Dr. Eric B. Miller is a psychotherapist, music therapist and biofeedback therapist with experience in inpatient, outpatient, corporate and educational settings. Dr. Miller founded the Biofeedback Network and serves as Executive Director of non-profit organizations Expressive Therapy Concepts and Music for People.
Here, Dr. Miller discusses his new book Bio-Guided Music Therapy: A Practitioner’s Guide to the Clinical Integration of Music and Biofeedback, and how this cutting-edge and holistic intervention can be used with a wide range of client groups.
How were you attracted to the field of music therapy? Can you talk a little bit about the work you do, and with whom?
I was told about Music Therapy (MT) back during my high school years and later had a chance to sit in a few MT classes at the University of Dayton while I was studying psychology and philosophy at Antioch College in the early 1980’s. It seemed that MT was an ideal combination of my interest in psychology and love for music improvisation. The focus of the Dayton class however was on special education, which I did not have an immediate interest in, so I shelved the idea of MT for several years until I had graduated and started to work in psychology as a therapist. At that point, I found music very effective for building rapport and moving deeper into issues that would have taken much longer to reach with words alone. Since then I have incorporated MT into my individual psychotherapy, family systems therapy, addictions treatment, ADHD treatment and other biofeedback and neurofeedback approaches. I have worked with diverse populations from young children with developmental disorders, kids on the autistic spectrum, ADHD children from 8 – 16 years old, ADHD adults, and a variety of seniors.
How did you discover biofeedback and what led you to integrate it in your music therapy practice?
I was working as a counselor at Valley Forge Medical Center and Tracey, the Director of Social Work, had a biofeedback setup in her office. I was very curious about it and was very excited to hear that she was about to start in-service training in biofeedback for the nurses. I asked her if I could join in, but she said no, that it was only for the nursing staff, not counselors. I continued to ask her about it and finally she relented and agreed to let me join the session. On the day of the first training class I arrived early and as it turned out, none of the nurses showed up and I was able to work with Tracey individually. I ended up continuing to study biofeedback with her and became board-certified with Tracey as my supervisor.
What is Bio-Guided Music Therapy (BGMT) and how did the book come about?
Bio-Guided Music Therapy is the use of real-time physiological data to inform Music Therapy intervention. It works by returning the client’s data in visual displays, such as colored bars or graphs or even fractal designs, as well as sound that represents their physiological indicators. One example is a simple bar showing heart-rate variability with it’s level also indicated in sound by a Shakuhachi flute. This video shows some examples of these displays:
Any music therapist can do it on some level, however some training might be helpful.
Technology has been advancing quickly, but there really has been no update on the juncture of biofeedback and Music Therapy since Joseph Scartelli wrote about it over 20 years ago in 1989. A book that synthesizes this combination has been long overdue. As Norman Shealy, MD writes in his forward: “The marriage of music and biofeedback is one ‘made in heaven’. It represents the best integration of two powerful self-regulation approaches to health and illness.” (page 14). I’m sometimes puzzled as to this hasn’t already been written, but have come to realize that to go deep into this synthesis, one really must have acculated a good amount of clinical experience in both music therapy and in biofeedback. Surprisingly there are not that many practitioners that share certifications in both disciplines.
Which client groups is Bio-Guided Music Therapy (BGMT) most effective with?
The impact of BGMT is wide-ranging and cuts across many treatment populations. In this book, I focus on several client groups, however many more may be treated as well. I have explored the use of BGMT for anxiety, high blood pressure, migraines, general stress, and vascular circulation issues, in one group. Another group that BGMT is effective for is addictions clients. These may be drug, alcohol, tobacco or other addictions. Stroke, early-stage dementia in seniors and general senior mental stability falls into a third grouping. And a forth group is pain-related. Some of the conditions may be functional abdominal pain, headache and back pain – noting of course some overlap with the headache clientele with the first client group.
It sounds quite a high-tech approach – how can it be used in a normal clinical setting?
Yes, the sound of it may come across as high-tech or somehow technologically intimidating, however I think this is one of those cases where it is just plain cumbersome to write about, and much easier to do it! If you tried to describe the theory and mechanisms of a modern cell phone, just imagine how high-tech and incomprehensible it might appear! Yet cell phone have become fairly ubiquitous and even young kids use them regularly. There are numerous ways to integrate BGMT into normal clinical settings using both wired and wireless devices. Each particiular situation may require some creativity on the part of the clinician and or consultation with an experienced researcher/practitioner.
What do you hope readers will take away from the book?
My hope is that readers will take away the idea that Bio-Guided Music Therapy is not just a good way to document the physiological impact of music therapy sessions, but that the process itself is a vital and dynamic form of therapy in its own rite. BGMT offers the unique opportunity to craft a Music Therapy session in real time based on the client’s physical responses. I also hope my readers are inspired to use BGMT as a starting point for their own explorations, research and protocol development.
Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2011.