Metro Serves All

The end of summer is quickly approaching! As enjoyable as this summer was, it’s time to start planning ahead for the fall and back-to-school months. The services Metro Music Therapy offers could be the perfect addition to you or your family’s schedule!

At Metro, we provide one-on-one and group services spanning multiple domains and diagnoses. Our team’s experience as board-certified music therapists allows us to cater to all client’s needs by tailoring each session to meet their desired goals and objectives. Our team serves the following populations…Developmental Delay, Autism, At-Risk Youth, Grief & Loss, Mental Health, Veterans, Refugees, and Hospice & Palliative Care. Visit our homepage, and click each box to read, in detail, exactly how we approach and carefully consider the needs of each client. 

If you think Metro would fit well into your weekly routine, give us a call or reach out via email! We would love to serve you in the near future. The end of summer is a perfect time to bring enhancement into your life! We look forward to hearing from you!

A Pandemic of Grief

One year ago the Covid-19 pandemic startled the world. With over 30 million cases recorded to date, the pandemic has caused a drastic shift in our everyday living. Will life ever be “normal” again? While that question still remains, one thing is known; grief has impacted all of our lives in some way.

Grief is defined as “the natural response to losing someone or something that is important to you.” Although conventionally focused on the emotional response to loss, grief also has physical, behavioral, cognitive, cultural, social, spiritual and philosophical dimensions as well. Losses such as a loved one, financial and job related losses, the feeling of normalcy, social and familial interaction, and certain freedoms we may have taken for granted have caused grief to be present in our current lives. Anxiety, depression, sadness, loneliness, and hopelessness are all common symptoms that can accompany grief.

While this is still a difficult time for many, Metro Music Therapy is here to provide ongoing support and comfort. Our experienced staff understand the difficulty and uniqueness of each circumstance faced by our clients. Metro recognizes that grief has no timeline and that your feelings and thoughts are valid. You are not alone.

If you or someone you know are interested in our grief and loss services, please visit the contact tab on our website to fill out our client intake form. You can also call us at 404.510.3799 if you have any further questions.


MMT is Expanding!

Metro Music Therapy has served the metro Atlanta area for almost 14 years … and we are thrilled to announce that we are now also serving the state of North Carolina! We will be providing in-person and telehealth services for clients and facilities in the Triangle and Triad areas.

If you are interested in partnering with us to bring music therapy to your loved one or to the clients of your facility, please reach out and let us know!

We can’t wait to begin serving you, North Carolina!

Why Music?

One of the strengths that music holds is that it can encourage, uplift and support. It can and does at times remind us of better days ahead and that we have the internal strength to get to those better days.

But I also believe that, unlike most other things in this world, music has the power to meet us where we are in the dark and deeply sorrowful places. It validates our feelings and acknowledges them without the push to also remind us of the good ahead. Music can just sit with us, free of judgement and opinion, and instead of saying, “this too shall pass,” say, “this hurts so much.”

The power and science behind music therapy comes from knowing what we need from music and when.

We are with you, and we are for you. Let us know how we can help you.

Songs of Hope

Today marks the 1st day of our 6th year in partnership with Wellspring International!
Over the last 5 years, Songs of Hope, our grant-funded music therapy program, provided 1,609 individual and group music therapy sessions for hospice patients, children experiencing grief and loss, and Refugees who have resettled in Atlanta — and since March of 2020, we’ve also served clients throughout the US and the globe through telehealth services.
We are continuously grateful for Wellspring International, and for their willingness and excitement to walk alongside us so faithfully, and for trusting us to work well in their name!
With sincerest gratitude,

How Great Thou Art

Over the past few weeks, our team has been hard at work behind the scenes creating a virtual choir/orchestra as a gift for Ravi Zacharias from his daughter, Naomi Zacharias, who is the Director of Wellspring International.

MMT and Wellspring have partnered together over the last five years to provide music therapy services through our Songs of Hope program to hospice patients, bereaved children, and refugees who have resettled in the Atlanta area.

When Naomi approached our team with the request of creating this gift for her father, who has been undergoing cancer treatment over the last few months, we were humbled to have been asked.

Everyone at Wellspring International and RZIM have become near and dear to us over the years, and we wholeheartedly respect and admire the work they do around the globe.

While Naomi and her family navigate this difficult journey, we are honored to provide comfort in the way that we know best: through music.

You can watch the MMT virtual choir, beginning with a heartfelt message from Naomi, here.

To the Zacharias family: our thoughts, hearts, and love are with you all. #ThankYouRavi

With sincere gratitude and love,


Music Therapy Advocacy!

Happy Music Therapy Advocacy Month!

As a music therapy intern who just completed my internship at Metro Music Therapy, I have had the opportunity to experience the multitude of ways that music therapy can positively transform patients’ lives. Academic classes in college certainly hammered in AMTA’s definition of music therapy such that I could recite it in my sleep: “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.” Practicum sites in college gave me glimpses of how that definition applied to direct patient care. However, completing internship and learning to implement such music interventions with a more diverse variety of populations than I could have ever imagined has given me new insight into the importance of music therapy advocacy.

Music therapy groups can create a safe space with a sense of belonging for youth in the foster care system who have rarely known what belonging felt like before. They can create a welcoming community for refugee children who are navigating an entirely new country. Music therapy can provide comfort and relief from agitation for hospice patients who are nearing the end of their lives. It can increase quality of life for residents in nursing homes, assisted living, and memory care units. Music therapy can provide a unique outlet for emotional expression and processing for veterans who are suffering from symptoms of PTSD. It can help mitigate symptoms of mental illness for individuals in a behavioral health facility. Music therapy can do all of this and so much more.

Atlanta Veteran Songwriting Retreat – November 2019

With increasing advocacy efforts for music therapy, music therapists can continue to work with the populations most commonly served, expand services for those populations less commonly served, and design new programs to reach populations that have not yet had the opportunity to reap the benefits of high-quality music therapy care. As I have seen during my time at Metro Music Therapy, with a positive attitude that anything is possible, music therapy can continue to transform clients’ and patients’ lives for the better.

– Written by Haley Smith

What If Christmas Makes Me Cry?

*In accordance with HIPAA, and out of respect for our client’s privacy, the name “Ruth” will be used as an alias in this blog post.*

Happy Holidays!
Merry Christmas!
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! …right?
Or, at least… it’s supposed to be?

For a great many people – maybe yourself included – this season truly is a time of good cheer, fond memories, gatherings of family and friends, bright spirits, colorful decorations, and cherished traditions. It’s a time to be grateful, to be kind and compassionate.
And I sincerely hope that the holidays bring all of this and more to you and yours!

But acknowledging, and even experiencing, all of these warm emotions and happy thoughts typically associated with the holidays certainly does not negate or invalidate those painful feelings that may also be stirred up at this time of year.
Joy may be followed by sadness. Laughter may be preceded by tears.
Maybe the gift you’re really hoping for this season is just a little bit of relief from the seemingly constant fatigue, stress, irritability, anxiety, depression, etc. Stressors like lack of time, lack of money, commercialism, pressures (whether perceived or stated) of gift-giving, and loneliness can feel all the more amplified when the rest of the world seems to be telling you to celebrate. Family gatherings can bring up difficult and painful memories, whether of childhood trauma or the loss of a loved one.

As Music Therapists, colleagues, friends, brothers, sisters, parents, neighbors – it’s important to remember that any number of painful circumstances, situations, or seemingly conflicting emotions could be the reality of the person sitting next to us this holiday season.
Our clients, our friends, our family could very well be hurting, and that pain might even be brought to surface by the very season that’s intended to bring joy, peace, and good will.

Take the phrase, “Happy Holidays!” for example.
Do you ever feel a sense of pressure when you hear that?
What if I’m not happy at all? Am I doing this wrong? Shouldn’t I be happy right now?
What’s intended as a simple expression of well-wishes can start to feel like a command.
“Have a Holly Jolly Christmas. Do it.”

Kacey Musgraves says it well in her song “Christmas Makes Me Cry.”
Let’s pause and take a listen.

So how do we respond when Christmas makes us cry?

One good rule of thumb is validation. 
It’s okay not to be okay.
It’s alright if Christmas makes you want to curl up in a ball.
And if the last thing you want to hear right now is another chestnut roasting, sugar-plum dreaming, mistletoe waiting, bell jingling, sleighing song, then so be it!

A client – let’s call her Ruth – recently said to me, “I’m dealing with a lot of holiday depression right now. Is it okay if we don’t do Christmas music? I’d rather just keep singing country songs with you, if that’s alright. That actually helps me feel better.”

Can’t you almost hear that sense of pressure?
Ruth was asking *me* if *I* would be okay with not doing Christmas songs –
and of course that’s okay, because the session is for her.
But, since it’s “the most wonderful time of the year,” Christmas songs are just expected. And maybe they don’t need to be. 
Especially if they’re a detriment to a person’s mental health.

If Alan Jackson’s “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere” does more good for your soul than “Silent Night” right now, then that is okay. Really. And if you change your mind later and feel like singing “Joy to the World,” that’s okay too!

Ruth, in fact, did ask for Christmas songs the following week (“The upbeat ones, though, not the sentimental ones.”) We sang “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer” and had a good laugh!

All of this to say, whatever you’re experiencing this holiday season, it’s worth respecting and acknowledging.
If you want to laugh, do it heartily. If you need to cry, then go right ahead.

It may not be a bright, shiny, sing-songy, happy good time, and that’s alright. (Though I hope it is!)
To paraphrase [or, y’know, just rewrite] the song “White Christmas:”

May your days be whatever they need to be right now,
And may all your Christmases be white.

If you’ll allow me to finish with a simple expression of goodwill – for real, though, no pressure –
I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

– Written by Kevin Middlebrooks, LPMT, MT-BC

What We Know About the Holiday Blues
The Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research, 2017

Photo: xenia_gromak / Photocase

Expecting the Unexpected

I am a planner. I like to have a plan for most things that I do, and even when I don’t have a plan, I like to at least plan for the fact that there will be no plan. I think it mostly comes from a desire to know what I should be expecting. A desire to be prepared, mentally, emotionally, etc.

In other words, me and Surprise don’t quite Harmonize.

But the world of Music Therapy is full of surprises – some big, some small – and that’s something that I’m growing to at least appreciate, if not yet fully embrace (I’m working on it!)
Rather than a predictable and repetitive melody, this job feels more like free jazz sometimes. That is to say: it can feel a little all over the place! Just when you think you know what chord must be coming next, you’ve shifted into a new key. Right as you get a feel for the beat, the drummer drops his sticks and starts playing trombone instead. During a session with a client in a common area, a well-intentioned passerby visiting the facility hands you a grapefruit with a wink and a, “What you’re doing is so nice, keep it up!” (True story.)
You never quite know what your week might entail!

There are certainly constants that remain true in every session, every interaction, every song and every intervention. And, as mentioned in a previous post, structure and repetition are valuable tools in Music Therapy (See: Déjà Vu! Repetition in Music Therapy) But I’ve started to notice that one of those constants is fluctuation. One of the things we as therapists can Expect – with some degree of certainty – is the Unexpected.

We can expect songs and interventions to take a turn and become something entirely different.
We can expect clients to enjoy instruments and songs we never thought they’d like.
We can expect to forget instruments and materials and need to improvise – and we can expect those moments to perhaps be even more engaging and beneficial for our clients than whatever we had initially planned! (Who knew?)
We can expect cancellations, rescheduling, relocating, and visitors.
We can expect to be offered a grapefruit in the middle of a session.
(Okay, maybe that one’s a stretch.)

A lot of these surprises are good things! When we can embrace the Unexpected, “roll with the punches,” and learn to improvise (musically or otherwise) to suit the situation, our clients often benefit. And so do we.

But other surprises can be more challenging.
Other surprises can be harder to respond to.
Because no matter how much you think you’ve prepared, no matter how long it might have even been Expected, no matter the fact that you know full well what Hospice care means…

The death of a client can still knock you off your feet.

Which, I think, in its own way, is a good thing. Therapeutic relationships are meaningful for the therapist as well as for the client, and grief is a natural, human response to loss. So the fact that it can be hard to “roll” with this particular “punch” is no surprise. In fact, it’s evidence of empathy, confirmation of care, the mark of a meaningful relationship. But it is still hard.

If we can Expect the Unexpected, isn’t the opposite also true?
Something Expected can still catch us off guard.
So what do we do when an Expected outcome arrives Unexpectedly?
How do we make sense of the surprising event when it suddenly comes?
I certainly don’t have answers, but I know that it’s okay to feel shocked.
To feel uncertain.
To not be prepared.
To not have a plan.

Rather than trying to file those things away with a logical (but maybe somewhat robotic), “It was Expected, and I had prepared,” we can try to appreciate the (natural, human) feeling of surprise, even if not quite embracing it yet. And maybe that can better equip us to support those who are feeling significantly more shocked and uncertain than we in the wake of this “Expected” event.
Because remembering that even the Expected can still be entirely Unexpected might just help us to Harmonize with the Surprised.

– Written by Kevin Middlebrooks, LPMT, MT-BC

Remember Me: Music Therapy in Disney-Pixar’s “Coco”

I’ve been a huge fan of Pixar’s films for as long as I can remember. To put that in perspective, I was one of the kids going off to college just a few years after Andy did when Toy Story 3 was released. All that to say, I was more than a little excited to see Coco on the big screen back in November. While I was fully expecting to love the movie, I did not anticipate how perfectly the film would demonstrate the power of music to stimulate long-term memory. I did not expect a funny, yet touching, animated scene to portray the ability of music to reduce pain and promote relaxation at the end of life. I was not expecting a Music Therapy Movie, but boy was I thrilled to see one!

…Okay, so maybe calling Coco a “Music Therapy Movie” is a bit of an over-statement. After all, none of the characters in the movie are Board-Certified Music Therapists. And beyond just the musical elements on display, there’s a whole lot to love about Miguel’s adventure through the Land of the Dead. But as a Music Therapist, seeing two of the most powerful moments in the film so closely tied to my occupation (and so beautifully depicted) gets me excited. The healing and connecting power of music in these moments is undeniable, and there are some very important specifics about the ways that music is used that really get to the heart of Music Therapy. Let’s take a look at these two scenes.
What exactly is happening, and what makes it (close to) Music Therapy?

Remaining content contains plot points from Disney-Pixar’s Coco***

SCENE 1: “Everyone Knows Juanita”
Miguel and Héctor arrive in a town where, according to Héctor, everyone has been more or less forgotten. There is no one left in the Land of the Living to remember them. In “Land of the Dead” terms, these people are nearing the end of their afterlives. When their living descendants no longer remember who they are, they will experience what Héctor calls the “second death.” No one knows what happens to these people, but their skeletal bodies fade away, and are not seen again. In “health profession” terms, Miguel and Héctor are entering hospice and palliative territory – end-of-life care. Enter Chicharrón.

Chicharrón is a grizzled old man lying in a pile of collected treasures – one of which is the guitar that Héctor has come to borrow. Chicharrón, though initially opposed to lending Héctor anything, experiences what appears to be an intense surge of pain as he glows orange: a mark of the impending “second death.” Chicharrón, defeated, says that he could no longer play the guitar anymore if he wanted to. After all, he is nearing his end. Chicharrón agrees to give Héctor the guitar on one condition: that Héctor plays him a song.
And then he says something important: “You know my favorite.”

What we see is an established relationship between Héctor and Chicharrón. Héctor is not just some kind stranger who has come to play soothing music. He knows Chicharrón. And Chicharrón knows, and feels safe (albeit acting a little gruff) with, Héctor. Rapport has already been established between the “therapist” (Héctor) and the “client” (Chicharrón). In fact, Chicharrón does not even have to name his favorite song. Héctor already knows. He begins to play a goofy song titled “Everyone Knows Juanita.” The lyrics of the song describe what might sound like unattractive features of a woman named Juanita, before “flipping the script”, as it were, with the final line:
“And if I weren’t so ugly, she’d possibly give me a chance.”

Hardly a song one would expect in a Music Therapy session with a hospice patient who is actively dying. Right?
…Actually, this song is an important detail that makes this scene feel all the more like a good Music Therapy session!

A study by Laura A. Mitchell, BA (Hons.), MSc, PhD, and Raymond A.R. MacDonald, BSc, PhD –  published in the Journal of Music Therapy in December 2006 – examined the effects of “specially designed relaxation music”, as compared with “[clients’] own chosen music”, on pain perception, including tolerance time and pain intensity. And what they found seems to match what Héctor and Chicharrón knew intuitively: “While listening to their own preferred music, male and female participants tolerated the painful stimulus significantly longer than during both the relaxation music and control conditions” (Mitchell & MacDonald, 2006). And though only female participants reported significantly lower pain intensity during the “preferred music” condition, all participants reported feeling significantly more control in the “preferred music” condition. In other words, a song like “Everyone Knows Juanita”, goofy and “unusual” as it may be, is likely the best song to help Chicharrón relax and tolerate/reduce pain in this moment – because it’s his favorite!
Sure enough, Chicharrón sighs contentedly and lays back in his bed following the song – a stark contrast to the clenching pain he exhibits immediately prior. And with a “thank you”, he gently fades away.

SCENE 2: “Remember Me”
Alright, here’s the big one. The scene that will make you cry. The song “Remember Me” (Oscar Nominee for “Best Original Song”, by the way!) is present throughout the movie, but its most powerful, tender, and intimate moment appears near the end. Back home in the Land of the Living, Miguel softly sings with his great-grandmother, Mama Coco. The first thing to note in this scene is, again, Miguel’s song choice.

“Remember Me” was not merely a sweet song chosen at random.
Despite her significant cognitive decline and apparent unresponsiveness, Miguel has learned that Coco’s father (Miguel’s great-great-grandfather) wrote the song for her, and sang it with her when she was little. Thus, Miguel knew that the song was tied to an important (and emotional) memory for Mama Coco, and played it with a clear intention of sparking that memory.

And it does so in a beautiful way. First, we see her motor neurons begin to activate as she starts to tap her finger to the beat. Before long, Mama Coco, who has not spoken in quite some time, actually begins to sing with Miguel. She smiles and finally turns to look at Miguel as she sings with him. A woman who, not long prior, did not appear to recognize her own daughter, is recalling every word of a favorite childhood song. As Music Therapists, this is something we get to see a lot. Musical memory is some of the longest retained, as music activates so many parts of the brain: motor, speech and language, auditory, long-term memory, emotions, etc. By the end of the song, Coco does, in fact, recognize her daughter, and even begins to share stories about her parents. And so the Rivera family, who have chosen to hate music for generations, suddenly see it come through for them in a big way. Let’s pause here to check out this clip from “The Doctors” about music and the brain:

Another important detail to examine in this touching scene is the fact that Miguel played the song live, as opposed to simply playing a recording of “Remember Me.” And using her father’s old guitar, no less! In the context of the movie, the only known recording of “Remember Me” is sung by the famous musician Ernesto de la Cruz at an upbeat tempo, complete with a full band, choir, and virtuosic guitar solo. An impressive song, but not the one Coco knows and loves. After her father left the family, and her mother vowed never to let music into their lives again, how could she have heard de la Cruz’s rendition of the song? Certainly not on the radio. No, Coco’s “Remember Me” is a quiet and tender lullaby, sung from a father to his daughter. And it’s this song, with its sweet and simple accompaniment, that Miguel plays for her. Miguel, having heard both versions, chooses to play in the style with which Coco is most familiar:
The style of her papa.

So there it is! No, technically nothing in Disney-Pixar’s Coco can be called Music Therapy, because “Music Therapy” implies the presence of a Board-Certified Music Therapist. I know.
But! The power of a therapeutic relationship, song preference, and live music to promote relaxation, reduce pain, and stimulate long-term memory is evident throughout the film.
And who knows?
Maybe Coco 2 will introduce audiences to a newly certified Miguel Rivera, MT-BC!

– Written by Kevin Middlebrooks, LPMT, MT-BC

Laura A. Mitchell, Raymond A. R. MacDonald; An Experimental Investigation of the Effects of Preferred and Relaxing Music Listening on Pain Perception, Journal of Music Therapy, Volume 43, Issue 4, 1 December 2006, Pages 295–316,

2018-02-06T05:43:53+00:00February 6th, 2018|Blog, Hospice Music Therapy, MT Advocacy, Music Therapy|
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