Photo by Josh Nudd
Jennifer Buchanan, an Accredited Music Therapist and President of the Canadian Association for Music Therapy, first became interested in music therapy after seeing the effect music had on her grandfather.
When her grandfather was in long term care, Jennifer would sing with him, and seeing everyone in the room shift and become more engaged gave her the idea that music might be a good way to reach people.
But music therapy isn’t only beneficial for seniors.
“As a music therapist, we can work with people of all ages,” says Jennifer. “It really is for anybody who seeks it.”
Music therapy can be used to treat a variety of different issues, including dementia and mental health issues. It can also be used regularly to keep ourselves healthy and reduce stress, just like going to the gym.
For people with dementia, music can help them recall old memories by finding a path in the brain that hasn’t been affected by the disease. Long term memories can be accessed through music because of the way music anchors itself to those memories.
“There is no other activity that we know of in the world that accesses as much of the brain simultaneously as music,” says Jennifer.
When the right song is chosen, the effect it can have is astounding.
“We see almost immediately when a song has struck and their world makes sense.”
Music therapy can help people with dementia feel healthier and sleep more soundly. It also provides an activity to do with loved ones who may be at a loss for how to interact with them. One of the ways Jennifer helps connect families dealing with dementia is through a drum circle.
“I do a drum circle with people who have dementia and their spouses who don’t have dementia,” says Jennifer. “By the end of the session, you can’t tell who has dementia and who doesn’t.”
Music therapy increases levels of the feel-good hormones dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin, and it decreases levels of cortisol, the hormone that causes us to feel stressed. Music therapists can make sure that music is being used safely to help people reach their goals and make them feel healthier.
The most rewarding part of being a music therapist for Jennifer has been being able to create jobs for other music therapists, allowing her to bring music therapy to more people in need.
“I love to see them serving more clients than I would have been able to by myself,” says Jennifer, who runs a team of 18 music therapists in Calgary.
She hopes that more people will learn about the benefits of music therapy and use it to their advantage.
“I’d like to see music therapy grow, and have more people contact music therapists to see how it can help them.”
Jennifer is the owner and president of JB Music Therapy. To learn more about Jennifer and how she and her team use music therapy to reach others, visit http://jbmusictherapy.com/.