Harp Therapy is a complementary care modality based on an ancient system of musical applications that respond to the immediate conditions of an individual &/or group and their surroundings. A Certified Therapeutic Harp Practitioner utilizes the enchanting music of the harp to match an individual's breathing patterns, resonant tone, mood, environmental conditions, and overall body language in order to promote wholeness of one's physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being. Harp Therapists improvise patient-specific melodies from the Seven Ancient Modes of healing music, as well as play familiar songs chosen from an extensive repertoire according to individual preference. Every improvised melody is created spontaneously according to the momentary needs of each unique individual. Therefore, the patient's energetic and physical constitution determines which key of music, tempo, and mode will be appropriate for that moment. My playing is directed by the individual. Therefore, the patient is truly the composer of their own well-being!
Therapeutic Harp Practitioners use "modes" of music to match &/or influence different emotional states. These "modes" of music are scales that have their origin in ancient Greece, where their psychological influences were discussed in the writings of Plato's "Republic" and Aristotle's "Politics." They were also used by Pythagoras for creating different moods and were applied to heal both physical and mental illness. In ancient India, modes like these are known as Ragas and were used for creating different states of mind, cultivating spiritual practice, and for entraining all aspects of oneself to experience harmony with the changes and transitions of life. Each of the Seven Ancient Modes correspond to different psychological/emotional states and each mode's unique characteristics or "moods" have been known for centuries to have profound influences on human emotions and to evoke cathartic responses. Harp Therapists also use two extra modes, other than the main 7, in order to best resonate with the patient. The Modes & their corresponding Moods are as follows:
·Ionain- uplifting, soothing, light, gentle, optimistic
·Dorian- grounding, strengthening, stable, centering
·Phrygian- intense, sad, emotional, fiery, haunting
·Lydian- happy, joyful, playful, laughter, dancing, fun
·Mixolydian- dreamy, peaceful, relaxing, serene, calm
·Aeolian- soulful, introspective, deep, tranquil, reflective
·Locrian- transcendent, suspended, mysterious, floating
*Angel Mode- ethereal, celestial, heavenly, magical
*Middle Eastern Mode- ethnic, ancient, mystical
Principles of Harp Therapy
"Inclusive Attention is a meditative state in which we are aware of our own somatic, emotional, and cognitive experience and expand this awareness to include another person"--Susan Borg, founder of the Resonant Kinesiology Program. Using Inclusive Attention means that I become fully present, sensitive to the needs of others, compassionate, and devoid of judgment. By having a a calm and clear mind free of personal concerns, we are able to enter a place of mindfulness that enables us to match the experience of others in a therapeutic manner.
Therapeutic Harp Practitioners use musical modes to reflect the patient's state back to them by mirroring or matching their mood, resonant tone, breathing patterns, body language, and environmental conditions. Matching allows the patient to feel validated, understood, and cared for because it is their own unique experience which directs the therapy--not a specific agenda set by the practitioner. Matching establishes rapport by expressing empathy, conveying interest, and allowing the patient to lead the session. For the purpose of matching, the resonance model is applied in 5 main ways:
1. Mood. Harp Therapists often encounter individuals who are in their last stages of life, are suffering from dementia, or are going through an array of other challenging experiences in which one deals head-on with major life transitions, prolonged stress, and intense emotional states. In my practice, I choose from nine modes of music to match common emotional states such as joy, happiness, grief, sadness, peace, agitation, calmness, and bliss. In using this sonic reflection, the profound changes encountered by the person may flow more smoothly with the comfort, care, and relaxation provided by therapeutic harp music and voice.
2. Resonant Tone. Each individual is comprised of a multitude of measurable frequencies. Based on the scientific evidence that we are network of vibrating atoms, each particle that we consist of produces a specific frequency, as well as every cell, bone, muscle, heart-beat, organ, and neural firing. Even our thoughts and emotions embody electro-magnetic vibrations which affect our minds & bodies. It is even claimed that the soul itself, our very life force energy, is the essence of our signature frequency. We are literally an orchestra of varying degrees of vibrating electro-magnetic music and each of us is an actualized "note" in this grand symphony. Like our fingerprints, which are unique to us, our signature frequency is expressed and revealed through our voices. By using the harp and my own voice, I can find one's Resonant Tone--the tone that matches with an individual's signature sound--your special "vocal fingerprint." My sensitivity to sound allows me to find one's resonant tone and apply specific tones, intervals, modes, and keys of music all based on one's fundamental tone--thereby creating a personalized song for each individual. Because this music is customized to suit each person, it amplifies the therapeutic properties by establishing a resonance that is familiar and comfortable.
3. Breathing Patterns. Harp Practitioners are trained to become attentive to one's respiratory rate by observing an individual's breathing patterns and matching it musically with a specific rhythmic meter (2/4, 4/4, and 6/8 for example) and a certain tempo depending on how fast or slow they are breathing. I may change rhythm and tempo multiple times as guided by the patient's moment-to-moment breathing patterns. By matching breathing rate, the music is able to provide further benefits by amplifying its therapeutic function.
*Entrainment & The Iso Principle
Entrainment refers to the tendency for two oscillating bodies to lock into phase so that they vibrate in harmony. The principle of entrainment can be witnessed throughout the universe. I use entrainment in my practice as a musical tool to help others process turbulent emotions and various experiences. What follows are the three main points of entrainment that are important in understanding this transformative principle:
1. The Rhythmic Nature of Life. Life is a process of a combination of rhythms, vibrations, pulsations, and patterns. Rhythmic repetition gives order to the natural world and to our lives--without it, life would be constantly chaotic. Everything has a rhythm and a specific tempo that oscillates at different speeds, manifesting as dense physical matter all the way to subtle etheric energy--from the smallest sub-atomic particle all the way to galaxies. The periodic intervals of rhythmic pulsation are what guide and shape our lives. Rhythm is evident in the rotation of the solar and lunar rotations, moon cycles, ocean waves & tides, planetary orbits, birth and death, time (minute, hourly, daily, weekly, and yearly cycles), life cycles (infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood, old age), the orbit of an electron around a nucleus, weather cycles, seasons, plant growth, photosynthesis, animal migration, population cycles, elemental cycles (carbon, nitrogen, and water cycles), binary code patterns, and even traffic light patterns! The physical world entrains with itself through these rhythms. The rising and falling, expansive and contractive, attractive and repulsive movements are abundantly inherent in nature. These recurring cycles of movement provide systematic structures that promote growth, familiarity, and harmony between ourselves and the natural world.
2. Entrainment to Nature's Rhythms. Although mostly unconscious, we are constantly entraining to rhythms in our environment. Time is the organizer of rhythmic activity which is expressed physically, emotionally, and cognitively. Physically, each of us experiences rhythmic fluctuations in a range of areas. It is the biological process of our 24-hour circadian rhythmic cycle that is responsible for our response to light (daytime) and dark (nighttime), hormonal fluctuations, and bodily temperature. Other examples include body temperature, brain waves, heart beats, circulation, menstrual cycle (recurring changes in progesterone, testosterone, and estrogen), the hormonal cycle's periodic shifts in melatonin (nocturnal) and cortisol (early morning), metabolism, reproductive cycle (meiosis, mitosis), ovulation, and stages of sleep. Rhythms also takes place for us emotionally as our moods ebb and flow from pleasurable to unpleasant with our changing circumstances--not to mention our hormonal & various biological influences that affect our mood. Our cognition is also influenced by repetitive rhythms as exemplified by our conditioned thought patterns, behaviors, and beliefs. Ultimately, we in continual biological, emotional, and mental entrainment with our environment.
3. Our Entrainment to Music. Our bodies naturally synchronize with music. Music is a miniature of, and reflects, the universal principles of nature. Therefore, music is a very special tool that can profoundly influence all aspects of our being. On the physiological level, we entrain with music by brainwave patterns, heart rate, blood pressure, sleep patterns, body movements, as well as hormonal & biochemical changes (such as a decrease of cortisol and increase in endorphins). On an emotional level, music tends to have a profound influence on our feelings and emotions. Music can speak the subconscious language of emotions and can access deep psychological terrain that is beyond the scope of intellectual capacity. Music that has a fast tempo and is dynamic can be stimulating to the listener while music that is slow and steady can be sedating. This is also evident when we listen to a sad song and become melancholy or when we are influenced by a happy song and feel uplifted--even in cases where the music is purely instrumental or in a foreign language. We often feel when the emotions are being conveyed through musical expression alone. Thus, many have turned to music for emotional catharsis and stress relief for thousands of years. Likewise, music can also affect us on a cognitive level by improving memory, learning abilities, attention span, and increasing intelligence. Musical entrainment is like a total brain workout.
The Iso-Principle is produced by matching an individual's mood & respiratory rate using their analogous musical mode & rhythm, and then gradually shifting the music's mode & rhythm into another state--thereby promoting a different mood and/or healthier pulse rate. For instance, if someone is feeling depressed, it would be of no benefit if I went into their room and began playing "happy" music and expect them to become happy. A therapeutic approach would be to match that person where they are at--possibly playing in a minor mode to reflect their melancholy state and slowly, gently, and gradually proceed out of that state (always being directed by the patient) into a lighter, joyful, and more optimistic major mode like Ionian or something serene and content like Mixolydian. By using the Iso-Principle, I am able to show respect and consideration for someone while encouraging a healthy, balanced, and relaxed state of being.
"Music is carried by the vibrations of molecules of air, like waves upon an ocean. It perhaps uniquely captures and conveys the interior landscape of one human mind to another, holding our tears and sweat, pain and pleasure, packaged as paeans and preludes and etudes and nocturnes. It is the texturization of the deliquenscence of time, the ebb and flow of mood and meaning."--Jason Martineau, author of The Elements of Music. This quote illustrates that music is a powerful conveyer of intention. The sincerity with which we pluck each string is felt by the patient, as well as the energy we bring into the room. Therefore, it is imperative to set an intention that expresses empathy, compassion, and love through the music. It is equally important that we set an intention to express unconditional positive regard in order to encourage an environment that feels protected, nurtured, and loved. Our intention is sent through the music which can uplift, soothe, support, and comfort whom we play for.
Amanda Odish, C.T.H.P.
Certified Therapeutic Harp Practitioner
Amanda Odish, C.T.H.P.