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Rogers Foundation and behavioral specialist bring the healing power of music to patients

04/06/17 07:22:am

“The guitar can be like having a friend: one that is always there, and at-the-ready to participate in mutual expression, often invoking deep and profound emotion.”

Mike Witte, behavioral specialist at the Eating Disorders Center (EDC) in Delafield, has been playing guitar since he was 12 years old. Most recently, adding the ukulele to his list companions.

In his role at Rogers, Mike uses behavioral activation as a way to combat depression, which can involve learning a new skill. His passion for music led him to explore how he could use music as a natural extension for healing by integrating it into therapy sessions with patients.

He knew his skills with the guitar could be just the answer he was looking for. But without guitars on the unit, it made teaching impossible. Mike’s manager directed him to Rogers Memorial Hospital Foundation, where he requested funding to purchase one guitar and two ukuleles. Thanks to the Angel Fund, the patients at the EDC are now equipped to learn a new skill.

The results have been remarkable. For those who already know how to play, the guitar and ukuleles can be a nice comfort, and for those who have always wanted to learn, they now have the means to do so.

“I remember teaching a patient three chords on the ukulele, only to return the next day to the patient playing two songs. Although learning the guitar can be more challenging, practicing a few minutes a day can have someone playing three-chord songs in a couple of weeks. Patients choose the type of music they wish to learn giving them the freedom to participate in a song’s meaning and power on a personal level. As Mike explains, “activating in ways authentic to any individual can serve well to stave off depression.”

Mike recalls a time he was sure that music facilitated healing for a patient. A woman had a daily binge-purge cycle daily for six years until she reached 30 days binge-purge free. On that day, he says the residents sang ‘for she’s the binge-free woman…which nobody can deny” to the tune of ‘jolly good fellow’ and had a piece of a cake she had made. Mike says, “Having the ability to play guitar or ukulele gives me the chance to shift the mood of the room. In a heavy atmosphere, changing the words to a well-known song and having everyone participate creates a collective and positive energy.”

One family was so impressed by the use of musical instruments in treatment that they donated an electronic keyboard to the program. When the family’s daughter was in treatment, she used the keyboard to assist in her healing. After her treatment, the keyboard remained to allow others to benefit as she did.

Mike is grateful to the Foundation for helping him unleash healing and peace through guitars and ukuleles.

If you would like to make an Angel Fund request, you can download the request form located on the Foundation’s intranet page.

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