Musical Healing


By Laurie Dujardin

I have been inspired by the award-winning movie/documentary ALIVE INSIDE. The film was made in 2014 by Michael Rossato-Bennett. He follows social worker Dan Cohen, founder of non-profit organization Music & Memory as he demonstrates the power of music to overcome memory loss and restore a sense of self to those suffering from dementia. He wants to offer this service to nursing home residents. Frustratingly, the pharmaceutical corporations do everything they can to prevent this. Of course, THEY want to keep everyone on prescriptions drugs with all their attendant problems. I am really hoping that many others will take up Dan Cohen's fight.

First of all, we know that music bypasses the conscious mind and goes directly to the subconscious, and that it has the power to change or control our mood. I know this from my own experience as Salsa music, played loudly, is guaranteed to lift me out of feelings of sadness or exhaustion to the point where I can't help but dance. Hypnotherapists as well as marketers certainly know the power of music as they enclose subliminal suggestions within music.

Watching the film ALIVE INSIDE brought me the realization that anyone can apply "music therapy" to people suffering from dementia in all its forms. The person may have withdrawn to the point of appearing to be catatonic, or may be angry or aggressive. It may seem that they are trapped in their own private hell which others are unable to penetrate or influence.

The following are the steps which anyone may undertake in order to unlock the feelings of peace and joy as well as happy memories which do lurk below the surface.

  1. Watch the film ALIVE INSIDE on any number of Internet sites, examples of which are Iwannawatch, Kickstarter and Solar Movie. Simply enter the film's name in Google and you will see them all listed. As well, Youtube features many clips from the film.

  2. Research to find out what music the person would most likely enjoy. Talk to their friends or relatives. If not, then you can make an Internet search to find out what the popular hits of the day were in their youth.

  3. Listen to the music chosen in order to be sure that it is upbeat, as you certainly don't want to cause an unhappy experience!

  4. Assemble a list of the chosen musical pieces, at least for the future reference of others who may wish to continue your work.

  5. Source the music from your private collection if you have it, or go online and download it into a device, usually an IPOD.

  6. Make sure the person is seated comfortably and in a peaceful environment.

  7. It's extremely important to have them listen to the music via headphones for a more intense and effective experience.

  8. If you lack an IPOD, perhaps you play a musical instrument such as guitar or piano.

  9. If you are really stuck and it's spur-of-the-moment, just sing some familiar old standard...certainly it's better than nothing!

  10. Of course it's ideal if you can leave the IPOD and headphones with the person so they can listen to it when they like. Hopefully there will be someone who can assist them.

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