Music Therapy at St. Clair Health

Music provides individuals with a way to communicate without having to use words or sentences. “Music touches a part of our brain that nothing else does. It can lift us up and break us down all in one song, and that’s all a part of healing,” explains Cassie Kulesa, a Music Therapy Specialist at St. Clair Health.

Music has the power to speak to people in different ways and it allows individuals to find something that they can relate to on a personal level. It can be used as a form of therapy as it is able to heal wounds that medicine cannot reach. It is amazing what music therapy can do for a person. Many of the patients at St. Clair Health are able to gain new coping skills through listening, playing, and writing music.

St. Clair Health offers outpatient music therapy once a month, while inpatient services offers sessions five days a week. The inpatient groups generally consist of five to twelve people, and it is common to hold up to three group sessions a day. Sessions are entirely voluntary and do not require participation if patients are not feeling up to it.

While all sessions are different, they all focus on topics such as changing negative thought patterns, increasing self-expression and self-esteem, and exploring coping skills in music. Cassie explains, “To cover these topics, I use techniques such as lyric analysis or communication where we dive deeper into song meanings, lyric substitution where we replace certain lyrics with our own, and many more creative ways to look at these well-known songs a little differently.”

On other days, Cassie focuses on playing music for her patients. She provides the group with a list of about 50 songs that change weekly that she can play. They have the opportunity to choose what they need in that moment. There are many different methods that Cassie utilizes, but her patients can trust that music will be involved in every session in some way.

Patients can choose what they would like to focus on in music therapy. They are able to test out different instruments and see what works best for them. The department recently added new drums, a piano, four ukuleles, and three guitars to their inventory of instruments with help from the St. Clair Health Foundation. These new instruments allow our patients to take advantage of music therapy and the benefits that come from it.

Music therapy can be beneficial to everyone. You do not need to know how to play music or sing; you just need an open mind. Cassie has seen firsthand how it has positively impacted many of our patients’ lives. “Music can be used as a coping skill, new hobby, release of emotion, and chance to explore self-expression,” says Cassie. It has helped many to explore their creativity and find their ‘voice’ through the use of an instrument. In fact, some patients have decided to pursue their musical visions after taking part in music therapy. Cassie knows some patients who plan on getting their own guitar after completing therapy.

About Cassie Kulesa, a Music Therapy Specialist

Cassie has always had a love for music. She has been playing since the first grade, when she performed in a talent show at her school. As she grew up, Cassie found that music could have a larger purpose than being used for entertainment or background noise.  This led Cassie to explore her options and discover music therapy, which she quickly fell in love with. “I’m so grateful to be able to have a career in my passion and even more so to be able to see the difference it’s made in so many patients here at St. Clair Health,” says Cassie.

Psychiatric and Mental Health Services at St. Clair Health

Outpatient programs such as music therapy are designed to provide an alternative to inpatient treatment for adults with acute psychiatric illness. In addition to regular appointments with a psychiatrist, St. Clair Health offers a group approach to treatment that focuses on problem-solving, relapse prevention, assertiveness training, community living, lifestyle skills, medication education, and stress management. Click here to learn more about outpatient therapy services offered at St. Clair Health.