Local Therapist Uses Music to Engage Clients

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Arabellah Christ, a student of Cindy Cross’ Southwest Michigan Music Therapy class, takes a break from her piano lessons with Cindy.

By Kathleen Allworth

Music therapist Cindy Cross is bringing music to Vicksburg through her new studio at 111 West Prairie Street. And not just music, she hopes, but music that heals and helps those with learning, speech and other disabilities to communicate and engage with the world outside the music room.

“The only time he uses speech is during music.”

That’s a quote from the staff of one of her music groups about a group member. Cross displays it proudly on her web pages. It’s one of the reasons she does what she does.

Cross is a longtime Vicksburg resident. Her husband, Todd, is a Vicksburg native. Her youngest son, Alex, will graduate from Vicksburg High School this year. Cross is a board-certified music therapist and has worked in the field for more than 20 years, providing clinical services in long-term care, psychiatry, and in schools. She has a master’s degree in music therapy and earned her Neurologic Music Therapy certification in February of 2015.

Cross’ studio contains a piano, comfy pillows, instruments, a blackboard for creative hands and plenty of room for dancing around. She believes that the response to music is a natural response and is a way to get past barriers that can otherwise become blockages to learning or communication. “In the schools, I work a lot with speech and language because that is such a big part of being independent and interacting with people,” Cross said. She sees frustration in students on the autism spectrum who are not able to make themselves understood and says that music therapy is a good way to help address such issues. “I tend to focus on school-age clients just because that’s what I have been doing for the last 11 years, so when I went to start this business, that was sort of my focus,” she said. She added that music therapy is an intervention that may be effective when more traditional therapies and interventions have failed to produce the desired results or when a client has “hit a wall” and cannot seem to progress any further.

When Cross initially speaks to the parents of a potential client she will try to assess the needs of the child and the family. “The first thing I would talk about is what the goal is,” Cross said. “Do you want to work on communication? Do you want your child to be able to interact with people, socialize? Or is it being more independent or being able to sit still long enough to be in school and be in front of that curriculum which is so important.” From that point she will tailor a plan to address those goals by finding music that the child prefers, engaging the child with the music and then encouraging the child to participate in speech and speech activities with the music. “Maybe not specific words, maybe it’s just playing with the music and vocalizing,” she said. “It can be a non-threatening environment to practice those skills that maybe are, for whatever reason, not used outside of here.” The goal would then be for the child to begin to transition those skills to school, home and social settings.

Cross works with a diverse group of clients including both adults and children, those with cognitive and other disabilities and those who simply want to learn to play the piano or sing on key. She gives piano and vocal lessons out of her studio space. Cross can be reached at Southwest Michigan Music Therapy, 269-254-6942, or online at swmmusictherapy.com.

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