Anne B. Parker, MA, MHSA, MT-BC, FAMI is the Supervisor of the Wellness Department at Miraval Resort, Tucson, AZ – an internationally renowned wellness and health resort. After over 15 years of professional experience in general, psychiatric, and rehabilitation hospitals, Anne has focused the last 15 year of her professional work in a wellness model working with applications of music therapy with clients undergoing cancer treatment, dealing with chronic illness including stress disorders, as well as mental health issues, and life transitions of all kinds. In this podcast, Anne presents a wellness model and its integration with music therapy, particularly drawing from theoretical approaches and research in the areas of mindfulness and positive psychology.


Music Therapy in Wellness: An Integrative Paradigm

Anne B. Parker, MA, MHSA, MT-BC, FAMI

AMTA.Pro Symposium
July, 2010
Podcast Discussion Outline

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What is wellness?

1. Introduction to symposium

2. Brief overview of wellness concept

How does a wellness model compare to an illness model?

1. healing/wholeness ~ cure/disease eradication

2. body/mind/emotion/spirit ~ body/cognition/behavior

3. system imbalances  ~ disease/breakdown

4. continuum of wellness ~ acutely ill, chronically ill or well

5. focus on movement, process, present moment ~ focus on state, outcome, product, end point

6. interdependent/integrative approach to living ~ hierarchical/linear approach to treatment

7. what works for that person at that time ~ methods, protocols, and prescriptives

8. practitioner as resource and support ~ practitioner as primary authority, decision-maker

9. self-responsibility and self-directed activity ~ patient as passive recipient

10. symptoms signs of /metaphors for a process ~ symptoms negative problems to be solved

11. willingness to tolerate uncertainty ~ must seek an answer to or reason for everything

12. connects us to lively passions ~ may tell us to avoid what we enjoy

How do music therapy and wellness fit together?

1. Music therapy in wellness is defined as “the specialized use of music to enhance quality of life, maximize well being and potential, and increase self-awareness” (AMTA, 2005).

2. Features and characteristics of music therapy congruent with the wellness model

  • Engagement with music involves body, mind, emotion, and spirit. Music can stimulate each dimension or all four dimensions simultaneously.
  • Music participation is available to all persons on continuums of age, culture, interest, physical and mental activity levels, skill level, abilities and disabilities, etc. Music activities are easily and naturally adapted to individual needs, background, and preferences.
  • Music participation focuses attention to the present moment. Music is a temporal, moving, process-oriented stimulus and/or activity.
  • Music participation requires integration of right and left-brain, psychomotor skills, cognition and emotion.
  • Music may be engaged in alone or may require interdependence between a dyad or among a group of any size.
  • Engaging with music is naturally self-directed and is available in many forms.
  • Music therapist creates and adapts musical activities and experiences to meet a person where he or she is.
  • Music therapy can be clinically focused or not and may be delivered within a clinical framework or not.
  • Music therapy focuses more on what a person is able to do than not able to do.
  • Music participation brings signs, symptoms, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors to awareness.
  • Music participation can be a vehicle for learning about and exploring uncertainty.
  • Music participation connects us to our passions, imagination, creative energies, and is fun! (Parker, 1999)
  • Music is a process that happens within us, not to us! (Schneck & Berger, 2006)

A brief introduction to mindfulness

1. Mindfulness is operationally defined as “the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment by moment” (Kabat-Zinn, 2003, pp. 145-146).

2. Mindfulness has gained wide acceptance as an effective approach and tool for stress management, personal growth, psychotherapy, and wellness.

3. Mindfulness may be experienced in a quiet, relaxed state or an active, engaged state.

4. Mindfulness practices are not relaxation or mood management techniques but forms of mental training that reduce vulnerability to reactive cognitive patterns and behaviors that might otherwise heighten stress and emotional distress (Bishop et al., 2000).

5. Mindfulness focuses on altering the stressful impact of and/or response to thoughts, sensations, and emotions without attempting to keep the stressor from happening.

6. Mindfulness is a direct experience of events in and of one’s body and mind.

7. Benefits of mindfulness include:

  • reduction of the negative experience of stress
  • regulation of emotion
  • improvement in thinking patterns
  • reduction of negative mindsets
  • improvement in relationships
  • enhancement of immune system response
  • enhancement of overall well-being (Siegel, 2007).

8. As stated by William Sears (1968), a music therapy pioneer: “The unique structure of music – it exists only through time – requires the individual to commit himself to the experience moment by moment….The necessity for moment-to-moment commitment by the individual rests in the music itself….The extent and rapidity of the commitment can be adjusted to the individual by an appropriate selection of the level of skill required, the length and complexity of the music, and the specific responses required.” (p. 35)

“Once committed to the music, the individual’s behavior is….continuously objectified and observable, requiring attention to the music through the duration of the musical experience, even if attention fluctuates.” (p. 36)

Even though Sears did not use the term, what he described is mindfulness – particularly the kind of active mindfulness that may be experienced in the every day activities of life. Participating in and with music requires attention, intention, present time awareness and engagement, and an experience within the moment-to-moment flow of reality. Participation in and with music can also be non-judgmental, non-threatening, and is adaptable to each individual’s level of skill, ability, intention, and attention. Music is a natural partner with mindfulness.

On a practical level, mindfulness is the ability to notice, acknowledge, and choose in the moment, over and over again. Participation in music making, particularly improvisation and other interactive music-making methods, provide a real-time laboratory for practicing this process, helps develop awareness of both internal and external processes and responses.

A brief introduction to positive psychology

1. Positive psychology is a science of subjective experience, positive individual and group traits, and positive emotional states to improve quality of life and prevent pathologies.

2. It is the scientific study of what goes right in life, from birth to death and at all stops in between. (Peterson, 2006)

3. Positive psychology recognizes that elimination or reduction of problems or pathology is not all that is involved in improving function or health condition., and it calls for as much focus on strengths as weaknesses.

4. Positive psychology has as much interest in building the best things in life as repairing the worst. It pays as much attention to creating fulfilling lives as treating wounds and deficits, and it focuses as much on satisfaction as dissatisfaction; happiness as unhappiness.

5. Positive psychology is grounded in phenomenology – Research in positive psychology is reiterating that an experiential component is critical and essential to solidify learning.

6.  Treatment is not just fixing what is broken; it is nurturing what is best. (Seligman, 2002)

7. Flow is a phenomenon studied in positive psychology. Simply defined as the state of being completely involved in an activity for its own sake.  (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990) During flow, time passes quickly since attention is on activity itself and the sense of self as social actor is lost. The after effect of flow is invigorating, highly and intrinsically enjoyable

8. Positive emotions build cognitive resources, social resources, psychological resources, and physical resources. Positive emotions also serve as the reset button for the flight or fight response. They make us more receptive and creative, and they allow us to discover and build new skills within ourselves. (Fredrickson, 2009)

9. Participation in music is an accessible, effective, and quick way to create flow and  positive emotional states that support wellness and well-being.

Music therapy in this paradigm

1. Participation in music therapy develops selective attention and requires presentness.

2. Music therapy is non-judgmental and non-threatening.

3. The temporal nature of music therapy requires moment to moment awareness.

4. Music therapy is process oriented, so it

  • taps into positive individual traits
  • taps into positive group traits
  • focuses on individual strengths
  • encourages and stimulates creativity

5. Music therapy participation addresses need for competence, belongingess, and autonomy while creating experiences of satisfaction.

6. Music therapy is phenomenological and experiential, producing an experience of flow.

7. Music therapy allow participants to connect to positive emotions

  • as an expresser
  • as an evoker
  • as an in-the-moment experiencer
  • as a developer awareness of subtleties of emotion

8. Music therapy introduces novel stimuli, involves integrated movement, and engages all levels of brain function and interconnections.


American Music Therapy Association. (2005, November). Standards of Clinical Practice. Silver Spring, MD: Author.

Bishop, S. R., Lau, M., Shapiro, S., Carlson, L., Anderson, N. D., Carmody, J., et al. (2004). Mindfulness: A proposed operational definition. Clinical Psychology:  Science and Practice, 11, 230-241.

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow: The psychology of optimal experience. New York: Harper Collins.

Fredrickson, B. L. (2009). Positivity. New York: Crown.

Kabat-Zinn, J. (2003). Mindfulness-based interventions in context: Past, present, and future. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 10, 144-156.

Parker, A. B. (1999, November). Music therapy for wellness: Part of the paradigm shift. Presentation at the Ninth World Congress of Music Therapy, Washington, DC.

Peterson, C. (2006). A primer in positive psychology. New York: Oxford University Press.

Schneck, D. J. & Berger, D. S. (2006). The music effect: Music physiology and clinical applications. Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Seligman, M. E. P. (2002). Authentic happiness. New York: Free Press.

Sears, W. W. (1968). Processes in music therapy. In E. T. Gaston (Ed.), Music in therapy  (pp. 30-44). New York: Macmillan.

Siegel, D. J. (2007). The mindful brain. New York: W.W. Norton.

About the Speaker

Anne B. Parker has been a music therapist for over 30 years with clinical and administrative experience in general, psychiatric, and rehabilitation hospitals as well as addictions recovery and cancer treatment. She holds degrees in music therapy, counseling psychology, and health services administration and has completed post-graduate training in expressive arts therapies and Guided Imagery and Music (GIM). She is a Fellow of the Association for Music & Imagery and currently serves as its President.

From 1994-2009, Anne had a private practice in Tucson, AZ that focused in the areas of wellness, mind/body medicine, living well with chronic illness, and psychospiritual growth. She was a contractor with Canyon Ranch from 1995-2002 and Miraval Resort from 2005-2008. In 2009, she accepted a position as Supervisor of the Wellness Department at Miraval where she continues to provide individual and group services and is involved in the development of the Integrative Medicine Wellness Center.