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Where words fail, music speaks

2 September 2014

Where words fail, music speaks

Talitha Evans’ love for music and her passion for helping others is catching on fire across NSW.

The success of two music therapy initiatives run by Talitha out of the Army’s Parramatta and Tuggerah Salvos, has seen the program recently expand to Dural Salvos and The Hills Private Hospital in north-west Sydney.

The Dural Salvos officer, Captain Russell Hung, said he was looking for an opportunity to reach out to his local community and was inspired by Talitha’s impacting ministry.

“It seemed if we let Talitha loose on doing some research to find out whether she could find an interest [in the program], that would be a wise thing,” he says. “She came back and showed us there was viable interest in our community.”

Supported by generous donations made by the Dural community and surrounding areas, Talitha began two new free programs in August last year. The first music therapy program is held every Friday morning at The Hills Private Hospital, in the mental health ward, and regularly attracts up to 16 patients.

“Collaborating with The Hills Private Hospital has been wonderful,” says Talitha. “The impact that we have seen on a weekly basis has been incredible.”

Following the morning session, an outpatient program continues throughout the rest of the day at Dural Salvos. This program offers both individual and group sessions to adults and children and has as many as 41 participants.

Music as therapy

Music, says Talitha, is an excellent way to help those who have mental health issues, disabilities, autism and emotional and behavioural disorders.

“Music therapy promotes well-being, socialisation, communication, relaxation and stimulating ordered thinking [and] encourages the expression of emotions while also decreasing anxieties,” she says.

“The flexible and supportive nature of music therapy allows for a comfortable, non- threatening and creative environment for the individual mental health client.”

In the group and individual sessions at both The Hills Private Hospital and Dural Salvos, Talitha uses different techniques to help patients achieve their behavioural goal changes.

Talitha’s patients play tuned and percussive instruments as a way to express their thoughts and emotions and to develop and enhance motor skills, brain power, memory, confidence and creativity. Talitha also gives them an opportunity to listen to live or recorded music.

“The listening experience may focus on physical, emotional, intellectual or spiritual aspects of the music, and the individual may respond through activities such as relaxation or meditation, structure or free movement, telling stories or drawing,” she explains.

Finally, Talitha uses improvisation, an activity where an individual and music therapist relate to each other through creating impromptu music. 

Helping people gain a better quality of life is the purpose of this program, something Talitha is passionate about.

“I love my job and love being able to work through music to help people,” she says.

“Music has the ability to express what feelings sound like, it can help me get through a tough situation or celebrate a happy time. 

“My job allows me to help others discover that, no matter their background or ability. For my clients, where words fail, music speaks.” 

“The aim of this program is to develop a safe, creative outlet in which patients can develop skills which help people with understanding and developing self-identity, promoting quality of life and maintain well- being,” she says.

For the past six months, Talitha has been overseeing two music therapy programs at The Salvation Army Aged Care Plus dementia units at Elizabeth Jenkins Place (Collaroy) and Woodport (Central Coast).

Among her busy schedule, Talitha also works part-time at Redbank House, in north-west Sydney, as a music therapist.

This article originally appeared in the July edition of Creative.

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