Music Therapy Program: Meet Amy Zabin, Music Therapist
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The music therapy program is possible thanks to funds raised from the Lauren Fund which is part of the Hope In Motion campaign through the Bennett Cancer Center. The Lauren Fund also supports art therapy, nutritional counseling, social work and counseling.
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Music is everywhere we go. We listen to it on our morning commute, see it live in concert and feel it in our souls. For many patients, particularly those with cancer, music therapy has numerous health and healing benefits. In fact, research shows that listening to music can reduce pain, improve mood, lower blood pressure, increase cognitive function, alter brain waves and heart rates and bring better overall balance.*
We're pleased to offer our patients at the Carl & Dorothy Bennett Cancer Center, as well as their families, the gift of music therapy led by program director Amy Zabin, PhD. Amy makes her rounds through the Bennett Cancer Center—and occasionally other units at Stamford Hospital on the Bennett Medical Center Campus—on Tuesday afternoons.
Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself. What drew you to music therapy as a career?
A: Music therapy has always been my passion and I’m fortunate to have it as my vocation for over 35 years. Since the age of 4, I knew I wanted to use music to help people. All my degrees—undergraduate, masters and doctoral—are in music therapy which is very unusual. Music is one of the most effective ways to reach people. Very rarely do I encounter anyone who’s not interested in music.
Q: Generally speaking, what does music mean to you?
A: For me, music is a lifeline and my language. It’s a way for me to understand my internal psyche. Music has also helped to reduce my blood pressure and heart rate—and to motivate and understand others around me.
My favorite genre of music is songs that tell stories. I’m drawn to people that share their souls through their music and lyrics. My all-time favorite artist is Tanita Takaram—British pop/folk singer-songwriter. If I’m in a deep-relaxation mood, I listen to classical music.
Q: What’s the connection between music and meditation?
A: Music is the easiest way to actually meditate. When I combine music and meditation, I aim to bring the participants' heart rate down, alter their brain waves, and bring them to a deep state of relaxation through the purposeful use of rhythm and tones. I’ve often been told that music and meditation is a shortcut, especially for those who are new to meditation, to feeling immense relaxation.
Q: How have you seen first-hand how a music therapy program at a hospital has benefited patients with cancer? What is the connection between music and healing?
A: If I encounter someone who’s in the thick of cancer treatment, I introduce myself and ask if they’d like to hear music. It’s rewarding to see their faces light up immediately. The music therapy program at the Bennett Cancer Center gives patients a chance to be in control of their environment. Music becomes a way for them to express their anxiety and fears and reduce pain and nausea associated with chemotherapy and other cancer treatments. The goal is to help those with cancer focus on wellness instead of illness. I have seen many patients feel stronger, more empowered, and able to speak about their illness in ways they feel comfortable by encouraging them to create their own playlist, so to speak.
Sound is the first sense we experience in the womb and the last when we pass on. If I have the opportunity to work with someone who’s moving onto the next chapter, I help them speak to their loved ones through music.
Q: What advice would you give to patients who are interested in exploring a music therapy program as a form of healing?
A: Act as if you’re writing a prescription for your own music therapy. Instead of unconsciously flipping through the radio, first ask yourself what mood you want to be in and what kind of music can get you there. This practice will help you use music more purposefully to achieve greater health benefits.
Dr. Amy Zabin, DA, MT-BC is a Music Therapist. She utilizes live music in an intentional way in order to help others live healthier lives
*Source cited: amyzabin.com