Alison Hughey shares techniques she uses to help herself and patients cope with stress and anxiety as a Music Therapist in Spartanburg, SC! Listen to hear her gentle accent and lots of insight into the song The Once and Future Carpenter by the Avett Brothers!
The song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PmnVKc7JdUM
1:18 Carolina Music Therapy LLC
16:06 Emily Neal who paints on her bible pages...you have GOT to see her art!
17:28 Compose Your Self Care FB group (and she has a blog-same name)
Check it out: Illustrating Bible NIV: Books of Psalms & Proverbs (Spiral Bound Journaling Bible) On Amazon
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Intro I have a question. What is your favorite song, and how do you connect with it? Is it when you fell in love, or through something really difficult? I'm your host Tiffany Mason now join me as I interview others, and we take a walk down memory lane with them. Let's get lost in why that music matters to them. Turn up your radio and let's explore memories with a beat.
Tiffany Hello podcast land thank you for joining me for another episode. Today I have with me Alison Hughey, and she is with Carolina Music Therapy LLC. Thank you so much for joining me today. First of all, for taking time out of your schedule Alison.
Alison Thank you for having me on Tiffany, I'm really excited to be a part of the show and love your focus of how music brings people together and how it brings about memories.
Tiffany Yeah, I did not even realize that music therapy was an occupation. So, I found Alison, I was scrolling through Facebook and people were talking about music and podcasts and I don't even really know. And I was like wait a minute that would be so cool. So I just reached out to her out of the blue and I was like hey Alison you want to be on my podcast. She kindly accepted. And so we set up now to talk about music therapy and how it's affected everybodys lives. Can you tell us just a little bit about yourself Alison? You know where you live what you do. I would love to know how you came up with the name of your business as well.
Alison Thank you. So I'm in Spartanburg, South Carolina, which is kind of in between, Charlotte and Atlanta.
Alison And I've been a Board Certified Music therapist for going on 10 years now. And I came up with my private practice name, Carolina Music Therapy because I'm here in South Carolina, but also close to North Carolina. So there's some crossover there. And I also started a blog called Compose Your Self Care based around creative ways we can incorporate self-care practices such as using music, using art, using writing.
Tiffany That is so cool! I love... I say in my podcast all the time I love when lyrics are clever. But I love when a business name is clever so that's very clever North Carolina, South Carolina, so you just met in the middle. Just went with Carolina, so that's awesome. I love your accent, by the way, anybody from Georgia, South Carolina, I love that accent.
Alison Thank you.
Tiffany I'm gonna enjoy talking to you.
Alison Thank you.
Tiffany Can you tell me Alison, I did not even realize that this was a career and occupation. What is music therapy exactly?
Alison So, Music Therapy, in a nutshell, is using music based approaches to address non musical goals, in a clinical therapeutic relationship. And these goals are individual to the clients. They can vary depending on population needs and strengths. And these approaches are implemented within music therapy sessions. Whether it be individual or group documented and there's a treatment process that parallels other therapy modalities such as physical therapy or speech therapy. But the approaches that we use are music based.
Tiffany Okay, so I think I understand what you're saying. But if you can, will you dumb it down just a little bit or give us an example of what those words mean exactly.
Alison Sure thing, Music Therapists, use music based approaches to help clients achieve goals, whether they be goals of increased socialization, or increased participation in, in turn-taking or conversation. It's very dependent on the population as to the specific approaches and goals but. For instance, I primarily have been working with older adults with dementia for the past 10 years. And with those people, they often have difficulty speaking or engaging in conversation with their peers. They often have episodes where they can get frustrated or upset because they're confused. They're not sure where they are and music can help bring them back to themselves in a very magical way. It's scientific as well but it's just magical to me to, to see some people move from a place of frustration and agitation to hearing a song that brings them back to the young adult years. And reminiscing and sharing stories about their, their teenage years or their 20s, or people that love them. So that's one approach that I'm very familiar with and it's close to my heart.
Tiffany Yeah that makes me think of course of the movie, The Notebook.
Tiffany Yeah, that's what I was envisioning the whole time because his writings you know he keeps reading her that book, and it's about their dating times, and then, you know, in the end, she kind of, she...well during that movie she keeps kind of coming back to him. But it's just through those stories. So that that's what that reminds me of alot. Okay, so you're a musical, Music Therapist and you said for 14 years?
Alison 10 years is my board certification, just renewed this summer.
Tiffany Oh, congratulations!
Alison Thank you.
Tiffany Okay, so did any, did you say that you came to it through an event in your own life do you want to share any of that with us or is that kind of something, you know you just kind of alluded to, but don't really talk about so much?
Alison Sure, I'm happy to share. I had a back injury. When I was in my mid 20s, made the mistake of twisting and lifting my piano keyboard, out of the trunk of my car. I was teaching preschool music lessons because I initially majored in flute performance music performance. So especially doing some teaching things and so I had this back injury. Went through many tests, they couldn't figure out why I was continuing to be in pain for several months later, and it was such a frustrating time. And a lot of anxiety, and, really anger that they couldn't figure out why I was in pain. And going through issues with that and the uncertainty factor and I found myself using music to cope with the pain by, you know, tapping out rhythms, or humming or singing to distract myself. And about that time I met a friend of a friend who was in the first incoming freshman class into the music therapy program at the college where I formally attended. That happened to be in my hometown and so we got to talking it was like this light bulb moment of, oh I should totally go back to school for this, this makes so much sense to learn how to use music to improve, so many different areas and and work with clients and different populations to, to help make their lives better.
Tiffany Okay sorry I got a little off because I was thinking in my head, how to approach this next question for you. And it's, it's how do you help...how does music help you in your life and self care approaches? But you just mentioned, you know, tapping out a sound or whatever for anxiety. And I actually, I've always had mild anxiety, but we lived in New York for a short time and I don't know what it was about living there but my anxiety was through the roof, almost, you know where I couldn't function. I was so sick. I mean, just sick to my stomach just nauseous thinking about leaving the house. I don't really understand what had happened, but people were telling me to, you know, tap my finger to a common saying "I'm in control of me." I don't know if you've heard of that technique before. But again, tapping out just that rhythm to it and just keep saying it and you know, being aware of the five senses and what's going on around you, but probably, I don't know, maybe two months ago I had this whole light bulb moment and maybe you can speak to this, in combination with how you use music therapy in your own life and with self care. I know me personally when I get really upset about stuff. I'll just get rock bottom right and I'm just sitting there thinking like, I don't know how to pull myself out of it and I'm like, oh, I'll put some music on. And I got to thinking about how when you're having an anxiety attack you're supposed to bring yourself to the present. Then I was thinking about Have you ever heard of the book, The Five Second Rule?
Tiffany So there's the Five Second Rule where you count down 54321 and you do whatever you tell yourself you're going to do. In that amount of time, because you're counting your brain is focusing on counting and it cannot talk yourself out of doing whatever it is. So if you're like I should go for a walk. You can't talk yourself out of it and be like, oh, but it's nighttime and I it's almost time to start dinner and I don't want to be sweaty when I'm serving dinner and you know you can talk yourself out of it, a million different ways. Well, the idea is that you're saying 54321, and you can't, you know, talk yourself out of not going for a run or whatever. And so I think music kind of does that because it brings you to the present. And I think that's why I connect with lyrics, so much is because I want to know the story and I want to sing along, of course, but it's also when I'm having a moment and I just can't seem to shake myself out of it and I have that light bulb moment to go to music. You know I'm thinking about the story, I don't have time to be in my pity party. I don't have time to be anxious about whatever the future may hold. I'm just in the present with that song and having a good time and my mood changes and, you know, you get out of it. So maybe your way of using in your personal life is something similar, but I would love for you to share how you use music therapy in your own life.
Alison I love what you said about music bringing us to the present and, or we don't have as much space in our mind for all the other thoughts or negativity when we're focused on listening to a song. I think there's definitely layers of the ways that we use music and different approaches that we can use. Whether it be clinical music therapy, a more formal setting or if it's music on our own. And using music to benefit, different things in our lives like helping decrease anxiety. For me, I've really danced with anxiety and depression most of my life. I didn't realize what it was when I was younger. It's probably not until college that I realized what was going on but musics definitely been something that's helped me through those things, and continues to do so. One way that I love to use music to change my mood is to make playlists. I'll start with a song that matches, where I'm at. So if I'm having a down period and I'm having trouble getting going in the morning and doing what I need to do. I'll start with a song that's a little slower, a little more laid back, and then gradually increase the tempo, pick a few songs after that they're a little bit faster. And then in with something that's going to get me super pumped up like, you know, Eye of the Tiger or something like that, like a hype song, you know, walk up song kind of thing...
Tiffany ...warriors song...
Alison So, yeah, warrior song. [Singing] "This is my fight song!"
Alison And really, gradually move it up. So, I think it's important that when we're using music or any approaches to help deal with what we're feeling, whether it be depression or anxiety or anger, that we allow ourselves to feel what we're feeling. Because if we don't do that, it's just going to get stuck somewhere. If we just try to glaze over it. It's like somebody's telling you to calm down when you're having an anxiety attack. It's not gonna work. Or simply putting on for reals happy when you're in a super low mood like that's not going to match. But if we start with, where we're at and then gradually move toward where we want to go with music, it can really impact our mood in a powerful way. And it's something that we all have access to we have access to billions of songs in the palm of our hand. Those of us with smartphones. And so I think there's so much potential for making playlists for different situations and transitions and moving through emotions.
Tiffany Well, two things I want to touch on from what you just said. When my girlfriends will call me and they're like, you know, they'll be having first world problems right. They're like, I know I shouldn't be upset about it but I'm just upset and whatever. And I always tell them you know what you can be upset. You can even have a pity party over something completely irrational. totally fine, but you just don't get to stay there. You know that's always, my advice to them. You can be there you can feel it and I think that people should feel it, but then also, it's time to, you know, face the music being adult again, you know, and get back to business. The other thing is you saying that you like to make playlists. I laugh because sometimes when I'm in the car by myself. I call it Tiffany's all request hour. I just, you know, feel whatever I want to play and sing at the top of my lungs or whatever. But I kind of made me think of that little, I have a lot of little idiosyncrasies in my brain that, you know, it's very active in my brain. Okay, so you had mentioned that there are other forms of creativity that you guys can use to manage stress and anxiety even as a Music Therapist. So, what are those other avenues that you would be using?
Alison In my own personal life, not necessarily as a Music Therapist, just as a creative person. I love using different creative approaches to kind of balance out my self care. So, I love music. I love listening to music and playing music. Singing in the car is very therapeutic for me. I've also realized in the past few years that having other creative outlets is important as well for me. So I started incorporating some things when I heard about the Miracle Morning Routine from a podcast. About two years ago I heard an interview with the author of Miracle Morning Routine on a podcast and decided to try incorporating some of those approaches. I was going through a lot of depression and some big transitions in my life. And I started reading every morning and writing a quote, taking time to listen to some music intentionally each morning. I went from simply writing a quote to doodling a quote working on some visual creativity with that. And then that gradually turned into drawing something. So these days, every morning I make something on procreate each morning. It's an app on an iPad. I do some lettering or I do some drawing or make a meme or something like that and it's kind of a fun way of visually journaling. I use that as well as writing. So, first thing in the morning, writing three pages of just stream of consciousness. All of The Artists Way of...read The Artists way earlier this year. Started doing that as well. So I feel like having a consistent practice of different forms of creative self expression is something that's very key to my mindset, and my ability to stay positive and be able to fill my cup and be able to be with others.
Tiffany That's so important! So important to know what you personally need for that self care aspect. I have a friend that I follow on Facebook and she likes to do her devotionals every morning and a Bible and she's so creative! And she just decided to paint all of her Bible pages. And they came out, so beautiful. And then, I'm in a group with a lady and she does hand lettering herself and she was talking about journals... creating a journal with prompts in there and I said you know what you should do? You should have a page, you know every so often where people can just kind of doodle and color. And I sent her the pictures of the lady from her Bible, just to kind of give her an idea. But what a great outlet to be able to you know kind of combine the two things, you know that journaling aspect plus that creative aspect to kind of, you know, self care and take a minute for yourself. Now you have a non clinical platform as well, right? Called Compare Your Self Care. And can you tell me a little bit about that how you got started with it? What's the premise of it?
Alison Sure. So I started Composure Your Self Care last fall, roughly September/October of 2019, as a way to discuss and share creative approaches to self-care. I feel like there's so many ways that we all use music in our lives, that there's so much to be explored and shared. It's such a beautiful way of connection. So, even before COVID, we had such an epidemic of loneliness and disconnection in our world. Yeah, ironically with social media on the rise, it seemed like more and more. We weren't interacting as much on a deep level, for many reasons, but I hoped to foster some connections through music with the group. And also share and learn different ways that we can use creativity to manage stress and anxiety. So I started that and tried, sharing some different things via an online course last fall on music and self talk and mindset. And then got really busy with the clinical side of our work and my private practice. But then of course COVID came around this year and the more time to devote to Compose Your Self-Care with a non-clinical work. So I started offering some challenges in that group.And also kicked off a series on virtual creative self care last month. So, Last month I led a music and self care virtual retreat on zoom. I've got professionals lined up each month as co-facilitators to offer different creative ways that we can manage stress and anxiety.
Tiffany Well, I think, you know, to your point, I think misery loves company. We like to be around others like us. So I think that that Facebook group is such a great outlet. I mean, I'm definitely going to be a part of it...
Tiffany ...because yeah I think that you know, as much as I wouldn't want to say, I think that I probably bounce between anxiety and depression myself a little bit. My husband works a lot and it kind of bums me out. I love him to death. And I think that that's a pretty awesome thing after 19 years but you know he's supporting our family and doing the right thing. And I just get so lonely for him sometimes and I have a pity party for myself. Sometimes those are the times where I need to put that music on and you know jolt myself out of it. But that'd be great to be on the group, and you know be talking to people about I did this today and that felt great or I did this today and that felt great. You know, just some other avenues, possibly to shake myself back to happiness. I appreciate you putting that out there and I, again in the course that I just took, that's what she said too, she was like, you know, ha, ha, "that's what she's said" [Laughter] Huge fan of The Office!
Tiffany I'd be letting down my true inner self had I not said it. But she alluded to that fact too, that everybody is so stinking lonely! And it was before, way before COVID. COVID just, you know, brought it into the open. But the reality is it was always there. I think that that's great. I think that's very honorable that you know you saw the need there and you're like, you know what, what can I do about this. I love that you did that. Would you say that COVID affected your business in any other ways have you had to pivot. Is there something different that you're doing these days that you were not doing pre-COVID?
Alison Oh definitely. I think the word of the year for everybody this year is pivot. So, I had 14 Long Term Care communities that I was serving as a music therapist and also was doing work with St Francis Cancer Center nearby. All of those places closed to outside contractors and outside workers
Tiffany Yes. I'm so sorry about that for you.
Alison Thank you. So I've got several of those long term care communities that I've been able to continue serving through online platforms such as zoom and Skype. Those have shifted more to music enrichment groups, because I'm not really able to see their participation levels or be there to prompt them as much as I would, in person for music therapy groups. But we kept the music going for several communities and started right...
Tiffany Are there nurses just helping them then?
Alison Pretty much...
Tiffany Like do you play it virtually they follow along, then their medical staff is encouraging them to complete it?
Alison Yeah, with those music enrichment groups that I'm doing now, for long term care communities, they have staff members are there to assist and encourage them.
Tiffany That's so cool.
Alison Previously in groups, I would bring a cart full of instruments and pass around drums and shakers and get everybody goin' and use hand under hand assistance to help people play instruments, but, unfortunately that's just not in reality right now that we can't do that, at this moment. But I hope that we might be able to get back to that place someday.
Tiffany Yeah hopefully relatively soon. Maybe after there's a vaccine for it. Okay so premise of my show is I always have somebody pick a song and break it down a little bit for me. So would you please share with us the song that you chose, and then just you know how you connect with it. The the word that makes sense to you that, you know, what do you use a song for does it change your mood does it make you reminisce it made me feel very nostalgic. So I would love to hear you know how the song affects you. And then of course if you'd give us the name.
Alison So the song I chose to share is the Once and Future Carpenter by Avett Brothers, they're kind of Folk Alt-Americana band out of Concord, North Carolina.
Tiffany I was certainly not expecting that I don't know what I was expecting but when I pulled it up... and I didn't know that, Spotify did this because I'm an Apple user but I thought it was cool that it linked it to other songs. Because I was trying to kind of put my finger on it and it linked it to the Lumineers and I was like, Yes! So maybe that's a good correlation for people who don't know Avett, is that right? The Avett Brothers.
Alison Yep. Uh huh. Yeah, so they're kind of in the same vein, or if you like Mumfors and Sons a definitely checkout neighbor brothers, definitely in the same kind of wheelhouse. So I got to see The Avett Brothers for the first time at a music festival in Asheville, North Carolina, around 2007, or so. They were just unbelievable energy, jumping around up on the stage playing guitar, banjo, and bass. And fell in love with them and started listening at that point. Their music is definitely continue to change and evolve in different seasons. And they always share so much of their heart and their experience and their songs, not only in the lyrics but the musicality. And I just love how down to earth, they are genuinely kind people and their fan base is definitely the same like just the best community family of fans. I'm kind of biased by saying that but, I'll claim it. So, the song Once and Future Carpenter was released in 2011. It really came into my life in a powerful way about 2014. I started going through a separation was in an abusive marriage, and was very scared. Taking the step of leaving and moving in with my mom and dad. Just feeling very lost and scared, in many ways, and uncertainty of the future and, really, fearing for my life at times. And one of the one says, If I live the life I'm given, I won't be scared to die. That was a tremendous line for me, and I'm just holding on to...I, I'd rather be able to live my life and not have that fear
Alison So that when really stuck with me and, and helped me through some scary times.
Tiffany It's amazing how music can do that. How you can hold on to some lyrics or, you know, kinda keep rethinking them through. It makes me think of my first real true blue awful panic attack was, we had gone to South Dakota for a family trip and we were going to go into a cave. And I thought, okay, we just walk down like some dirt road and we'll start you know we'll enter this cave they'll walk through or whatever. So we get there, And they said, you know, are you sure that your dress warm enough it's very cold down there. And I was like, oh, whatever you know I think I'd have tanked up on or something, I don't really know. And she's...we all got on this elevator and I still, it did not occur to me what was happening. And she said something to the effect of, okay, who's ready to go 863 feet below the Earth's surface. And I was like, what, what, what, what, what are we doing? I could not think straight. So the whole time I can barely breathe. I can barely catch my breath. I'm trying to act like it's fine. I get halfway through I see this sign for a defibrillator, and I'm thinking myself, I need that. I was like, I don't know if I'm gonna make it out of here alive. So I asked the lady, the tour guide I said, you know what do I do if I don't want to finish the tour? And she said well you wait here and another guy comes and get you and I said okay. I'm gonna do that. She goes well you are at the halfway mark, I said okay. And she goes, you're gonna have to wait here by yourself while he comes down here to get you. I said okay, and she said the lights might go out and I said okay, I did not care. Like, I could not take one step further. Our daughter was fairly young at the time and so I know we were carrying her through most of it. And so my husband asked if I wanted to keep her and I thought yeah I need that distraction Yes please. So I kept her, and we were walking out and all I could sing and this is so sad, but was the Miley Cyrus song, [Singing] "and We Can't Stop, and we won't stop." And I just kept saying it to myself and I was like [Singing] "la da di da di, we like to party", just kept trying to like, sing that song to get through that getting out of that case. So, it's amazing how we go into some of those verses and that's just, you know that repeat and it talks us through it.
Alison Exactly. Another line in the song says, and when I lose my direction. I'll look up to the sky. So, again, going through such a time of uncertainty, drew me closer to my faith as well. And looking up to the sky is connecting with my faith again. And also being more present looking up you know, not only physically looking up and being more present of looking around looking up at the sky, but also holding my head high. The next line in the song says, and when the black cloak drags upon the ground, I'll be ready to surrender. And remember, we're all in this together. So that interconnectedness that I wasn't aware of, was very powerful for me.
Tiffany I thought it was interesting in the song, whenever he starts to talk about discord, there's also discord in the notes. I don't know if you've ever noticed that or not? But it's like the notes are kind of fighting with each other for a minute and then they kind of resolve. Might have been that line that you were just speaking about, but I thought that was kind of interesting like you're talking about a hard time, you can feel the notes kind of fighting, and then they resolve again.
Tiffany And that's really kind of a long song. It's like five minutes long.
Alison Most of their songs are probably four or five minutes long. They do a really great job of both having beautiful lyrics, and very emotionally evocative lyrics paired with that's beautiful music. And like you said the notes reflect what's going on in the lyrics. So, you hear some discord and some of their songs that seems very intentionally connected to the lyrics somewhere the lyrics are going.
Tiffany Yeah, that's really awesome.
Well thank you so much for joining us, for taking time out, I will of course have all of the information in the show notes. I hope that all of this audience will join us on Facebook, and just talk about some of those coping mechanisms with stress and how music really plays a role in that. I'm really looking forward to that Alison. I'll post the all of the links and everything for people to find you. If you guys have any further questions, again I always encourage you guys to share with me if this is a song you know how, you knew it, what you connect with on it. If you heard something from Alison and I that you know really resonated with you. Or if you have something to add to it we would of course be so open to any of those, you know emotions or feelings that you had towards the song and towards this interview.
Tiffany Thank you, Alison.
Alison Thanks so much for having me Tiffany.
Outro Well that was a great walk down memory lane. I hope you enjoyed my guest's memories and experiences with the song or songs they chose. To connect with my guests, I mean, I know you're just going to stalk them on social media. But check out the show notes as always for details. Please leave a five star review, and I'd love if you left a memory of your own that was sparked. Can't wait to dive into my next guest's Memories With A Beat! Hit subscribe now, you don't want to miss the next episode.