her language, but she still communicated quite well with facial expressions and body language. When the office door closed and there was no audience, I got her to loosen up a bit. Within a week, she had said a 5-6 word sentence for the first time. After a couple of weeks, her speech really started to return. Phrases and words started to pop out at the right time.  Like many stroke survivors, one of her big goals was to walk. She had never been a person that needed help from others, and walking represented the ultimate independence for her. Her physical therapist got her positioned correctly with assistive devices, and I started in with a steady rhythm that fit her walking pace, and cued her to spend an equal amount of time on each leg. We all watched as her body responded immediately to the auditory stimulus. I wouldn’t say she was walking just as she had prior to her stroke, but her gait immediately smoothed out. Everything looked more coordinated and less effortful. Around this time in her treatment, her attitude definitely shifted. She started to light up when I would walk in for her scheduled therapy session. She had realized that regardless of how little she believed in music therapy, it was helping her walk and talk again.  Her family was thrilled and astounded to hear her say “How are you?” and to watch her walk again. Music therapy helped her to make huge strides in her recovery.  When it was time for her to return home, she gave me the best gift: a picture of us working together, a card, a hug and a teary-eyed “thank you!”


  1. Sarah Johnson

    Beautiful story Sarah! This is why we keep working year after year – a powerful way to make a difference in this world.

  2. Thanks you for sharing this powerful story. I hope this woman and her family are also sharing it.

  3. I love this story. Therapy progressed even when someone was resistant at first. You really supported a shift in this person at many different levels. Her gift was magical.