37– Music Therapy, with Dr. Maureen Hearns

October 07, 2020 Utah State University Office of Research Episode 37
37– Music Therapy, with Dr. Maureen Hearns
Show Notes Transcript

Dr. Maureen Hearns takes us on a quick tour of the therapeutic power of music. You will learn how the arts can help people who have survived domestic abuse. How music therapy can help, and what a session might be like.

Maureen Hearns: [00:00:03] And we were on a stage there in Czechoslovakia and we were singing a song that had been forbidden by the Republic over there for many, many years until at which time the Iron Curtain had been lifted.


Wyatt : [00:00:17] It's 1991, and Maureen Hearn's is in Prague ,singing with the Tabernacle Choir. She's telling us this story because it's an example of the power of music and part of the prelude to her becoming the director of music therapy at USU.


Maureen Hearns: [00:00:30] And we sing this particular song that had been forbidden for them. But now it was possible for us to sing that.And as we did and I watched the expressions on the audience face, it took a moment for them to register that it was now legal to have that folk song sung in their country and they're watched the change, an expression from their faces, from one of fear to relief and acceptance and free association and reconnection with something from their past and their history that had been taken away from them and was now given back. And at that moment, I realized that there was a tremendous power in music to reconnect people to past experiences, to give them hope to provide a new avenue of expression that maybe had been lost for them in the past and now was refound again.And and that's what turned my thoughts towards how how is music therapeutically used in our society today?


Wyatt : [00:01:36] In this episode, you'll learn more about music therapy, as Dr. Hearn's tells us how she advanced research while helping people heal from domestic abuse. You'll learn what makes the music therapy program at Utah State University special, the types of music a music therapist might use, how sessions are guided and how we all can benefit from music. My name is Wyatt Traughber and you are listening to this...Instead, here's my conversation with Dr. Maureen Hearn's.


Wyatt : [00:02:09] And how does music therapy work? How does that help? What's going on there?


Maureen Hearns: [00:02:14] I love that question. How does it work? As therapists, we work with a variety of clients all the way from neonatal infants to people in the in the last stages of their mortal life and everything in between. We work with every type of disability, whether it's a speech or a communication or cognition or a psychodynamic experience, mental health. We work collaboratively with a lot of other therapists and we work independently. How music therapy works, I think, is completely dependent on how the client interfaces with music. What's the relationship that a client has with music in their life and then by by connecting by us as therapists, connecting with that relationship that the clients have with music and sharing our own relationship with music and then creating a relationship with the client. All of those three factors come together to make, quote unquote, music therapy work in the way that that client specifically needs to use the music for themself.


Wyatt : [00:03:25] And what is the music tapping into and people?


Maureen Hearns: [00:03:29] It could be it could be something very deep within very deep within the inner self. It could be tapping into maybe just an experience that they had with a loved one, maybe listening to a particular song at a particular time of their life with someone they could be tapping into that memory. It could be tapping into neurological functions and organizing the way that we process information and not only for ourselves in terms of cognition, but also as integrates with other functions of the body, a neurological, physiological. So the music could be tapping into a variety of different things. Just again, we have to know what what specifically the client is presenting and what the need is that the client has. And then we try to use the music so that it will, quote unquote, as you said, tap into that particular function.


Wyatt : [00:04:19] Yeah. Why do people turn to music therapy and other forms of expressive art therapy? I know that it's more than just music. 


Maureen Hearns: [00:04:27] I feel I think one of the reasons is because they already have a relationship with that particular expressive art, whether it be music, dance, drama, art, whatever it is, there's already a pre-existing relationship in their life with that. So they're using something that's familiar to them to continue to create self-expression.


Wyatt : [00:04:47] And if I was seeking music therapy, what would those first sessions look like and how would you kind of experience?


Maureen Hearns: [00:04:53] First of all, I need to know why you were seeking music therapy. If you were a terminally ill patient, you might be seeking music therapy to find some sense of closure for your life. If you were a client that was dealing with anxiety, our first sessions would look like identifying what was the source of your anxiety and then how could we use music to replace anxiety in your life? And so, again, it depends on who you are and why you're seeking it and what those first sessions would look like. Yeah.


Wyatt : [00:05:25] How are you participating or adding to the research about music therapy?


Maureen Hearns: [00:05:32] My particular research has been with again, with survivors of domestic violence and with mothers and their children and bonding experiences, so my research has supported the use of music for making that change from moving from an abusive relationship, supporting the use of music to restructure and rebuild relationships between parent and child that have been severed because of abusive relationships that existed in their home.


Wyatt : [00:06:01] Yeah. How have you added what was there before and how have you helped?


Maureen Hearns: [00:06:06] Initially there was there was little research that had been done with survivors of domestic violence. When I first came to Utah State University in 2004, the director of that program at that time, Dr. Elizabeth York, was just beginning a research here at Capsid that she entitled Finding Voice. And as a as an assistant professor back then, she brought me on as a collaborative research partner with her. And when she left Utah State in 2005 and I became the director, I continued her research 15, 16 years ago. That was it was really new to use the creative arts in that particular field. And so our research was some of the initial research that established the viability of music in that situation.


Wyatt : [00:06:55] And what made those participants willing and what made it effective compared to other treatments are not compared to but like as a treatment.


Maureen Hearns: [00:07:07] What made them willing? That's interesting question. A lot of that had to do with our therapeutic relationship. We had to gain their trust. First of all, the work that we did with them expanded well beyond a three year period of time in our initial work that consisted of of a total of thirty eight sessions. And I believe that the first 10 sessions of that were based on establishing trust with the clients between us and them. And once once that level of trust was established, then they were they were willing to try things that they hadn't done before to experiment with the arts, with music, with drama, with dance in ways that they had not experienced before because they trusted us is the number one thing. And because we had such a strong trust with them, we were able to to move into areas that were, quote unquote, out of their comfort zone. But in doing that, they themselves saw the benefits of that. And they they they tapped into their own personal inner resources and their own strength that they had. And then they became the directors of our session. They were telling us how they wanted to move the therapy process. So it morphed from being a therapist directed scenario to more of a client directed therapy scenario. As they became empowered, it ended up with them telling us, this is how we  want to make our music. This is how we want to share our our new strengths with the community. We want to create a play. We want to take this to other parts of the of the state. We want to tell people our story.And that was a big change from where they came and those first initial sessions and didn't even want to talk about anything. So the music empowered them and the music gave them the strength that they needed to tell us as therapists where they wanted to go with their own process. It was so fascinating to witness as as our roles change, the roles of therapist changed, the roles of clients changed through this whole process as those women became empowered and and realized the strength that they individually each possess to make the change in their life that was necessary. How does music help these survivors of domestic abuse perceive themselves differently or perceive the world differently when they write a song and then they they share that song with others and others validate that experience, or when they when they create an artwork and others see in that artwork and validate for them what it was they were trying to express, their sense of self-esteem is incredibly enhanced and their sense of worth and their sense of value and their sense of importance and their sense of contributing to something other than, you know, something greater, a greater whole, and realizing that they themselves are perfect just as they are. They don't need to change. What they're doing is is absolutely the best for them at this time. They are enough in what they're doing. And so I think through the music experiences they have, they have been able to experience that. And so is taking that experience from the music out of the music into their own personal life.


Wyatt : [00:10:42] Have you seen how your work has helped other programs move forward?


Maureen Hearns: [00:10:47] Yes, we have. We are. We are probably several different articles. We've had a couple of different chapters in book. And we have seen we have seen people adapt our protocol that we use in our research to other studies that they were doing or in other therapy situations that they were doing. So we we've seen this expand the same ideas of using the integrative arts as an approach to working with this particular population. And we've seen it on an international level. We took our work down to Australia at a world Congress for music therapy there and presented that work. And we've seen from that a lot of participant based action research evolve. And a lot of that had its beginnings with with our work and also obviously with work of other therapists as well.


Wyatt : [00:11:34] Yeah, you're the leader of the program for music therapy here at USU. And you tell me a little bit more about what makes this program special.


Maureen Hearns: [00:11:42] There are a lot of things that make it unique, but one of the things is students living in this part of the country that we live in, Utah has a has a real high rate of of musical training for people when they're younger. And so a lot of our students come into the program. But there's pretty good, solid background of music and they've already used it a lot in their home life or in their communities. And so this idea of having a relationship with music really isn't anything new to our culture. And I think that's one thing that really sets our program apart from a lot of different areas in the country where maybe music isn't utilized as much in the community. And in the day to day life of the rest of the people in that area as it is here in Utah.I read a statistic one time. They said that there are more piano pianos in the home as per capita in Utah than any other state in America.


Wyatt : [00:12:40] I believe that when you're training students, what things are you teaching them? Like maybe they already know how to play the piano, but what are you adding so that they can become practitioners?


Maureen Hearns: [00:12:53] Definitely teaching them the protocol of music therapy, teaching them how to assess a client for a client's needs, teaching them how to. To identify what type of music, what style of music would best meet that client's needs and then how to therapeutically use that music in a session and change that music throughout the session so that it continues to address the needs of the client. And definitely, you know, we teach them a lot of the theory we try to give. The students are really eclectic approach to therapy so that when they leave our program, they don't just see music therapy and a behavioral application or they don't just see it in a neurologic application or a psychodynamic application. But but they have a very broad choice of approaches to music therapy so they can become a professional and, you know, they can help hone their own style in their own their own unique way of delivering therapy.


Wyatt : [00:13:55] When you're in sessions, how much of the time are you, like, playing music, like your own instruments for people? How much time are you just like playing music off of a computer or speakers? And then how much time is spent with the patient making music?


Maureen Hearns: [00:14:13] That's a difficult question because it's going to it's going to depend entirely on the setting, a typical session is going to be about 45 to 60 minutes. We're going to try to have the client engaged in a music experience the majority of that time. And there will be obviously some verbal processing involved. And if the client is non-verbal, that entire session, all 100 percent of it will will probably be music based in the work that my students are doing here in Cache Valley. Let me let me qualify it that way. They are probably not using a lot of computer playing because I, I ask them to perform that music live for the client rather than to play something off of a playlist. I would ask them to learn that that piece of music or whatever that the client wanted to listen to. So if a client asks for a specific piece of music, then we were using it in therapy as a means of structuring, maybe a physical response rather than playing that from the computer. I would ask the student to play that live for the client.


Wyatt : [00:15:22] And what's the advantage of live music?


Maureen Hearns: [00:15:25] Because you can change what's happening. You can stop. You can speed it up. You can slow it down. You can increase the dynamics. You can change the dynamics. If you're playing it off of a recorder, you have no control over what the music delivery is. But if you're doing it live and in person, you can be reactive to the client. If the client needs to stop, you can stop. If a client needs to go faster, you can go faster. If the client needs to process an emotion they're experiencing in the music, you can do that. You can vamp for twenty measures if you want to, to allow client time to express or connect with their own emotions. If You're playing a piece of recorded music and you can't do that.And that's one of the concerns that music therapists have had with a new program that you see out a lot called Alive Inside, where a great deal of money was placed, was put into providing iPods and headphones for elderly clients in assisted care centers or geriatric centers or whatever. And they would put the headphones on, on the clients and the clients would listen to the music. And they would they would have a reaction. They thought, oh, wow, this is fabulous. You know, these patients that have nothing to do now, they have something to do or listen to music. But what they don't know is what is that reaction that the clients having? Is that always a positive music? If something comes up on that playlist that triggers a terrible memory or something that was very painful in the client's life, that's not a good thing. And if there's no therapist there to intervene and to help that client move through that, listening to that, that music on the headphones could be the most contraindicated thing for that person's well-being. And so, yeah, the life music in the presence of a therapist there are able to intervene and provide for the client the support that they need.


Wyatt : [00:17:21] Are there specific types of music that you turn to frequently or is it anything and everything? There are a lot of jazz. There are a lot of like symphony stuff, pop music, country.


Maureen Hearns: [00:17:32] What kind of music do you use in my work is a guided imagery therapist. I'm going to turn probably first to classical music because that's the type of program that we set up. However, if you were the at risk adolescents, I would ask you, what's your preferred group? What do you like to listen to? And then that's the music I would turn to. If you were a geriatric client at an assisted care center, I would ask you, what's your preferred music? And that's what I would turn to. So in most cases is clients preferred music that we're using.


Maureen Hearns: [00:18:02] If I go into a session with an AT-RISK adolescent and I play Mozart for them, they're probably not going to have any connection with me at all. But if I'm going to pick something more contemporary or popular, a hip hop style or something like that, then we're probably going to be able to form a relationship with that musical experience.


Wyatt : [00:18:21] Yeah, yeah, is there a difference between music with vocals and lyrics versus just instrumental and the capabilities there? 


Maureen Hearns: [00:18:30] There is a huge difference. Vocal music can evoke different types of of imagery than instrumental music can. For one example, vocal music may take the focus on the voice when what we really want is the client to focus on on the on the listening experience. Maybe we're using it to support some physiological or neurological functioning. And in that instance of vocal music may be destructive. But for a young child who is learning their colors, we might take a song from Sesame Street and change the words in it so it helps the child learn their colors. And so in that case, vocal music would be really important.


Maureen Hearns: [00:19:12] I guess you're probably getting the impression that this is really a very eclectic field and the music that we use and the clients that we work with is just you just can't pigeonhole them into one specific way of doing something. It's not prescriptive in that way.


Wyatt : [00:19:31] I feel like so much of our lives is prescriptive that it's kind of nice to have, you know, this example of like you have to figure it out for everybody. Everybody's different. Is there any way that people can benefit from music without having formal music therapy?


Maureen Hearns: [00:19:48] I would imagine Wyatt that you benefit from it every day of your life. And it's not a structured therapy. You know, we we make music. We sing in the shower, we do it. We have our playlist on our phones. We listen to it while we're walking from one place to another. And we are benefiting from the therapeutic value of music in our life. And that's not a structured music therapy session. Music therapists don't own music by any means, and people use music and have since the beginning of immortal time, we've used music to support our life.


Wyatt : [00:20:28] Thanks for listening to this episode of Instead with Dr. Maureen Hearn's. If you would like to hear more from her, there's a link to the Blue Plate research presentation she was a part of, along with Judy Smith from Episode 35 and Mike Levin. This episode of Instead was produced by Nick Vázquez and me Wyatt Traughber, as part of our work and the Office of Research at Utah State University.