VIGO COUNTY, Ind. (WTHI) – It’s a feeling we all know, the one we get when we hear our favorite song.
It’s one Jack often gets when he visits with Amanda Steiner every week.
“As soon as the music starts, he starts rocking and vocalizing,” she said.
Steiner is a board-certified music therapist. Twice a week, she meets with clients at The Happiness Bag in Terre Haute.
“I was that awkward, nerdy kid,” she said, “and music, and band, and piano lessons and everything, it allowed me to have self-expression that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.”
It wasn’t until Steiner went to college, at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, that she would find music therapy as a career path.
“There was no question that music would be in my life forever,” she said, “I just had no idea that I would use it to help others.”
For about a year now, Steiner has been working with Jack, who is one of her ten clients at Happiness Bag.
Jack was diagnosed with Intellectual Disability.
Through music therapy, Steiner says they are able to work on his social and communication skills using back and forth interaction.
“It took a lot more for him to kind of get vocalizing with me and going,” she said, “Now, it’s almost like when he comes into the building, and sees me, he starts vocalizing because he knows what we’re about to do.”
“He leaves here in a better mood, better equipped to handle things that he deals with throughout his day,” Steiner added.
Steiner is one of three therapists who travel to Happiness Bag during the week. They’re part of a business called, Rhythm Garden, LLC, which is based in Jasonville, Indiana.
“I’m a firm believer that if you look at the needs of where you live, you try to find a way to meet those needs,” said Director and Owner Morgan Sparks.
Sparks, who is from the Jasonville area, is also a board-certified music therapist. She’s been in the field for about 14 years but has operated Rhythm Garden for five.
While they primarily provide music therapy services, Rhythm Garden also offers music lessons and early childhood music enrichment.
Through those services, Rhythm Garden works with a variety of clients who have developmental disabilities, Alzheimer’s/Dementia, anxiety, mental health or other needs.
“There are people there (Jasonville) with developmental disabilities, of course, music therapy addresses that,” she said, “There are mental health needs, there are needs for early childhood, early intervention. So the same needs you would find in a larger city, they’re in rural areas too.”
That’s also one of the main reasons Sparks chose to keep her business in Jasonville and a handful of surrounding areas, which include Vigo, Clay, Greene, and Sullivan counties.
“I don’t want to expand too much,” she said, “I think the counties we serve are perfect, maybe another county here and there, because there are needs.”
“As far as expanding throughout Indiana, or into other states, that’s probably not something that I want to do,” added Sparks, “Mainly because there are other music therapists serving those areas, and I feel like there’s enough need here, to keep my business doing well.”
The numbers seem to prove just that. Just within their service area, Sparks says all of her music therapists on staff have a full caseload.
“A full caseload runs anywhere from 26 to 30 clients a week,” she said, “We’re providing individual services and group therapy.”
While the future of music therapy looks to be promising, Sparks hopes people will educate themselves on the common misconceptions behind it.
“So many times people will say oh yeah, I use music as my therapy,” she said, “and that’s great to use music therapeutically, but that’s not the same as music therapy.”
“You have to be a trained, credentialed therapist, in order to say you’re doing music therapy,” Sparks added, “Just like a physical therapist, or a speech therapist, you have to be trained in order to use that. I think it’s important to note, as music therapists, we work with vulnerable populations. We are trained specifically on how to use music to meet their needs.”
“We’re trained to use music to help facilitate change in clients,” said Steiner, “and part of that training is knowing how far to push, and how far not to push and how to challenge people.”
“It’s so beautiful to start playing one of their favorite songs and to watch that emotion shift,” she added, “and to see them walk out of music therapy standing tall, and confident, and ready to face their day…. I believe music has the power to do that.”
In addition to individual and group services, Rhythm Garden is also looking to partner with other businesses and agencies. The facility also offers internship opportunities, starting in January.
If you’re interested in services, partnerships or other opportunities, you can contact Rhythm Garden through the following: