Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Music Psychotherapy: Complementary Support for Managing Suffering Related to Chronic Pain




MUSIC 

WELLBEING Music. Wellness. Health. 

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About Alicia Howard, PhD and Music Wellbeing

Alicia Howard, PhD is a music psychotherapist who specializes in chronic pain relief.

Research shows that chronic pain is not just a physical problem, but also has a psychological component.  For a variety of reasons, those who suffer from chronic pain almost always experience anxiety, depression, and hopelessness as well.

In her doctoral dissertation, Dr. Howard found that music medicine helped patients to improve their mood and gave them the tools in which they were then able learn to manage their pain as well as helping them to better function in all areas of their lives.


“In my treatment I combine elements of traditional psychotherapy with music. Traditional psychotherapy opens the space for client communication and expression. With the inclusion of music in this therapeutic modality, clients have the added benefit for progress and healing that are deeper, more creative, and more somatic. I am also trained in hypnosis, which guides the client into a deeper state of relaxation in order to achieve their goals and cultivate the tools, with which, they can learn to heal themselves.” Says Dr. Howard.

Dr. Howard earned her PhD from the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Music. Her research involved a dynamic, well-rounded and proactive focus on Music Medicine as a complementary treatment for managing pain, notably, the chronic pain disorder, Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD). This study was the first collaboration between the Faculties of Music and Dentistry, and the Mount Sinai’s Wasser Pain Management Centre and was such an enormous success that the group still works together on myriad projects.

While working with patients during her study, it became immediately apparent that some patients were in search of alternative approaches for managing their chronic pain. Dr. Howard’s approach integrates both music and hypnotic scripts to better facilitate the induction of relaxation and to effectively use these scripts to complement the therapeutic goal of the client. Additionally, personalized music playlists, with or without hypnotic scripts, are created at the request of the client to make each therapeutic session and experience more fluid. Clients’ response to this innovative approach to managing chronic pain has been extraordinary.

The end result is already evident; my clients are offered a wider array of choices in treatment to achieve the most effective outcome possible. We hone-in on the cause of the issues at hand and focus to directly address, treat and relieve trauma and pain and turn debilitating symptoms into vehicles of healing, health and wellness.

Client Success Stories

- Finally, this one is hard to verbalize, but your insight into my needs has been invaluable. For example, in one session you had be close my eyes while you repeated, “you are safe”. That alone has had a huge impact on me. I didn’t realize that since age 13, I have felt unsafe and unworthy of my own love. Your insights and my daily meditation practice have led to my own insights: I am safe and I can love myself, as I did when I was a child. Deep down, I think I thought that if I allowed myself to feel safe or loved that something bad would happen. For the first time since I was 13, I feel like my bright, warm, cheerful self. It’s amazing. It’s so hard to verbalize, but it feels like I took a weird detour and I’m only now coming home.

- I have tried 4 counselors in the past, but you have had the greatest impact on me. I’m so grateful the orthodontist put us in touch and I’m so glad you chose the profession that you did. I think some people, although very successful, have a perception that they aren’t good enough in their professional roles.

- For the rest of your career, I hope you won’t ever forget that you are talented, you have great intuition, and you are impactful. I hope you never lose that spark and the drive to help others.

- Because of a recurring injury, I would resort to narcotic painkillers and muscle relaxers just to function and think, the pain was so awful. This approach was more emergency-based than a well thought out course of healing because of the circumstances. Every 6-12 months, the injury would cripple me again and again and it was a cycle of painkillers and muscle relaxers (and physical therapy which ended up being the only lasting help) and steroids just to get me through it. The side-effects overtime were terrible and when I met Dr. Howard, it was through her methods that I learned to heal myself through holistic methods, especially music and the playlists that basically saved my life and taught me a new way to heal, without resorting to and “external” helper with side-effects that become life-threatening. I learned the secret was in feeling and releasing the pain, thus allowing my body and mind to heal, rather than suppressing the debilitating pain, only for it to return continually. Without her help, I’m not sure I’d be here today. I only hope more people will discover this remarkable healing method. Anyone who is fortunate enough to be treated by Dr. Howard will thank themselves for a long time to come.



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