Metro Music Therapy has the privilege of working with numerous impactful organizations who strive to make a difference in the lives of others. One organization that MMT has a long standing relationship with is Music Therapy of the Rockies located in Colorado. Music Therapy of the Rockies mission is to provide quality services and life-changing opportunities for veterans across the country. As part of this initiative, Music Therapy of the Rockies began songwriting retreats for veterans who suffer from PTSD and other service-related injuries. The retreats originated in Nashville, TN on Amy Grant’s farm where they remain each year.
Mallory Even, Owner and Founder of MMT, and Laura Lenz, Assistant Director, have been fortunate enough to attend multiple veteran songwriting retreats in both Nashville and Atlanta. Each retreat is a two and a half day experience consisting of music therapy groups and songwriting sessions with a professional songwriter telling the veteran’s original story. Mallory Even shared that “veterans learn to play guitar and receive a guitar to keep” once the retreat finishes. “The entire weekend ends with a concert in which each veteran’s song is showcased” says Even.
So, how does music therapy play a direct role in each songwriting retreat? “Music therapy is integral to the entire weekend and to the schedule and set up of the retreats” shared Even. Laura Lenz shared that “Board-certified music therapists are trained to recognize and support the veterans’ experiences in such a way that their safety and well-being is always at the forefront.” Music therapists apply their training in recognizing and understanding the neurological aspects of PTSD, anxiety, depression, and Traumatic Brain Injuries to structure the musical experience for the benefit of the veteran. Application of counseling skills and facilitating the veteran’s experience in a comfortable, safe environment ensures a successful songwriting session.
When asked why this experience is so beneficial to veterans, Mallory stated that “when veterans share their story through song, they own a piece of it that they may never have been able to before, and tell it in a way that is their choice.” Those involved in the weekend activities offer a safe, non-judgmental environment to offer the ability to share some of their darkest and hardest stories to tell. “This process can be very healing not only in the moment, but long-term” says Even. When looking at the long-term benefits, there have been countless accounts from attendees of praise and gratitude for the veterans songwriting retreats. “Music Therapy of the Rockies is engaging in research to take brain images before a retreat and then the same images of the same veteran six months after a retreat…their preliminary results are showing increased blood flow in the brain and Music Therapy of the Rockies truly believes this is the physiological benefit of the retreat experience” Mallory shared. In addition, Laura mentioned that she has spoken to many of the veterans post-retreat and there is a “universal expression of appreciation for the tools they are taught during these retreats such as using their guitars to help them through stressful times and utilizing the techniques of music and relaxation throughout their day.”
Freely sharing and letting the music write difficult stories is a beautiful, heartfelt process to watch for all involved. It’s hard to pinpoint one specific highlight of each retreat, but Mallory states that “it’s the people, hands down! The music therapists, the veterans, and the songwriters.” While Laura agrees, she adds that “it is one of the highest honors of my life to be allowed the opportunity to be a tiny part of being in the presence of these remarkable people whose stories are told in such a glorious way through the songwriters’ talent and compassion along with the music therapists who are so dedicated to the entirety of the people and process.”
We are forever grateful to work alongside Music Therapy of the Rockies and be a part of their amazing work for our veterans. Metro is also fortunate to host our own retreats in the Atlanta area which are graciously funded, planned, and led by Music Therapy of the Rockies. We, at Metro Music Therapy, continue to live by our mission statement of, “We Can Help.” Our team members are dedicated to making a positive impact in the lives of those who sacrificed so much. We try to accurately express our thoughts and emotions upon attending veteran songwriting retreats, but as Laura beautifully said, “words truly don’t capture the experience.”