Day in the Work Life: Music as therapy

Marketplace Staff Jun 15, 2007
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Day in the Work Life: Music as therapy

Marketplace Staff Jun 15, 2007
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TESS VIGELAND: Feeling a little stressed? Try a visit to the Spanish hotel chain NH Hotels. It’s running in unusual competition for overworked executives. Along with a team of psychologists, the chain will pick 30 people, arm them with hammers and hardhats and let them have at one of the hotel interiors.

Maybe they’d be better off with this next way of working out personal issues. On this week’s A Day in the Work Life, we meet a music therapist.

HOLLY MILLER:
My name is Holly Miller. I’m 38 years old and I’m a psychotherapist practicing music therapy. Music therapy makes a lot of sense to use with young children because they really don’t have the ability to have inside about their lives. I mean, I can’t really say, hey, let’s go back and talk about your childhood or what kind of patterns brought you to this sort of behavior?

I have children who can sing to me what they can’t say. A lot of children I work with have autism. And a common feature of autism is difficulty with language and communication. Language and singing occupy two different parts of the brain, although some of it overlaps. But it gives me a different inroad to help them learn language. And these kids really learn how to speak using music.

Music can be used with adults as well. In fact, I’ve had some people who have had anxiety and panic attacks that were so bad they couldn’t drive the freeways. So in sessions, we’ve done relaxation skills and we’ve, eventually, paired that with a piece of music, and they’ve been able to take that piece of music and put in their car, which gives them a skill that they can use outside of the office so that we can take them from being really, really anxious on the freeways to being functional. I originally started teaching piano, flute and voice.

I also had a degree in psychology just because I always thought it was fascinating and there is a little piece of me that wanted to be brain surgeon when I was growing up. I started attracting a lot of families with special needs children, and people started saying to me, you know, you get more out of my child in a half hour music lesson than their therapist does in an hour.

I really realized I was sort of in over my head at that point. I needed more training. So I went back to school and I became a psychotherapist. As a therapist, you really have to engage in a great deal of self-care. I exercise, I eat right, I go to the spa, I spend time with my husband and my dog.

I do lots and lots of things to take care of myself so that when I’m with a person who’s in pain, I’m fully present. If you’re a psychotherapist or a music therapist, you can make anywhere between $30,000 a year and $100,000 a year or more. I make around $85,000 a year depending on how much I choose to work.

I had a wonderful lady come in to see me one time, in her 70s, and I had a moment of fear thinking, oh my gosh. I’m too young, you know? Maybe she thinks I can’t help her. So I just faced it straight on and I asked her, are age difference a problem for you? And she said to me, my last therapist died. I want a therapist who can be there for me and go the distance.

VIGELAND: A Day in the Work Life was reported by Claes Andresen.

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