Improv and Best Health

By July 31, 2012August 4th, 2012ePatient, Clinician, Musician

Why improv and health? Health is unique, of the moment, a journey. A different possible riff every moment. Successful maneuvering the roller coaster of dis-ease depends on religious taking care of what is well with your instrument; on you and your team dynamics; on the predictability and responsiveness of the tune: systems and infrastructure through which you journey; listening for the germ of truth in yourself, your caregivers, and professionals. Best health seeks simplicity: values, mission, common sense and of course chutzpah when you can afford it. The rest is commentary.

How is your health improv?


  • Mike Brennan says:

    “Our board-certified music therapists use a variety
    of individualized techniques to help you relax, express your feelings
    and recall significant experiences from your life. Using musical
    instruments as well as their own voices, music therapists provide an
    interactive experience, such as encouraging you to sing along or helping
    you write a song to leave as a legacy for the people you love. Music therapy can be helpful if you are experiencing ongoing symptoms such as pain, depression or anxiety.

    Drawing on their musical and clinical palliative care training, our music-thanatologists use
    harp and voice to address physical, emotional and spiritual suffering
    at the end of life. Using music prescriptively, they vary the tempo and
    tone of music to respond to changes occurring in your body, like a
    slowing of pulse and breathing, in the final hours of life. During their
    visits—music vigils—they alternate sound and silence to help you and
    your loved ones relax and rest.” from hospice of palm beach has the service, too. Apparently well-established, with a certifying board and graduate degrees available. Amazing stuff. They have portable harps that fit in the car trunk.

  • Mike Brennan says:

    I appreciate the metaphor. I saw some improvisational music at work in health care when my mom passed away. She was in the final stages of dementia, and comatose. She was clinging to life, clearly agitated at some level, tachycardic and hyperpneic. The musical thanatologists from the hospice visited, and playing harp and guitar, matched her breathing rate in their tempo, then gradually slowed the tempo, and her breathing rate slowed in response. When they left, she was much more serene, and steps closer to passing graciously.

    • Danny says:

      Wow, Mike. Fascinating. Thanatology=
      the branch of science that studies death (especially its social and psychological aspects). Was this a regular service at the hospice? Is this widely practiced?

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