Sure, listening to the beats of our favourite band is a bliss and sometimes just the thing needed to calm our wrecking nerves, but it turns out, these tunes have a much more enriching power to them than just being easy on the ears. Music therapy as a profession had been around since the beginning of the 20th century. Nowadays it has become easier to establish this evidence, since we have modern technology, which helps us look into how brains and bodies respond to music.
Born to a family of musicians in Belarus, Aksana Kavaliova-Moussi knew her true calling since the very early age of three, when she started singing solo and performing with her parents in local and national televised events. She pursued her education in music theory and therapy, during which she provided music therapy to children with special needs and expectant teen mothers. After an impressive stint, working in different countries and organizations, Aksana now resides in Bahrain with her husband and daughter, maintaining a private practice. Weekender spoke to the music therapist to get better scope on the kind of work she does.
W. What clients do you cater to?
Aksana: In Bahrain I work primarily with children and adolescents with various special needs like Autism Spectrum, Down syndrome, Developmental Delays to name a few. The goals and approaches differ from client to client. With children we work on their communication, sensorimotor, cognitive, social-emotional development. With hospital patients the goals may be mood regulation, pain management, reducing stress, anxiety, overall length of hospital stay. With people suffering from Dementia/Alzheimer’s we focus on maintaining their memory, communication abilities, bonding with their families. Music therapists also work with mentally ill people (schizophrenia, anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder etc.).
W. Coming from a family of musicians, how did you venture into something that uses music in a healing manner?
Aksana:I always knew about the healing, enhancing, facilitating power of music. When I first found out about music therapy, I immediately understood this was the field I was looking for, to combine my love for music and psychology, and to be able to help people. After that, it was a matter of training. I have a Bachelor of Music Therapy from Canada and Master of Music in Music Therapy from USA.
W.Is it different from sound-therapy? How?
Aksana: Music Therapy is the specialized use of music in the service of individuals with needs in mental health, physical health, rehabilitation or special education. Sound therapy, or Music Healing is the therapeutic and transformational uses of sound and music. A music therapist has to be a professional musician and be able to play several instruments and sing. Our training requirements are a minimum of a 4-year Bachelor’s degree, with a completion of 1,200 hours of clinical practice and clinical internship. The training consists of music and music therapy disciplines, medicine and psychology. Master’s and Doctoral degrees are available in music therapy. Sound healers/therapists require no formal training in music, and the length of their education can be as short as 6 months. While music therapists can use elements and techniques of sound therapy in their work, sound therapists cannot do the same.
W.Is it well-conceptualized in Bahrain?
Aksana: No, unfortunately. I am the only accredited music therapist in Bahrain (and one of the three in GCC). We have to do a lot of education to create public awareness. People know speech, occupational, behavioural therapy, but not music therapy. Many think that they need to be able to play some instrument to benefit; others think I teach music. I only work with special need population at the moment but my dream is to establish a music therapy program in some hospitals.
W.Can the therapy be constructed from music of any cultural background?
Aksana: Yes, because the best music is a client-preferred music. It is very individual, and requires an assessment of the clients’ preferences. I won’t use western classical music (e.g., Mozart) if a person does not like it. One of the biggest mistakes people make is to believe that a CD or a certain “therapy” program can fix their problems.
W.Is it applicable to person of any age and background?
Aksana: Absolutely! I worked with people of different cultural backgrounds. Technically, my youngest clients were not even born yet, as I worked with their mothers in their 2nd-3rd trimesters. My eldest client was almost 100 years old.
W.What has been the most memorable experience about your work?
Aksana: There are so many! A child whose speech and language skills emerged through music and singing, my numerous oncology patients whose hospital stay was brightened by our sessions. A man, who had Alzheimer’s and who began talking, sharing memories with his wife, and playing his guitar and practicing between our sessions. A woman, who got out of an abusive marriage and divorce, and began writing poetry for us to compose songs together to work with her complex emotions.
W.Any future plans?
Aksana: I will continue serving on the World Federation of Music Therapy as the Eastern Mediterranean Regional Liaison. I also chair the Online Conference for Music Therapy since 2013. There are some other international projects I am involved in at the moment, including writing a chapter for a book on multicultural music therapy which hopefully will be published in 2016.
Aksana usually runs workshops on music therapy for parents and children at the Talk Play Grow centre. For more details on her work, visit www.aksanamusictherapy.webs.com