Q&A with Trent Barrick, MT-BC,
Neurologic Music Therapist
Could you describe what you do as a neurologic music therapist? How does your work help individuals?
Neurologic music therapy is a form of music therapy that was developed to help people suffering from cognitive, sensory or motor function deficits arising from neurological diseases or injury to the nervous system. Perhaps the patient has experienced a stroke or a traumatic brain injury or has Parkinson’s disease, cerebral palsy or Alzheimer’s; these all affect cognition, movement and communication. Music is used as a stimulus that influences brain function and helps to train and retrain these areas.
When working with a patient with Parkinson’s, for example, how does music come into play in treatment? What do you hope to achieve with music therapy?
With Parkinson’s, the most notable way neurologic music therapy can help is through a technique called rhythmic auditory stimulation. Patients with Parkinson’s typically walk very slowly, with short shuffling steps. And they often fall because they have decreased balance and impairment of gait, which can have a detrimental effect on their independence and quality of life. Through the influence of rhythm and tempo on the brain, patients can change or increase their gait speed and improve balance. Sometimes Parkinson’s patients abruptly freeze and stop walking because the brain just shuts off (freezing of gait). But with the combination of a metronome and music, the patient anticipates the rhythmic auditory pulse and the brain is conditioned to think: “Oh, I need to step on the beat” and the patient begins walking again. It’s fascinating.
Do you work with adult and pediatric patients?
I do. Music therapy can work in a variety of settings. Here, I work with patients 18 and up, so I see young adults to geriatric patents.
What sparked your interest in music therapy?
I went to college to specifically study music therapy. Before that I was a saxophonist throughout elementary, middle and high school. My parents were big into music and my mom was a nurse. I would visit the hospital all the time, and I just wanted to help people, and when I found out I could conjoin the two areas – music and altruism – and saw that music therapy was backed by 60-plus years of clinical research, I knew I had to do this. So I jumped right into the major, finished about five years later, completed my board certification and internship and landed my first job right after that.
What do you do outside of work, on your spare time?
I love writing songs; it’s just in me. I try to write songs anytime I have some downtime because I love it. I also enjoy going to the gym. I am a worship leader at a church. So music is still a very big part of my life even after I am done with my 9 to 5. I can’t escape it; I find a lot of pleasure in it.
Could you share something about yourself that your co-workers might not know about you?
I am an open book. I lived my whole life in Kentucky prior to coming here, so I’m a little bit country, especially when I’m on the phone or get nervous - that’s when my big accent comes out. I’ll use words like, “Gosh darn, y’all,” so if you are around me long enough, you’ll pick up on it.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I have so much fun here. I can’t tell you how much the patients benefit clinically and holistically from either individual or co-treatments with music therapy. It just gives them a different experience when they come to the hospital, something good they didn’t expect. I’m just really happy to be part of that process for them.