Welcome to the Franciscan Life Process Center‘s Franciscan Rhythms Blog! We hope to use this as a forum to share our mission to release the potential for wholeness in each individual through music. Our music therapy program has been in existence for nearly 40 years and we help people in all stages of life, from children with special needs, those with severe mental illness, the frail elderly, those with neurological disorders, individuals diagnosed with cancer or other medical conditions that put them at risk, young children, and people in hospice or palliative care. We believe music therapy is a time when a secure relationship is established and new skills are learned that fortify our patients to successfully meet and deal with difficult life situations. Please follow along as we share a bit of our history, highlights and challenges of music therapy, and tools and best practices from our talented team of therapists.
It was 1978. I was a newly registered music therapist in the National Association for Music Therapy, Inc. My clinical internship in southern Mississippi was completed. I was ready to launch into the waters of the music therapy world.
But I lived in West Michigan, music therapy was an unknown entity, especially in greater Grand Rapids. Not only did I receive quizzical looks when I sought employment and the eternal question, “What is music therapy?” but also responses like “What will they come up with next?”
I realized that my real work was cut out for me: I would need to educate and inform, and with great patience answer the questions over and over. At the same time, I needed to bring in an income to help support our Franciscan Community, the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist, as we tried to meet the needs of the local citizens through programs of education and therapy.
Thus began Franciscan Rhythms Music Studio in 1979, where both music lessons and music therapy services were offered, Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. With a strong piano background, much choir experience, skill on the double bass and snare drum, and, of course, all that I had learned in my internship, I was ready to sign up anyone who called. After all, I had a piano and a chair. What more did I need? The first call was an inquiry about dobro lessons, the second about playing the harmonica. It was a rocky start, but a start. The music instruction aspect of the studio grew quickly. Additional staff was hired, group classes were offered, and summer programs were created for year round programming. I was helping to support my Franciscan Community.
Meanwhile, music therapy was struggling, but slowly coming into focus through in-services, outreaches, presentations, meetings, and one-on-one contact. The first big break came in 1985 when the Superintendent of the Autistic Program of Kent County asked for music therapy services. Initially this involved my going to only one school, where all children with autism were educated. Public law changed everything, requiring each school district to serve its own constituents. Then I began to travel, rather than the children spending hours on the bus. Eventually, with the completion of the Franciscan Life Process Center in 1990, this program came to our Center for integrated learning: music therapy, art and outdoor experiences.
The music therapy “arm” began to reach into other areas in West Michigan, even as the National Association for Music Therapy, Inc. was in the process of merging to form the American Music Therapy Association. Growth was happening on all levels. In 1988, I was granted the designation of Music Therapist – Board Certified. Administrators and employers began to be aware of music therapy. Now I faced the task of helping them take the next step: a just compensation for services rendered. This has been, and continues to be, the challenge of the last 25 years. Holding to professional standards has been a way to educate the public. The current staff of 10 music therapists at the Franciscan Life Process Center is able to serve in hospitals, hospice programs, nursing home facilities, schools and rehabilitation centers, because we have continually promoted music therapy as a professional service. We continue to grow clinically through regular supervision with a psychologist, attending conferences, giving presentations and taking advanced educational classes. We have great hope that music therapy will continue to be available to many more persons as third party reimbursement becomes a greater reality.
Sister Mary Margaret Delaski, FSE/MT-BC
Director of Music
Franciscan Life Process Center
Lowell, MI 49331
616-897-7842 ext. 315