Every Wednesday we host Facebook live interviews with music therapists, art therapists, and other Sam’s Fans. We have talked about various topics within the creative arts therapies, about our partnerships, and so much more. Usually my favorite part of the facebook live interviews are the stories at the end as I get to hear the stories (some weird, some unbelievable, some amazing, some heart-touching, all real) from these amazing therapies. We have compiled some of these stories for you, which we are happy to share here:
Cleveland Clinic Children’s – Christine & Jackie
Music Therapist Christine Bomberger
“There’s a little one that I see very regularly. Unfortunately, he and his family are in and out of the hospital quite frequently. And even though they are familiar with the hospital setting, there are still fears and anxieties, particularly for this little one, over procedures, like IV placements. And this is normal for a child, this is normal for anybody really. So over the years working with this patient we’ve been able to identify ways and things that are helpful to get them through these tougher times and these procedures.
So the other day I was present while they were going to place an IV prior to a bigger procedure. The medical team came in and we talked about, ‘ok, here’s what’s going to happen.’ And this patient requested to sing her favorite song, which is ‘Happy birthday.’ And it was not enough that just me as a a music therapist sing her favorite song, she requested that the entire medical team sing ‘Happy birthday’ before, during, and after the IV placement. Everybody was singing, everybody sang happy birthday and we just counted down and the IV was placed without even a flinch. And this patient was just so happy and couldn’t believe that her whole medical team was singing this song. The power of something really simple as a very simple song was just amazing.”
Art therapist Jackie Kolenz
“Recently I was invited to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s gala in which they honored two patients that have been treated here. One patient in particular I have been working with very closely for the past year and she’s finally in remission. And this is probably the first time as an art therapist I’ve heard verbal validation from a patient. Even though we know what we are doing is effective, deep down we just hope that it is making an impact on the clients we do see.
So she got up there and had her speech and just talked about the aggressive treatment she went through and how hard it was as a 16-year old who is isolated from friends and family and what not just because of treatment alone. She talked about how much art therapy helped her journey and helped her grow as an artist, as a person. Now she wants to pursue a career in art therapy! That was just very awesome to hear to make that impact and know that you’re making a difference in changing someone’s life for the better with hopes that it then spread to other people. Like they see the light and hopefully they can share that with other people as well.”
Music Therapist Dr. Keith
“When I was working in Germany before, I worked in a psychiatric hospital and part of my job was in what we call the chronic ward. There were patients there, people who were considered to have a chronic mental illness and so they were in custodial care, sometimes for decades. Most of that is gone by the wayside nowadays. And it was difficult work for many reasons. One of them was that the people were very difficult, you couldn’t predict what they were going to do. But over time you could develop a therapeutic relationship and that’s very gratifying when that happens. Because as a music therapist I was offering something that didn’t have as many barriers to them.
There was this one man, probably about 40, nonverbal, who wandered around. He had been in the hospital for decades. Never said a word. Didn’t interact. He ate, but communication with him was challenging. I was in my office one day, in the music therapy room, and I was seated at the piano. I had a song book opened in front of me. He came in and I just started playing a song and he started singing. He had never said a word to me, but he sang the whole song. I didn’t say a word to him.
Turned the page, went to the next song, started playing, he sang every verse, and we finished the whole book. It was the strangest thing. I get chills now thinking about that. In a couple of years it was the one time that he was able to show me in a way that I could understand him that he was connected with what I was doing. That was very gratifying. You can’t predict that.”
“I worked in New York State at a preschool mostly with kids with special needs. It was such a really cool diverse school. And so there is this very young girl who had early interventions, so she was maybe about 2. You don’t make a diagnoses with children that young, because they are still developing rapidly. The header for this vignette would be ‘excitement.’ I wasn’t playing the guitar, I was singing with the group and I was holding a tambourine, giving it to this child, and this child, and this child. So I was basically using my voice to interact with the children. And the tambourine was the contact with me.
SoI got to her and she got so excited! And I just kept singing and she was just clapping and she was too young to sing. She was laughing and she was beating right with the beat of the music that I was singing. And she was laughing uncontrollably and I started to watch her, and her laughter went (snap sound) and shifted to tears. She was fine but for me it was, wow, I didn’t know these two things were such close neighbors. But at that age they are very close. And the relationship between our body and excitement, they feel the same about crying or laughing sometimes. It was a great moment, we went on to have many great sessions together.”
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Music Therapist Brian Schreck
“One of my favorite stories: I was working with this little boy named Tony; he had brain cancer. And he wasn’t in the mood to do anything, so he was hiding under the covers. I have two little boys and at the same time one of them was around the same age as this little guy. So there was something I was bringing from my own experience as a young parent, of what would I do if this was my little boy.
And I just started stacking little instruments on top of him, and he started peeking out, like ‘what in the world are you doing.’ And then I started showing some things and playing a little bit. He started to come out so now his face is up from the covers, and then about 10 minutes later he’s sitting up and he’s trying out some things with me. And then about 45 min later he was up and standing and dancing to an original song that his mom had written for him. And so going from hiding under the covers to up and dancing with him in 45 min for me is a perfect example of how in a short amount of time a lot can happen.”
“And another one: I was working in my internship in New York with a woman named Victoria. She was around 34 at the time I was only 22. She had pretty significant breast cancer and she was feeling really lousy. So I showed her an ocean drum. She’s from Puerto Rico, and she started telling me all these stories about when she was a teenager on the beach, and sneaking out and fruits that they would grab off of tries and these thoughts and scents and sensations that she had not thought of in quite a long time. I could tell just in her telling me these things that she was re-experiencing it as well.
I was showing her some different things on some instruments and she started to dance. So she was up and playing this hand drum that was pretty loud. And you know, these are glass doors and it was a pretty quiet place. Doctors and nurses were walking by and being like ‘what in the world is going on.’ But they knew her and they knew how terrible she felt and the fact that she was up and improvising vocally and singing, it was just a memory that I will never forget. And I remember as a young professional, being like, ’this is what this is supposed to be about.’”
Thank you for reading these stories! We have more stories from our Facebook live interviews which we will share next week! Stories are a great way to spread the word of what these therapies are about. If you enjoyed them, help us share this post and tune in to our interviews. We are on Facebook live every Wednesday at 3pm.