34 posts on music therapy. Back to Oct. 2014
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“It’s not an issue of hearing and it’s not about entertainment,” said Haley. “It’s a neurological issue.”
Haley believes that music used in certain ways can benefit people who have physical or neurological problems. She believes it because she sees it happen.
A certified music therapist, Haley makes a living by using music to help people with autism, Alzheimer’s disease, those who have had strokes or have developmental disabilities.
“When we’re talking about using music for neurological rehab for retraining, then it’s not going to be an auditory issue. The ability to hear sound is fine. The problem is in the brain. This is more about neurological rehab or disorders where there are damaged areas in the brain.”
She said that music or a beat is used to help people regulate movement. “It is evidence-based that motor corrections and auditory processing are closely linked. The motor center, the language center and the auditory center of the brain are all interconnected.
“A lot of research shows that using rhythm and music, or a Metronome, helps with organizing movement or addressing memory issues, decision-making, and retraining learning how to speak.”
A music therapist has to “go slow and be patient” to see improvement, she said. For two years, Haley has been working with John Moreno, who is disabled after a major stroke. “He wants to learn to play the guitar again, because before this stroke, music was a huge part of his life. This is the socio-emotional element: Music connects him with the life he had before his stroke.”
Haley said part of Moreno’s success is his outlook. “He’s amazing, his attitude and approach to life and desire to participate as fully as he possibly can, considering the enormous change he’s gone through. John actually does the work to get better, he’s not just going through the motions.”
In the two years she has been working with Moreno, he has learned to use one of his hands to play the guitar again, she said.
Moreno’s partner and caregiver, Marianne Scheiler, said Moreno’s improvement is remarkable since he began working with Haley.
“Erin comes six times a month and it is really worth it. His movements are better and he’s working on getting some more smoothness on his right side. He has always loved music, and he played professionally in his 30s. That he can try and play the guitar again is great,” Scheiler said.
“Every good day we get with John is a gift. And it’s a gift that we found Erin, too. We are so grateful.”
Haley recalls another way music therapy was effective. “There was a little girl who had a traumatic brain injury. She was 5 and had a lot of trouble with emotion regulation consistency. She couldn’t make eye contact, she couldn’t speak, she was non-ambulatory. It took a long time to build up her brain.”
But Haley worked with the child, using music and a beat, for two years. “She learned to make eye contact, shake her head for ‘no.’ At first, she was 25 percent engaged with what we were doing. After two years, she was 75 percent engaged. It’s about consistency.”
In fact, said Haley, consistency is crucial to improvement. “There might be a more immediate difference when you’re working on something like gait, because walking is natural and rhythmic. But if you don’t continue working on it, you’ll regress somewhat.”
She also said the reason there is improvement is because “the plasticity of brain makes it possible. It allows us to grow new neurons around damaged areas, grow new connections around areas affected by injury or trauma.”
Music therapy often involves more than the person who can benefit from it. “I worked with a woman in her 40s who had terminal cancer. Her family was not ready for that. I helped her write her own version of ‘Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.’ When her family heard that, they shifted. The woman was able to explain it to her family in a way they could hear. It was sad, but it was a gift to do this for her.”
Haley said she has worked with children as young as 4, adults with Alzheimer’s and other dementia, and people with various disabilities. She works with residents of five facilities for older people, some with dementia. She uses song and a drumming circle.
Music therapy can also be used in drug or alcohol rehabilitation. “There are socio-emotional issues with this,” she said. “We have discussions, and you can tap into so much. It’s often about how to cope, and how people can forgive themselves.”
Haley grew up in Chico and received a bachelor’s degree in psychology, with a minor in music from Chico State University, and a master’s degree in music therapy from University of the Pacific in Stockton. She completed training in neurologic music therapy in Fort Collins, Colorado.
She also earned a musical theatre conservatory certificate from the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York.
Besides her occupation, Haley’s life is full of music. She plays the guitar, sings and performs with the band Firefly.
Contact reporter Mary Nugent at 896-7764.