Heather Foxwell shares more insights from her internship as a Music Therapist in this week’s blog

It is so nice to follow patients over a period of time to see the progress you have actually made with them.

I am finding as my internship rolls to a close that there are some positive patterns happening with many of my patients. Some of the main goals often expressed in end-of-life palliative care, is to just make the patient comfortable, and increase their quality of life. In music therapy, this is often done through decreasing such things as: anxiety, agitation, loneliness, and providing a means for self expression through music.

I am finding that there is an increase to quality of life for many of my patients. I am not only seeing this on a day to day basis, where they will often slip back to their baseline, but I see it as a gradual progression that I am just becoming aware of now.

One great example of this is with a patient with a reputation of being negative and very depressed. In fact, my supervisor was unable to have a session with her because to initially break a wall with her was very difficult. Luckily, one of my natural qualities is to soften up even the hardest of shells and I got myself in the door with her.

At first, she would not even look up from her wheelchair. She was typically described as agitated and cold. I had to really prod her at first for any information about herself, but I was open and willing to wait for her to respond.

As the sessions went on, I found she was more and more open to sharing her personal stories with me as well as music she actually liked. She slowly began singing along to certain songs and sharing stories related to the songs about her life.

One day I came in and she asked me if “maybe we could go for a walk.” We ended up outside smelling the tulips. She had a new smile on her face I have never seen before. Although she was rather careful and scared of the idea of walking (seeing as she has had many damaging falls in the past), she walked half of the way there on her own volition.

Now when I come in to see her, she greets me with a smile and shares stories about her past without me even asking. We almost always go for a walk, and she no longer repeats negative thoughts about herself and others. Instead, she expresses feelings of happiness and contentment with life.

It is something like this that really solidifies my effectiveness as a therapist. I always leave her room with a bigger smile on my face and confidence in my step than when I enter now. She now is a source of happiness for me! And that is the great secret about music therapy. After you put in the effort to change someone else’s life, they tend to naturally change yours for the better.

It is a very beautiful thing.

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Learn more about music therapy at Berklee.