Creative therapies help ailing patients

Wednesday, June 21, 2006 12:08 PM CDT
Creative therapies help ailing patients

By LINDSEY ORY, Courier Staff Writer

WATERLOO — Play. Laugh. Sing. Heal.

It’s an uncomplicated approach to complicated problems, and it works like a charm.While many hospitals still rely on traditional talk-therapy for their patients who have experienced traumatic incidents, some are crossing over to a less traditional form of therapy.

Creative arts therapy — which includes music and art therapy — has been making its mark on the Cedar Valley during the last 16 years.”When I graduated from Waverly as a musical therapist, I was the first
in Northeast Iowa,” said Viki Burk, a music therapist at the Mental
Health Institute in Independence.

“I wanted to be a nurse but I
knew I would never be able to finish the all the biology that was
required,” Burk added. “Two weeks later I stumbled upon music therapy
and was so excited to combine my love of music with my desire to help
others.”

Art therapy grew roots in the early 1930s and ’40s, and
gradually schools have created rigid study programs to prepare
prospective therapists.”While I was at Wartburg I had a major instrument and a minor
instrument,” Burk said. “I also had to choose my practicum and complete
a six-month internship at an accredited facility. It was hard work but
well worth it.”

Rachel Johnson, also a Wartburg grad,{M3 is a
music therapist at Cedar Valley Hospice Home. Johnson uses her soothing
vocals accompanied by keyboard or guitar to comfort patients and set
them at ease.

“I started here the 3rd of April and I love it,”
Johnson said. “It’s so rewarding to see the physical effect the music
has on people. Even if they are sleeping you can tell they hear you.”

Music therapy is one of several branches of creative arts therapy.

“Art,
music, drama, dance and writing therapies allow individuals to receive
the healing they need through nonverbal communication,” said Heather
Breitbach, a recent graduate from Cornell University in Mount Vernon.
Breitbach graduated with a double major in psychology and art.

“I
worked with one child in a movement therapy session,” she said, “and he
would spin and spin in circles saying he was a tornado. Soon he fell
and would not let us help him up. ‘I’m broken and I need you to put me
together’ he told us. That was his way of healing from the trauma he
had experienced in his family.”

Creative arts therapy can help
any number of disorders or conditions, including autism, behavioral
disorders, physical ailments and mental retardation.

The basic
ideas for the healing practices have been around for eons, but weren’t
always called therapy. For example, when children play with dolls or
cars they aren’t just playing, they are acting out different story
lines in their minds. Play and Learning Activities for Youth therapy
utilizes children’s ability to enter fictional worlds to release their
problems, experiences and feelings.

Continued….

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