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Lance Cpl. Lisa Tourtelot, Marine Corps Air Station Miramar
SAN DIEGO - 03.03.2011 “One day I was really mad and Tina was depressed,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Elisa M. Wyatt, a participant in the neurologic music therapy group at Naval Medical Center San Diego. “We started writing the ‘Medical Hold’ song and then we couldn’t stop laughing. Everyone in the group got into it. They started coming up with dances, like the crutch dance. It just spread. People related to it.”
Wyatt and Petty Officer 3rd Class Tina A. Leet, are Wounded Warriors. The group is the neurologic music therapy group at NMCSD where they play music to aid the healing process.
Neurologic music therapy uses music - learning to play various instruments, sing, read sheet music and write songs - to help patients achieve non-musical goals in their recovery, such as improved motor skills, speech articulation, memory improvement and stress reduction.
“[Music therapy] has been one of the most helpful things they have here,” said Wyatt. “We get to contribute [in song writing] and be part of a team, which is why we joined the military.”
The Wounded Warriors share common experiences as service members to communicate as a group.
“[Group members] have a look of relief when they say something and someone else says they know what the other person is talking about,” said Rebecca Vaudreuil, a board-certified neurologic music therapist with Resounding Joy, Inc. “They feel more comfortable opening up in the future. It’s a support system.”
Vaudreduil began the first eight-week session in October 2010 and subsequent groups have recorded CD’s and performed their songs at private ceremonies, including military graduations and celebrations at local music museums.
Wounded Warriors participating in the group decide whether they want to write music, record CD’s or perform live, explained Vaudreuil. The needs of the group dictate the direction each eight-week session takes, but the overall goals of pain and stress management, memory retention and improved motor function remain the same.
Patients work on relevant stress and pain control tools when they are learning to play the various instruments. For example, patients focus on deep breathing techniques while learning to play the harmonica. Deep breathing, Vaudreuil explained, can help patients avoid angry outbursts when in a stressful situation.
Leet explained that she now turns to her favorite positive music when the anxiety begins to take hold, and has even found that her pain lessens when her stress is under control.
Vaudreuil explained that while playing instruments is vital to the therapy, song writing remains one of the most important aspects of music therapy because of its cathartic effect on patients.
“Every time I listen to our songs it brings tears to my eyes,” said Wyatt. “It brings that sense of camaraderie back.”