• Blake Maples

Integrative Therapies to Wellness


Could the frequencies of music and the amplification from binaural beats improve mental health more effectively than Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy? Throughout the study by Hakvoort, sixteen prisoners at the Penitentiary Psychiatric Center were chosen to participate in Short-term Music Therapy Attention and Arousal Regulation Treatment (SMAART) to help decrease PTSD symptoms and increase concentration. From the sixteen prisoners, the group suffered from various traumas such as: Physical intimidation and/or threat, rape or sexual assault, sexual abuse, maltreatment or violence, serious accident, war, other. To qualify for the SMAART therapy, the individual would have failed to engage in EMDR therapy because “language and motivation issues, difficulties with emotion regulation, and severe [maladaptive] behavior” (Hakvoort 377). When individuals suffer from PTSD, the probability of the prisoner to be readmitted in the system were greater. During the study, the SMAART therapy consisted of six sessions, conditioning the prisoners to follow “abdominal breathing techniques, rhythmical entrainment, bilateral movement patterns in music with body percussion, and musical attention control training” (Hakvoort 378). With the six sessions, the administrator conducted a pre-examination to collect baseline data. After the six sessions, the administrator conducted a post-examination to compare the improvements from the participants. When individuals suffer from PTSD, the lower brain region fails to “engage [in] the executive functions; severely limiting self-regulation” (Hakvoort 378). This passage will discuss the benefits of SMAART therapy and personal experience, conditioning the benefits of Sound Healing and deep abdominal breathing, which can be utilized to help reduce PTSD symptoms, diminishing stress, anxiety, and depression.

As a Western society, westerners are conditioned to shallow breathing, which forces the body into a “fight or flight response”(Gaynor 59), encouraging stress and anxiety in the body. To help alleviate the negative consequences of shallow breathing, one can implement deep abdominal breathing, allowing the breath to circulate the body with oxygen, which “is a key to breaking the vicious cycle of fight-or-flight” (Gaynor 61). In addition to the deep abdominal breathing, sound frequencies allow molecules in the body to vibrate, aligning cells through sonar entrainment. When the body vibrates in entrainment, the “sound can transform negative, repressed emotions into a state of psychological equanimity that has direct and immediate effects on our physiology (Gaynor 64-65).” From the SMAART study, “the brain responds to rhythm with synchronization, entrainment, stimulation of the reward system and a calming of the amygdala” (Hakvoort 378). The amygdala is in the temporal lobes, controlling the ability to process memory, form decisions, and react to emotions. Emotions such as, fear, anxiety, and maladaptive behavior are reactions involved with the amygdala. When an individual suffers from PTSD, one has difficulty with focusing thoughts, as attention is divided into over stimulated thoughts, undesired memories, and over analyzing their environment. As one has difficulty with focusing, the consequence of PTSD causes one to refrain from assimilating new information and have difficulty implementing antecedent interventions for maladaptive behavior. During the methods of SMAART, the first step is musical attention control training (MACT), “a technique from the neurologic music therapy, [reconstructing] sustained and selective attention” (Hakvoort379). To help with the selective attention method, researchers utilized rhythms, inquiring drums, xylophone, and percussion. Additionally, the second step trained the selective attention by incorporating two auditorial stimulus, which the prisoner attempted to focus on the first auditorial stimulus. While focusing on the auditorial stimulus, the prisoner would continue to engage in abdominal breathing. If the participant had difficulty with breathing, the instructor would condition breathing with singing music, which would help the prisoner bring awareness to their breathing pattern. During the intervention, the administrator would adjust the rhythm, allowing the prisoner to bring awareness back to breath and focus on original rhythm that was provided at first. Since the additional rhythm would cause confusion, the prisoner would have to concentrate and prompt with breathing techniques to stay on task and prevent stress.

With the sixteen prisoner participants, three of them were expelled from the study due to no longer serving time, transferring to another prison, and one inmate was extremely hostile with the administrator. While measuring the attention improvement, prisoners improved “54.4%,” comparing the post-test and pre-test with rhythmic patterns (Hakvoort 385). Throughout the study, twelve participants declined PTSD symptoms by at least ten points. The greatest improvement was from participant thirteen, which they dropped “thirty-six” points (Hakvoort 386). Participant three declined by the pretest by “seventeen” points because he felt that his trauma was valid when someone listened to him and confirmed his emotions, providing him a sense of hope and relief (Hakvoort 386). Since the beginning of music therapy treatment, five participants provided feedback that their nightmares decreased in the middle of the night, “while seven reported that nightmares had stopped altogether” (Hakvoort 387). In addition, participants felt capable of regulating arousal by remaining in the present moment. Twelve of the participants were impressed with the intervention, differentiating between “trauma related arousal; avoidance behavior and responses associated with daily life” (Hakvoort387).

As a Sound Healing practitioner, I have witnessed positive feedback from individuals that suffer from PTSD, stimulating from anxiety, depression, and stress. During a session of eight participants, each participant voiced their concern of exhibiting depression, anxiety, and stress to the Behavioral Health Counselor. To start off the session, I guided the clients through abdominal breathing, drawing awareness with slow intentional breaths. Throughout the session, clients focused on abdominal breathing and listened to various frequencies, ranging from 396 HZ to 963 HZ. Once the session was complete, all participants concluded that all worries and stressors melted away, stating thatthey had no idea what they were concerned about to begin with. Participant two expressed that some undesired thoughts came to consciousness, but she was able to analyze them and come to peace with reality. All the participants felt a spiritual enlightenment, which they expressed a sense of peace.

With my personal background as a yogi sound healing practitioner, I have firsthand witnessed the benefits of Sound Healing and abdominal breathing. I believe that this type of intervention can be an alternative approach to the way mental health is perceived. The following SMAART research conducted at the prison was a pilot study, which contributes to a holistic alternative method to healing. When participants can bring awareness to breath and allow thoughts to pass, the ability to naturally calm the mind is extraordinary. With the combination of the following study and personal experience, I will strive to pass this type of healing with the health care department, local prisons, and school districts to help transform the approach to mental health.

Works Cited

Gaynor, Mitchell L, M.D. Sound of Healing A Physician Reveals the Therapeutic Power of Sound, Voice, and Music. Broadway Books. New York. P 59-65.

Hakvoort, Laurien, Macfarlane, Clare, and Masthoff, Erik. Short-Term Music Therapy Attention and Arousal Regulation Treatment (SMAART) for Prisoners with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Feasibility Study. Journal of Forensic Psychology Research and Practice 2019, Vol. 19, No. 5 P 376-392.

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