Sep 18, 2012

Music Therapy Intern now at State of the Heart Hospice

Allison Burns
GREENVILLE--It has been a giant leap from the Dallas, Texas area to a small community in the Midwest, but Allison Burns, the new music therapy intern at State of the Heart Hospice, feels she made a great choice in deciding to become a member of the State of the Heart team of caregivers. She will be with the program for six months, completing a requirement to become a Certified Music Therapist. She completes the internship in February.

“It is the perfect fit,” explained Burns. “I am learning so much from the two State of the Heart music therapists, and I admire the mission and philosophy of State of the Heart in caring for patients and families.” Before deciding on where she wanted to intern, she researched hospices on the internet. “I liked what I saw on State of the Heart’s web site,” she added.

While she is living in Portland, she will assist State of the Heart’s two music therapists, Amy Pearson and Brittany Scheer, in providing music therapy to patients in all of the areas served by State of the Heart. The non-profit agency has offices in Greenville, Portland and Coldwater and cares for patients in eastern Indiana and western Ohio who are confronting a life limiting illness.

She has been musically active both in her church and in musical groups, she said and has performed extensively. Her principal “instrument,” she explained, is her voice. When she was finishing her associate’s degree she was somewhat unsure what career path she wanted to follow. Her family had had experience with hospice care, she said, and it was a good experience.

“I believe strongly in the power of music,” she said. “You blend so many elements that are so helpful to people with music therapy.” Her love of music, involvement in church activities, and her desire to help others, lead her to deciding on a career as a music therapist in hospice care.

Music therapy emerged in hospice care in the early to mid 1990’s and has become increasingly popular. Through the use of music therapy, a patient can realize improved quality of life, an easing of depression and the “opening of channels” for conversation. Advocates of music therapy stress that music therapy can be a “pain masking agent by offering a distraction for the patient. State of the Heart applied with the American Music Therapy Association for approval for the internship program. Out of approximately 100 hospices in Ohio, State of the Heart is one of three offering a music therapy internship. It is the only hospice out of about 100 in Indiana to offer the program. The internship is required in order to finish the Bachelor’s Degree in Music Therapy program.

Burns related a recent experience where she saw music therapy help a patient. “We had been called back to the home of a patient after an initial visit to help the patient with her breathing,” Burns explained. “The patient was having a lot of problems breathing and it was getting worse as her anxiety increased. Our music therapist Brittany sang some old hymns while I held the patient’s hand. Within 30 minutes the patient’s breathing had improved greatly and she was able to go to sleep. There was a definite improvement in her physical well-being through the use of music therapy.” The music therapist is an important part of the hospice team of caregivers which consists of physician, nurses, aides, social workers, bereavement specialists, chaplains and volunteers. Increasingly, music therapy is being used for bereavement support. To find out more about any of the services offered by State of the Heart, visit the agency web site at


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