Brain injury sufferers find benefits in music therapy program

(Photo: U.S. Air Force, Airman 1st Class Caitlin Russell)

Past and present service members and family members suffering from traumatic brain injury can now take part in a Creative Forces music therapy program here, a partnership between the National Endowment for the Arts and the Defense Department that’s designed to help them recover and rehabilitate.

According to the American Music Therapy Association website, music therapy is the clinical use of music to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a professional who has completed an approved music therapy program.

Creative Forces music therapy began in April as a resource to support and provide training to community art providers and invest in research on the impacts of art-based interventions such as the music therapy program hosted here.

For people with TBI, music therapy can be instrumental to rehabilitation. Music therapists use evidence-based techniques to stimulate speech, movement and cognitive emotions in patients.

“I joined the music therapy group after finding out about it from the TBI clinic,” said Army Staff Sgt. Sean Young, Delta Battery, 2nd Battalion 377th Parachute Field Artillery Regiment training room noncommissioned officer. “With TBI, I started losing memory and overall comprehension, but with music therapy I’m able to play the guitar and remember riffs without thinking about it.”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials say about 1.5 million people in the United States suffer from a TBI each year and that 85,000 people suffer long-term disabilities.

Benefits for TBI patients

Music therapy is an opportunity for people suffering from TBI to express emotions, promote insight and awareness, and strengthen neuropathways to restore memory, attention, concentration and multitasking.

“The Creative Forces music therapy program assists with the needs of military patients and veterans who have been diagnosed with TBI, as well as their families and caregivers,” said Danielle Kalseth, 673d Medical Operations Squadron creative arts therapist/music therapist. “Not only do we provide clinical services, we want to provide patients and their families access to the arts in the community.”

The music therapy program currently helps 30 patients rehabilitate from TBI, with new referrals every week. Patients who receive music therapy can participate in group or individual sessions, or a combination of both.

The program enables TBI sufferers to engage in a meaningful activity with others who are experiencing the same issues.

“Music therapy helps with more than just my memory; it helps with my mood too,” Young said. “On days when I’m in a bad mood, playing the guitar is a great way to change that.”

By Airman 1st Class Cailtin Russell