Music has long been used to reduce pain and suffering and promote a sense of well being in patients suffering from illness as well as those who are actively dying. Therapeutic harp at the bedside aspires to do this through the creation of a “cradle of sound” that holds and supports patients physically, psychologically, and spiritually.
Bedside therapeutic harp is tailored entirely to the needs of each individual patient at the time of the session and can consist of songs in familiar musical genres as well as improvisation using various harmonies. The meter of the music is often matched to the patient’s breathing and through the process of entrainment attempts to regulate the breathing and, at times, bring it to a more desirable level. At the outset of the session, the harpist attempts to find a resonant tone; one that evokes sympathetic vibrations in the patient and enables him or her to experience the music energetically.
The primary goal of therapeutic harp is to craft a deep connection between the patient and the music. In conscious patients, this deep connection to the music can help relieve anxiety and elevate mood. In semi- or unconscious patients, this connection can reduce restlessness, extend relaxation, and even awaken some level of consciousness. Bedside harp music can also foster deep connections between the patient and his or her family and loved ones present during the session.
At its best, therapeutic harp enhances the moment, bringing all the participants to a new level of presence in which the patient’s individuality, dignity, and beauty are clearly reflected.
For more on my approach to teaching music, visit my Harp Harmony blog.
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