CSUN has an internationally known music therapy clinic in the professional world, said the director of the clinic.
“It’s a goal-direct process where you’re helping a client improve, maintain and restore a state of well-being through a musical experience,” said Ron Borczon, director of the music therapy clinic, describing music therapy. “It’s really helping one client to one place to another through music.”
CSUN developed the music therapy program in the early 1980s. Borczon said he was hired to begin the program after an international search was conducted.
Music therapy started in 1984 as a degree program, and the clinic started in 1996.
The clients who usually participate in these sessions are children and adults who have disabilities or special challenges, such as autism, developmental delay, learning disabilities, and physical, mental or emotional disorders.
“Our clients primarily find us by word of mouth; we don’t advertise,” Borczon said.
Children makeup 85 percent of the clients, he said, so the clinic gets word of mouth through parent support groups and social organizations.
The only thing a regular class session has in common with the many sessions that go on is that the clinician who is working with a client will use music in some way.
“The client can actively participate in the session by creating music, improvising music with the therapist or ? listening,” Borczon said.
He said that because of the varied clients that come into the clinic, different sets of goals are administered depending upon the reasons why that client needs music therapy.
“Our desire is to have each client meet their goals and develop new goals that they keep progressing through the program,” he said.
Such specific goals depend on their disability, Borczon said.
For example, a child with autism who is nonverbal is different from an autistic child who is highly verbal, and the goals change accordingly. In the case of the nonverbal child, activities will have an end goal of helping them communicate verbally.
Clinicians help the children reach their goals.
Penny Roberts, a clinician at the music therapy clinic, said she wants her clients to maintain the fullest reaches of their personality and ability.
“I want my students to learn to respect and assist people with special needs, and be advocates for them as well,” she said.
?Roberts said she sees that music used in the therapy session is intended to produce a response.
“We design the music to do this and hopefully that is the desired response,” she said.?
“Likewise, if we are trying to assist a client with self-regulation, we may see them calm and regulate. The music affects all of them in different ways – for some it’s motivating, for some it’s calming.?Their response differs depending on the music we play, which depends on the needs with which they present.”
Such sessions, Roberts says, can involve a clinician playing the piano or guitar, and the client playing drums, shakers, cymbals or wind chimes. She said sessions consist of planned events which are designed to achieve a goal.
For example, she said if a client’s goal is to be able to make eye contact, then the objective of that session is for that client to make eye contact for a minimum of three seconds when they are told to three out of five times.
Borczon handpicked his clinicians and sees their importance within the program.
“What’s great about all of them is that they’re all uniquely different in their approach and style, which gives our clients a wonderful range of experience, and more importantly all the CSUN music therapy students have to work with them and observe them so they see all different styles of music therapy going on in the clinic,” he said.
Borczon said that music therapy majors do well on average on their National Exam Board Certification Exams, which they take prior to becoming music therapists.
He said 97 percent of their students generally score eight to 10 percentage points higher than the national average on the exam.
It is also important to Borczon that these students find a job in the field after they graduate. He said that 97 percent of the music therapy students find employment after they leave the program.
“As a training tool for students, you can’t beat it,” Borczon said. “Most of the students that come to Northridge are unaware that we even have a clinic. They’re just looking for a degree program. When they find that we have a clinic, it excites them.”
He said he became interested in music therapy because he was a musician and a psychology major in college, adding that he always wanted to work with people.
“I’m always amazed at how music can help them move forward in their life,” he said.
“I’m amazed especially with my clients who I’ve seen in rehab outside of the university, how open they are being in a music session that’s specifically designed to help them work through their emotions and their problems,” said Borczon.
Recently, when Borczon was in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, he worked with people during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, doing workshops for 60 caregivers who were displaced because of the hurricane. Through music, he helped them cope with stress.
Borczon also provided music therapy work after the 6.8 Northridge earthquake in 1994.
He helped those who had experienced distress because of the earthquake, and developed programs for children at nearby schools so they could deal their feelings about the earthquake through music.
Borczon says that the budget cuts that have occurred within the Music Department have affected the music therapy program, but they have not hurt the clinic.
“One of the nice things about the music therapy program has always been that it’s not huge but (is) very manageable,” he said, later adding that “With the recent budget issues, there’s been a real movement to increase class sizes, which always makes it more difficult in trying to keep quality.”
Buget issues make it more challenging for people in the program because there is less attention to small groups and one-on-one instruction, he said.
“If (we) have to increase programs, I’m hoping that the quality will not be as (affected) as I’ve seen in other programs across the country,”
The reward comes when something special comes out of a therapy session.
“Seeing autistic kids being (able) to speak through music therapy, when they haven’t spoke in any other session, those are the things that change my life,”said Roberts.
Roberts sees the breakthroughs she has been making in the therapy sessions and is thrilled by the results.
“I know I am making a difference in the lives of my clients,” Roberts said.?”Parents report the skills their children acquire in music therapy cross over into other areas of their lives.”
For Borczon, music is very important and should be used to keep a person healthy.
“Music has been an essential part of culture since the beginning of time,” he said, adding that it has been in use in tribal healing rituals for hundreds of years but forgotten in “modern culture.”
“People have forgotten that the true power of music lies in the ability to accent the emotion, to change the body, to help people in many different ways,” he later said. “One of my goals in life is to really try to get people back to the roots of why music is so powerful.”
John Barundia can be reached at email@example.com.