BAR HARBOR — Melissa Violette, one of a handful of board-certified music therapists in Maine, is launching a new Outpatient Music Therapy Program in concert with Mount Desert Island Hospital that is designed to help participants identify and express emotions, process grief and loss, cope with anger, improve stress management and relaxation skills and explore issues such as self-esteem and self-awareness.
“Music can help create new neural pathways in the brain,” Violette said. “It can motivate us. It gives us the opportunity to socialize with others, come out of withdrawal, and reconnect, making the most of every precious moment.”
Music therapy is a recognized clinical profession in which a trained therapist uses music to help people improve their health, functioning and well-being. But in Maine, music therapy is still up-and-coming.
“It’s something that most people still don’t really know about and are just learning of,” said Violette. “It is something that I really hope is going to keep expanding and changing people’s lives. It’s pretty exciting to be part of that.”
Violette has always been drawn to music, and early on, she knew that it could be transformative. “Music has always been a part of me. When I was adopted at age two and a half, my parents said that I could sing American Pie from start to finish, and it’s always been in my blood, in my bones. I always knew that it was going to be what I did somehow, but I also really wanted to help people. I really wanted to do something that I could see making a real change in people’s lives.”
In her outpatient work at MDI Hospital, Violette will be using music to help people manage moods, build self-confidence, and make positive cognitive changes. She emphasizes that participants do not need to be musical to benefit. “Music is really fun. It’s non-threatening, and it’s intrinsically rewarding. I think that can make the process of therapy something to look forward to,” she says.
The hospital’s new Outpatient Music Therapy Program is offered free of charge through the MDI Behavioral Health Center.