BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - The oft misquoted line, "Music has charms to soothe the savage breast," from the poem "The Mourning Bride," by William Congreve, could very well be the mantra of music therapists. Music is universal and allows you to access some of your deepest emotions -- ones you may not be aware you are experiencing.
Just ask Music Therapist Adam Makofske, a performer and teacher, who is the latest person to join the staff of Peace of Mind Counseling and Wellness Center in Berkeley Heights. Makofske, who has been playing guitar for 30 years and teaching privately and at SUNY New Platz and other locations for more than 20, is a board certified Music Therapist. He also leads his own jazz quartet/trio and continues to perform in the tri-state area, as well as work with clients. He has worked in the music therapy field at Rutgers UBHC in Newark, YWCA Pals Program in Kenilworth, NJ, and Family Connections DREAMS program in East Orange. You might say music is his life.
Ask him about music therapy and he'll tell you "it has widespread benefits," which can help virtually everyone, even those who think they don't like music. He's worked with many different types of people, domestic violence victims, children with cerebral palsy, children on the autism spectrum, veterans, senior citizens, adult psych patients in an acute setting, and stroke patients. The results are often surprising, especially for those who think that they aren't musical. They may not be able to "play an instrument, but they have rhythm, can dance, sing or rap. I've seen and heard people do things that I believe even surprised themselves," he said.
Music is the medium through which the therapist and the client connect, he said. The methods used in a music therapy intervention varies -- improvisation, using percussion instruments or some "combination of percussion instruments, guitar, and piano (and sometimes voice)," he said. The combination approach "is a great way to communicate non-verbally and is effective in groups as well as one-on-one, Makofske said.
Other techniques he has employed successfully include writing music with the client or clients, then playing it together; adapting the music or words to a familiar song; moving or dancing to music and playing a familiar song and discussing what the client or clients do and don't like about the lyrics . The music itself "acts as a springboard for further discussion. You are getting there through music, but that's not the end goal. It is really about connecting to them, having them talk," Makofske said.
While they are talking, the therapist learns about their client and they can then focus on helping the client develop coping skills and finding a way for the client to relax and unwind so they can learn various life skills that will make their lives easier to navigate.
Makofske said he adapts his choice of music as well as the type of intervention he will use to match the needs and tastes of his clients. If he is working in a nursing home, he might choose something from the "American Songbook," or some Jazz, but if he's working with a teen or someone in their 20s, he might choose more current music, such as rap. He might even combine therapies by having a client listen to music and draw something at the same time.
Whatever the choice of music, "I have seen the power of music and music therapy and have seen many clients who told me how much it helped them and how much it meant to them," he said, adding, "It's rewarding to say the least."
Makofske can be found at Peace of Mind counseling and Wellness Center, 395 Springfield Ave. in Berkeley Heights. To learn more about Makofske or to make an appointment, contact the office by calling 908-363-5535. The office is open seven days a week. Visit http://www.pomnj.com/