Immaculata Magazine Summer 2014 - page 37

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When Nancy Lubow, M.A. ’02, began working with 15-year-old
Ashley (not her real name), Ashley had severe anorexia. Knowing that
Ashley had taught herself to play the guitar and loved singing, Lubow
asked her to play a song for a therapy session. Ashley picked
Haunted
, a
break-up song by Taylor Swift, and Lubow taught her how to identify and
redirect her emotions and anxiety into understanding and performing her
music.
Ashley began to “link the lyrics to a different kind of break up in her
own life,” Lubow said, a break up with her eating disorder. “It was a loss
that could haunt her, but that she was able to leave behind. Ashley started
choosing songs that identified and expressed a wide range of emotions
that she had never found acceptable,” Lubow said. “She had sublimated
her stress into a creative release ... Finding her emotions and thoughts in
other people’s songs helped her to identify her own story and find her own
voice, within this fragile and vulnerable time of adolescence.”
Through her music, Ashley is overcoming self-destructive behaviors,
fighting against “the extremely high recidivism for adolescents with
eating disorders,” Lubow said. “She has literally crossed over the life-
threatening hold of anorexia. As the grip of her eating disorder fades, a
musician is being born.”
Before becoming a music therapist, Lubow worked as a pianist and a
piano teacher and developed some research studies on the psychological
and emotional benefits of music in her students. “I could help my students
to virtually overcome performance anxiety by concentrating on the
musical imagery they built,” she said. Music naturally activates imagery
in the brain, so she taught her students how to capture the imagery that
came to them while listening to recorded performances. Then they would
practice with that visual image and do exercises that immersed them in
the colors, sensations and emotions of that image while practicing and
performing.
Feeling drawn to use the healing potential of music, Lubow enrolled
in a graduate music therapy program and then soon transferred to the
program at Immaculata “because of Sister Jean [Anthony Gileno], and
because her philosophy of music therapy was grounded in the belief that
creativity heals.”
Sister Jean Anthony, who created Immaculata’s bachelor’s and
master’s degree programs in music therapy, had built these programs
on the idea that “music is an expression [of] … the deeper parts of the
psyche, and that’s why it’s therapeutic,” Lubow said. Studying piano and
improvisation with Music Professor William Carr, DMA, confirmed
Lubow’s experience of the calming effects of music. “He helped me
experience the valid link between mental health by integrating the
technical and emotional skills of learning music,” she said.
With Carr as her advisor, Lubow wrote her master’s thesis about a
therapeutic model that used various creative activities to help patients
tap their creative brain, achieve greater emotional balance and increase
mental resilience. She expanded on this model in her doctoral work
at Union Institute and University where her research focused on the
neurobiology of trauma and creativity. From these studies, she designed a
training manual using creative arts and brain-
smart exercises to address the fragmentation of
mind, body, and emotions in people exposed to
the full range of traumatic events.
“If you want to heal the traumatized mind,
you need to get to the parts of the brain that
are non-verbal, where the trauma is most
often stored. And music has direct access to
the imagery and memories that have been
sequestered from the verbal mind,” Lubow said.
Therapies that focus on talking about painful
experiences are often not enough. Victims of
trauma cannot always verbally process the abuse or neglect they have
endured.
So Lubow developed what she calls BrainsmART psychotherapy, a
cross-modal therapy that brings together different modes of perception,
such as visual, spatial, verbal, and auditory, and involves them in the
creative process. The non-verbal modes help clients access subconscious
sensory and emotional memories, and the clients can then use their verbal
mode to interpret that information into a meaningful story.
As a result, clients gain a sense of self-empowerment, enabling them
to manage their overwhelming sensations and redirect their unhealthy
coping mechanisms into rewarding creative action. Lubow says trauma
can be immensely disempowering, but she doesn’t focus on that with her
clients. “Often that’s just not something we can change. What I focus on
is what their strengths are now.”
In addition to working directly with clients, Lubow teaches other
clinicians about cross-modal therapies, introducing them to the
psychobiology of trauma and creativity and training them to help their
clients integrate traumatic experiences into their healthy life stories
through the arts. Currently, she is doing webinar trainings for music
therapists and counselors eager to understand the integrating impact of
cross-modal creative arts on the fragmented mind.
Although music therapy is a wonderful tool for treating trauma,
many music therapists have not been educated about how to do this, so
Lubow is glad to help fill that need. “Music therapists can become truly
center stage to the healing of trauma,” Lubow said. “They have to help
clients understand their own brains and work with music that addresses
and heals the problem, not just relying on the musical effects that are
uplifting, but actually giving the client skills to … learn how to manage
their deregulated nervous system and become emotionally balanced and
attuned.”
Ashley wants to continue developing her musical skills, so Lubow
recently contacted Carr to see if he could recommend some music
teachers. When Lubow updated him on the work she has been doing, he
said, “Sister Jean Anthony would be so proud of you.”
“She put me on this road,” Lubow said. Sister Jean’s approach, and
now Lubow’s, is “to elevate music to its real purpose, which goes beyond
performance to healing.”
Nancy Lubow ’02 M.A., Ph.D.
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