Behavioral hospitals in Longview are alive with the sound of music.
Incorporating music into treatment for people with depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and other forms of mental illness and addictions helps to calm them and brings smile to their faces, staff at Magnolia Behavioral Hospital of East Texas in Longview said.
Some of the patients at the 76-bed hospital sing along, try playing the guitar and write about the experience in their diaries, the staff said.
Magnolia, formerly known as Behavioral Hospital of Longview, launched the twice-weekly recreational music program March 8. Admissions specialist Kelby Youngblood, who received training as a mental health technician, leads the hour-long sessions by strumming acoustic or electric guitars.
Youngblood brings his own guitars, and 10 guitars donated to Magnolia are available for patients to use during the sessions or under the supervision of a staffer, said Natalie Carver, director of business development.
“He can teach them how to play,” Carver said. “A lot of our patients already know how to play.”
Carver said she came up with the idea for the music program because she loves music and knows other hospitals have used music for therapy. Magnolia CEO Allyson Debruycker approved the program and clinical director Neli Medina, a licensed clinical social worker, oversees it, Carver said.
Like Magnolia, the 24-bed Oceans Behavioral Hospital in Longview offers a recreational music program for its patients, Community Liaison Director Kerry Driskell said. Oceans has provided it since the hospital opened more than seven years ago, offering it as often as five days a week, both one on one with individual patients and for a group.
“Sometimes it is recorded music,” Driskell said. A choir appeared on another occasion.
Driskell said patients become less agitated, adding, “The music transports them to a happier place in their mind.”
Neither Oceans on Magnolia refer to their programs as music therapy, an allied health profession.
Music therapists require a four-year college degree with 1,200 hours in clinical training and must obtain an exam-based credential, said Jane Creagan, director of professional programs for the American Music Therapy Association in Silver Spring, Maryland. The association has about 4,000 members, including about 200 board-certified music therapists in Texas.
“They are not doing music therapy in the clinical sense,” Creagan said, referring to Magnolia and Oceans. “What they are doing, I’m sure, has therapeutic benefits.”
She continued, “Patients can still benefit from the music that is provided.”
Magnolia eventually will hire a music therapist after it fills more beds, Debruycker said. Magnolia houses 10 to 15 patients a day who stay an average of seven to 10 days.
But for now, Magnolia is relying on the musical skills of Youngblood, who has played guitar for about five years and is in the band We Divide. He said he plays whatever the patients request.
The music program was made possible by the donation of 10 guitars, four amplifiers and other accessories from Ken Chinn, Carver said.
Chinn, a Longview financial consultant, said Magnolia staff contacted him about donating guitars, which he buys wholesale.
He said he founded the Chinn Guitar Project about five years ago after his daughter, Tara, was treated for epilepsy in Children’s Medical Center in Dallas. He recalled bringing a guitar to the hospital because Tara was bored and enjoyed playing the instrument.
He said a nurse saw the guitar and asked whether he wanted a music therapist to visit his daughter. The therapist showed up, and said he was “blown away” by seeing the musical therapist interact with Tara.
Referring to the expression on Tara’s face, Chinn added, “She was happy and joyful.”
Chinn said he offered to donate 10 guitars after learning the hospital needed them for music therapy.
He said the charity has donated 2,100 guitars throughout the United States since then, since them, and mostly to children’s hospitals.
Referring to Magnolia, Chinn said, “It is going to be a real blessing to them.”
The guitars have struck a positive chord with the staff and patients at Magnolia.
The presence of guitars gives a new focus and hobby to patients with addictions, Debruycker said, adding patients look forward to the sessions.
“They’d like us to do it every day,” she said.
Magnolia staff declined requests from the News-Journal to interview and take photos of the patients, citing the confidentiality provisions of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996.
Source: Longview News Journal