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Music for the mind and soul

Unique therapy has positive results

Created date

July 28th, 2015
Riderwood bocce

Music is powerful. It can inspire us, move us to tears, get us up on our feet to dance, and even help us to heal. That is why Rid... offers music therapy for the people living in its continuing care community, Arbor Ridge. 

The American Music Therapy Association defines music therapy as “the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program.”

Riderwood’s music therapist, Samantha Kramer, says this unique type of therapy uses music in a creative way to reach social, cognitive, motor, and emotional goals. She says music is processed in different areas of our brain than speech and movement, and as such, it creates different opportunities for people to have success in therapy. 

Ideal option

Kramer says music therapy is a cost-effective treatment because all you need is a practitioner and one or two instruments. She believes it’s nonthreatening and noninvasive and is a safer and cheaper alternative to psychotropic drugs.

“Music is innate in all of us. It’s something that we’re all capable of listening to and reaping the benefits of,” Kramer says. “Music therapy can also serve virtually any population—no matter what skill level and functioning level, music therapy can be easily altered to fit each individual’s needs.”

Kramer has been on staff at Riderwood as the community’s full-time music therapist for about two years. She has a bachelor of music degree in music therapy and holds board certification from the Certification Board of Music Therapists. 

Each week, Kramer conducts about 17 group music therapy sessions and works one-on-one with about 15 residents. She says music therapy is commonly practiced with older adults being treated for depression or receiving memory care. But music therapy can benefit just about anyone and is offered to all residents at Arbor Ridge.

Individual music therapy sessions last about 20 minutes, and the group sessions run 30 to 45 minutes. Kramer uses a wide range of music for therapy. 

“Depending on the group or person in the one-on-one, I could be presenting familiar songs from their era, we could be analyzing a song from a later time period to connect with the lyrics, or there could be improvisational music that is created in the moment from the group,” Kramer says. “The list is really infinite when talking about the types of music, but I do highlight the music of the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s.”

Kramer offers a variety of group sessions designed to achieve different therapeutic goals. 

The “Music Throughout Time” group reflects on music and its relation to the world and the time in history when it was released. 

In the “Music and Movement” session, residents improvise with instruments and work on improving their gross and fine motor skills by moving to familiar songs. 

The “Music and Reminiscence” group session is for people receiving memory care. They listen to familiar tunes while singing and sharing stories and memories. 


Riderwood residents have fantastic things to say about music therapy. Kramer says most people tend not to think of their sessions as “therapy” per se. 

“But they tell me often how they look forward to coming and having that release of emotion, whether it be physically released on a drum, through talk about a meaningful song, or reminiscing on a memory that was triggered by hearing a song,” Kramer says. 

“I am fine with them primarily not seeing it as ‘therapy’ because the effect it has on them and their responses is incredibly therapeutic.” 

Kramer has been conducting music therapy sessions with resident Dana Gunnison for about ten months. The sessions have been helpful on many levels.

“Certain emotions, certain feelings that get clogged up over the years—music therapy helps me to loosen up the bonds that restrict those feelings,” Dana says.