Successes | Traumatic Brain Injury Treatment Sessions

Music Therapist Journal

Medical Diagnosis: Traumatic brain injury, visual impairment
Patient: Ben, male, age 29
Therapy Setting: Residential rehabilitation center
Intervention Type: Individual
Intervention Method: Lyric analysis, songwriting, therapeutic singing
Academic Goals: Cognitive sustainability, memory recall
Motor Goals: Balance, breath support, right- and left-hand coordination
Social Goals: Community interaction and participation, interpersonal communication, self-expression, volunteering

Ben and I have been working together for six months in an individual adaptive music lesson setting. These sessions initially focused on piano, however, shortly after we began meeting, it was apparent that Ben had a natural vocal talent. Due to physical pain and emotional frustration, we again modified the treatment plan to exclude piano and focus solely on voice. Our sessions included therapeutic singing, active music making, relaxation, and lyric analysis. The lyric analysis encouraged a deeper look at meanings and symbolism of lyrics, and Ben decided that he could use songwriting to process certain situations that he was facing at that time. Since June, we have written four songs and a poem read to music. We’ve also performed personal arrangements of songs by many other artists, including The Doors, Dave Matthews, and Lee Ann Womack.

Ben has found comfort, support, and meaning in music, especially songwriting. He memorizes all of his songs for performances, which provides cognitive stimulation. He is making progress with breath support, which not only strengthens his breath, but helps with his speech and articulation. And by accompanying himself with percussive instruments during parts of his songs, he is becoming rhythmically entrained to his music to play on beat, assisting motor coordination.

It has been a pleasure working with Ben, and I look forward to continuing our work together. As Ben continues performing, it is my goal for him to share the story of his accident, survival, and transition to living with traumatic brain injury by performing his music throughout the community from coffee shops to youth centers.

Patient Testimony
“At first it was painful learning how to play the piano, but there was such a bright aura around the music, that I knew I didn’t want to give it up completely, so I asked for voice lessons. Shortly after this change, Becky suggested that we write songs about some of the transitory things that I was going through, the brain injury, changing from military to civilian life, and many other things. Music completely brought happiness back into my life, and I am extremely thankful for that.”


2016 Music Therapist Update

“It has been an honor to work with Ben as his music therapist for the past seven years, 2009- 2016. During this time that Ben and I have worked together in music therapy, Ben has fulfilled many clinical and personal goals including: the transitioning from active duty military to the civilian sector as a veteran; moving from inpatient care to assisted living, and finally making it back to his loving family; learning a variety of instruments (voice, bass, ukulele); performing at a multitude of private and community-based events, inspiring and assisting in writing books, giving lectures, and finding effective ways to communicate his thoughts and feelings with his family and friends by writing and recording songs based on his life situations and relationships.

I think fondly of our first years working at Learning Services, where Ben generalized what he learned in music therapy and began assisting group music therapy sessions for his peers at Learning Services. Ben did not stop there. He went on to volunteer in his greater community by aiding music therapy and recreational music for developmentally disabled adults, fellow veterans, and performing in the greater Southern California area for military and civilian events and ceremonies. A very special thanks to the Semper Fi Fund for providing transportation for Ben’s community volunteerism.

When I left Southern California in 2013 to attend graduate school in Massachusetts, Ben and I had a turning point in our therapeutic relationship. While consulting with Ben, his family, and his care team whether to continue music therapy with a new clinician or start the termination of Ben’s music therapy services, it was decided that Ben and I would pilot tele-music therapy (TMT) sessions. TMT provides consistency of care, continuity of progress that Ben continues to achieve, and helps to show the effectiveness of a new method in which music therapy can be facilitated using technology in an innovative manner. Since 2013, we continue to work together on a weekly basis through TMT and bi-annual home visits, in which I travel to Southern California to work directly with Ben. Thanks to his mother, Lisa, and the La Jolla Department of Veteran’s Affairs for making TMT possible for Ben!

Ben’s continued engagement and participation in music therapy/TMT has positively impacted his life as well as the lives of his family, friends, rehabilitation team members, and the many people that he has served through his story and with his music. It is a pleasure to continue working with Ben and I cannot wait to see what the future holds through our continued engagement in music therapy.”

2016 Patient Testimony

“Since I started music therapy in 2009, one memory still stands out to me. I was in music therapy session, in pain, and didn’t want to play instruments. Honestly, I was about to give up on music therapy. Rebecca suggested that we do a relaxation and she started playing guitar, and then started singing a song. I sat there and listened, immediately feeling my pain and frustration dissipate. I asked her, “Who wrote that?” She answered, “I did.” I responded, “Can you teach me how? That was that. To date, we have written and recorded over 20 original, adapted, and cover songs from artists that inspire me. Writing music is a therapy that cannot be replaced by anything else. You get the experience of putting your life in words and making them lyrical. Then you get the exhilaration of hearing them come to life when you add instrumental music to it. It’s absolutely amazing!

Music therapy did what all the doctors- military and civilian- could not do. It woke up my brain after a long slumber, flipped the switch so to say. Rebecca allowed me to see life through my heart. It brought me back to life and I am me again.”


Ben’s Music Event Archives 2009- 2016

  • Thursday July 23, 2009- Dixon Lake Debut Performance; Escondido, CA
  • Saturday October 28, 2009- Learning Services Company Picnic; Escondido, CA
  • Friday November 13, 2009 – The American Music Therapy Association National Conference; Town and Country Resort & Conference Center, San Diego, CA
  • April 2010- Learning Services Symposium; LSI Classroom; Escondido, CA
  • May 2010- Music Therapy Assistant at St. Madeline’s Sophie Center; El Cajon, CA
  • October 2010- Learning Services Halloween Party Performance; Escondido, CA
  • November 2010- Featured Author: Foreword for “Music Therapy Group Interventions in Working with Traumatic Brain Injury”
  • October 2010- Sung in the Key of Love CD Release
  • December 2010- Learning Services Christmas Party; Escondido, CA
  • December 2010- Christmas Caroling at Silverado Senior Assisted Living Center, Escondido, CA
  • February 2011- Learning Services Valentine’s Concert; Escondido, CA
  • April 2011- Featured Lecturer, Western Regional Music Therapy Association Conference; Mesa, AZ
  • April 16, 2011- Foundation For Brain Injured Veterans Sock Hop; Oceanside, CA
  • May 19, 2011- Featured Speaker, National Association on Mental Illness (NAMI) Meeting; Carlsbad, CA
  • June 201- Resounding Joy House Concert Series; Rancho Bernardo, CA
  • July 2011- Music Therapy assistant NMCSD and Camp Pendleton, CA
  • October 22, 2011- LSI Haunted Casino Party “Band Together” and bass debut; Escondido, CA
  • November 13, 2011 Tim McGraw performance at the Hope and Care Center Amphitheatre; Camp Pendleton, CA
  • December 1, 2011- Wounded Warrior Benefit Concert; Humphrey’s Backstage Point Loma, CA
  • December 15, 2011- Camp Pendleton WWB-W Holiday Party: Hope and Care Center, Honor Room; Camp Pendleton, CA
  • May 2012- From Hymns to Hip-Hop CD Release
  • November 3, 2012- Combat Art Show: Space 4 Art; Gaslamp District; San Diego, CA
  • December 13, 2012- Camp Pendleton WWB-W Holiday Party: Hope and Care Center, Honor Room; Camp Pendleton, CA
  • January 26, 2013- Livin Your Dreams in 2013 Concert: Hendrix Hall Rock and Roll Studios; Point Loma, San Diego CA
  • March 26, 2013- fStop Exhibit and Graduation Ceremony: Oceanside Museum of Art
  • June 17, 2013- 1st Annual Travis Manion Foundation West Coast Memorial Golf Event: Admiral Baker Golf Course; San Diego, CA
  • August 2013- World Series of Fighting Championship Performance of the “Star Spangled Banner”; Ontario, CA
  • October 2013- Inception of Tele-Music Therapy Program, Vista/Irvine, CA & Boston, MA
  • November 11, 2013 Ingram Micro Veteran’s Day Event, Santa Ana, CA
  • November 11, 2014- Salute to Veteran’s Concert Aboard the USS Midway, Seaport Village/San Diego Harbor, CA
  • 2015-present Continued engagement through Tele-Music Therapy services including songwriting, music production, and music therapy interventions.






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