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Music therapy offers healing across the Upstate

A few months after graduating from Converse College as a flute performance major, Alison Hughey injured her back lifting a keyboard from the trunk of her car.

During the healing process, Hughey leaned on music to cope and distract from the pain, and to push through rehabilitation exercises. Not long after her injury, she learned of the new music therapy program at Converse College and decided to return to school to earn another degree.

Now a board-certified music therapist in private practice and the owner of Carolina Music Therapy LLC, Hughey facilitates music therapy groups at 10 senior care communities across the Upstate and offers individual music therapy services to infusion patients at Bon Secours St. Francis Cancer Center. She also coordinates music “edutainment“ events, including collaborations on self-care and music at Yogalicious in Spartanburg.

“Music can be a powerful catalyst for reminiscence, long-term memories and a sense of self which have a lot of emotional connections,” Hughey said after a recent session at The Gardens at Eastside in Greenville. “That’s what is fascinating about music and dementia. People often will reminisce and respond to specific songs. That’s why I integrate music from their young adult years that can help spark more of their life story and help remind them of the life that they’ve lived and the love that they’ve given and received.”

Numerous research studies speak to the healing power of music. For example, music-based interventions have proven to decrease distress and shorten the length of stay for infants in neonatal intensive care units. Likewise, many patients unable to walk because of Parkinson’s disease are able to dance perfectly well and patients almost unable to speak are able to sing perfectly well, studies show.

“I have had the joy of serving a wide variety of clients in numerous settings, from early childhood to end of life,” Hughey said. “I am inspired by my clients’ positive changes in response to music therapy. I believe there should be all the music there can be. There are so many ways it can be beneficial.”

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Hughey practices what she preaches when it comes to “all the music there can be.” In her time away from work, she’s an alumna guest performer in the Converse Flute Ensemble, she plays with the Spartanburg Ukuleles and is the keyboard and flute player in The Sally Rides, Spartanburg’s new girl band.

If that weren’t enough, Hughey has embraced The Daily Ukulele, 365 Songs For Better Living, by committing to learn a new song each day, recording it and posting it on Instagram.

Music therapy is used in various settings across the Upstate including hospitals, senior care communities, schools and hospice care. Here is music therapy by the numbers in the Upstate:

  • 14 senior care communities
  • 2 hospitals
  • 3 behavioral health centers
  • 3 schools
  • 3 private practices
  • Oncology programs at Prisma Health System and Bon Secours St. Francis Health System
  • Interim Hospice: three music therapists
  • Brookdale Hospice, Greenville: one music therapist
  • Cascades at Verdae, Greenville: one music therapist
  • Meyer Center for Special Children, Greenville and Hidden Treasure Christian School, Greenville: Lisa Hanson, MT-BC
  • Converse College: Faculty member Dr. Carol Shultis, MT-BC and her students serve in a variety of settings
  • Spartanburg Regional Medical Center (Pediatrics, PICU, Medical/Surgical, Hospice House)
  • The Lawson Academy at Converse, Cassidy Murphy, MT-BC, provides group and individual services
  • AnMed Health, Anderson, Jeannie Quam, MT-BC
  • Carolina Center for Behavioral Health, Greer, Sarah Edwards Barnes, MT-BC
  • Patrick B. Harris Psychiatric Hospital, Anderson, Caitlin Adair, MT-BC and Mackenzie Cox, MT-BC
  • Heartstrings Music Therapy Services, Megan Hoyt Danelz, MT-BC, serves individual clients and groups in studio space in Simpsonville
  • Three Chord Music Therapy Services, Sarah Edwards Barnes, MT-BC

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