Music Therapy

Music Therapy

When an individual or group is engaged in a music process with a professionally trained, board-certified music therapist for the purpose of health and well-being, it is then music therapy.  Through a clinical process of assessment, treatment and evaluation, the therapist and client(s) engage in various music experiences.  It is within these music experiences and the relationships that develop through them that provides the catalyst for healing and change.  The use of music as the primary medium for promoting client’s health sets music therapy apart from other forms of therapy.  

In the Fall of 2018, a collaboration between the Purdue University Fort Wayne Music Therapy program and YWCA Northeast Indiana was formed.  This provides students the opportunity for hands on experience working with the women in Hope & Harriet (addiction recovery residences) as well as with the women and children in the domestic violence crisis shelter.  Under the supervision of Dr. Eileen Garwood, Clinical Instructor of Music Therapy, several music therapy groups and individual music therapy sessions are provided by student music therapists on a weekly basis.   

Trauma Informed Care and Music Therapy 

The emotional space created in music therapy is free of judgment and recognizes the basic need for safety.  A session may begin with a chant that allows for opportunity to check in with participants and help prepare a space of safety and security.  For instance, one group of women at Harriet House began each session with a chant written by Susan Gardstrom, PhD, MT-BC.  The women were encouraged to replace words within the chant to reflect what they were feeling or experiencing in the moment.  

(__Angry___) in this moment, (__frustrated__) in this day, (__worried__) in this lifetime is the only way.  But you have the power, I have it too.  You have the power to make (_your dreams_) come true.  Incorporating their individual thoughts and feelings and singing together as a group, created a safe space, validation of self-expression and supported self-empowerment. 

Women involved in YWCA Northeast Indiana programs came together with the PFW music therapy program to write a song called "Recovery Arisin'"

Community music therapy is an approach to music therapy which is sensitive to cultures and speaks more of acts of solidarity and social change.  It is concerned with the promotion of health and mutual caring. This is a way to bridge the gap between individuals and communities to create a space for common musicking.  With this focus, the most recent collaborative endeavor between PFW music therapy and YWCA Northeast Indiana was inspired.   With the support of Dr. William Sauerland, Assistant Professor of Music and Director of Choral Studies at PFW, a bridge from residential care to community engagement was created.  Singing Through Change is a program created to invite women from Hope & Harriet, participating in the existing music therapy groups, to sing in Choral Union.  Choral Union is a community-based choir at PFW open to all adults in the Fort Wayne community and PFW students.  Four women attended weekly rehearsals on the PFW campus at the Rhinehart Music Center and participated in the first choral concert of the Spring semester.  

Community music therapy is situated as to break down some of the boundaries which keep those who have experienced trauma from remaining isolated and segregated from community life.  Our community music therapy engagement will not be stopped and silenced by COVID-19; however, the importance of the continuation of the program is only heightened by the circumstances brought on us all.  As we now collectively experience the impact of isolation and segregation, the need for social solidarity is made all that much clearer.  


Eileen Garwood, Ph.D., MT-BC, LCAT 

In addition to her teaching, Garwood has extensive experience as a board-certified music therapist providing music therapy services in the areas of physical disabilities, mental health, neuro-developmental disabilities, palliative and hospice care and pediatric medicine. 

"In the PFW Music Therapy program, we have some of the most talented and bright students who I am fortunate to help guide along in their journey towards becoming board certified music therapists," Garwood said.  "Our community engagement and service-learning partnership with YWCA Northeast Indiana extends the classroom into the real world offering greater in-depth knowledge and insight into the complexities of working in this field.  The breadth and depth of this experience allows for a greater understanding of what it takes to be a trauma informed practitioner treating the complexity of issues that arise in those facing sexual and domestic violence and recovery from addiction.  I continue to learn every day from our students and the women and children receiving services through the programs at the YWCA Northeast Indiana."

“This experience has provided me with significant personal and professional growth, and it has been extremely impactful. It has been eye-opening, allowing me to grasp a deeper understanding of what music therapy means to me.”   

Madison Boyden, Student Music Therapist

“I will continue in my profession to advocate for the helpless, speak for the voiceless, and care for anyone who is in need, and it will be the greatest joy in my life to know that I have given back and found a way to help by using my music and my compassion for the greater good.”

Molly Rea, Student Music Therapist