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Therapeutic Tunes

For music therapist Autumn Bishop, there is nothing more soothing and calming than the exploration of music.

“For me in my clinical experience, music is really effective over a verbal approach,” Bishop said. “I’ve worked with occupational and physical therapists, and music helps because the patients are more vocal with therapists. Music can help mentally distract a person.”

Though the pandemic has forced some changes in the way therapy is delivered, it hasn’t altered the effectiveness.

“Specifically with the population at Aberdeen Heights, it can enrich the quality of life,” Autumn said. “It helps in reducing isolation, reducing anxiety, disorientation, and grief. Music relaxes people and leaves them in a good mood. My job is very rewarding for that reason.”

Autumn typically begins each session with some socialization in the group, helping residents connect with each other before moving into the therapy portion. This helps build rapport among the group and helps break down barriers before the music begins.

“After that we get into lyric analysis, and that comes with an increase in creativity,” Autumn said. “A lot of times my sessions revolve around reminiscence, where we focus on songs from their teenage and young adult years. Those songs help trigger memories. It’s familiar. Often for those with dementia, the last memories they lose are from their childhood and young adult years. Songs from the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s trigger those memories, and they’re happy to share those with the group.”

Though Autumn prefers the interaction of face-to-face therapy sessions, the pandemic has forced her to offer sessions remotely, over the internet. The staff has worked diligently to ensure that the sessions are still active and helpful.

“Right now, we’re doing one of the groups twice a month,” Autumn said. “We let people do it through Zoom or FaceTime, and the director handed out instruments. We’ve been able to continue therapy with 60-70 percent of patients virtually.”

The pandemic also forced Autumn to change her business model.

“It was kind of crazy with the pandemic,” she said. “I had just graduated college in 2018, and established the business in 2019. The pandemic affected that greatly.”

Despite the rough year, her business, Customized Music Therapy, has continued to offer services. At Aberdeen Heights, she works through Midwest Music Therapy to offer music therapy to residents.

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