New program is teaching students how to heal using music

A program from the University of Jordan is teaching students how to combine art and therapy to improve the well-being of patients. (Photo: Unsplash)
AMMAN — A new diploma at the University of Jordan (UJ) is teaching students how to combine art and therapy to improve the well-being of patients.اضافة اعلان
The coordinator of UJ’s professional diploma in art therapy program, Dr Joyce Al-Raei, said that music therapy is an art that seeks to improve a person’s quality of life by improving mental and physical health. The diploma is meant to complement to the school’s medical program.

“This type of therapy existed many years ago, and when people began to notice that art has the ability to improve their mental health and thus their physical health, there was a need to resort to this type of art, as all types of art, such as painting, sculpture, drama, and music affects the mind and nerves at a high level,” she said.

Dr Raei said that there is a superficial view that art therapy is used to “release negative energy” and improve a person’s mood, instead of having any proven medical benefits. Therefore, the Faculty of Fine Arts at UJ took a step towards spreading awareness about the therapy. 

“We introduced, this year, a program that grants a diploma degree that includes 27 credit hours. It is required for students applying for the program to have a bachelor’s degree in arts, medical, health, or counseling majors to suit the objectives of the program,” Dr Raei said.

The Faculty of Fine Arts cooperated with the Faculty of Science and Rehabilitation and the Faculty of Medicine to get the program off the ground.
“The ultimate objective of creating this program was to raise awareness in this field, raise the level of health services, improve the role of art in society, and provide therapy to refugees, areas of poverty, and to relevant individuals, in order to reintegrate them into society in an effective way to overcome the hardships they have gone through,” Dr Raei said. “Thus, raising their sensory awareness and allowing them to build a relationship with their inner selves.” 

She noted that patients undergoing art therapy are put through different stages that enable them to reconcile with their reality and their health, or psychological experience, to be able to think soundly and clearly and thus make wise decisions in their lives.

“This requires the therapist to be able to pick up signals to direct the session and gain a patient’s trust in revealing their experience in order to interact during the therapy, through well-thought-out games and exercises,” she added.

She also noted that art therapy is used to treat patients with autism, disabilities, ADHD, hyperactivity, Alzheimer’s, a stroke, anger management, depression, and many others.

Since the program was established at the beginning of the year, it has seen demand from interested students, Dr Raei said. The faculty had expected some 20 students to sign up for the diploma, but the demand has far exceeded that number. “This is a good sign and calls for optimism,” she said, noting that all of the students to sign up have been women.

The program has also received a grant from Erasmus+, the EU’s funding program to support youth and education.

Music therapist Rula Al-Barghouthi said: “Music therapy incorporates music as a tool to reach goals in a therapy plan, which takes many forms: psychological, physical, speech, and communication issues, and the therapist makes a separate plan for each patient.”

She added that society does not have much awareness about this type of therapy and there are only a small group of patients that visit music therapists, “and in turn, we strive to convey the idea to people about its importance.”

She explained that there are two types of treatment: the first is called “receptive” treatment, and treats patients through listening, analyzing, and reflecting on music itself. The second type is called “active” treatment, and uses singing and playing musical instruments to treat patients. 

“It is worth noting here that there is no need for a patient to be a musician because it is just a tool,” she stressed.

Barghouthi said that there is a need to spread awareness about the therapy as a necessity and not a luxury, and that people should focus on incorporating music into their lives for its importance and effects on well-being.

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