Music and the arts are an integral part of our students’ daily lives. If you visit our campus, you’ll often see our students with headphones on, listening to their Mighty MP3 players while relaxing, playing basketball, or even walking around Lake Tomahawk. You might catch them
music-making during music class, practicing an instrument after school, learning to weave in basket class, or doing art with Charles at the Black Mountain Center for the Arts. Black Mountain Academy is fortunate to have staff in every area of our program that are talented artists and musicians and bring their passion to work each day.
The therapeutic impact of the arts has been well researched. We’ve all had the experience of a song lifting our spirits or helping us through a tough time and I’m sure all of us learned our ABCs by singing the ABC song. Or maybe you’ve spent time doodling on the edges of your notebook while sitting in a meeting, to keep yourself focused and avoid fidgeting.
Research reveals that music and the arts have the ability to affect our autonomic nervous system 1 2, such as breathing and heart rate, which can assist with mitigating stress responses and promoting anxiety reduction. Participating in music and the arts engages our limbic system, which regulates our emotions. The arts can allow us to focus on the external world, letting our internal world take a rest, or conversely increase the stimulation of our limbic system, allowing us to work through emotions and learn to heal. 3
As a Board Certified Music Therapist 4, I have witnessed music assist students in moving from a dysregulated place to a calm and centered state. I have witnessed our students, overstimulated after a long day of working hard in class, grab their Mighty and sit out in the sun while working to regulate and reset their limbic system. Or they may pick up a piece of paper and channel their energy into a new piece of art or crafting a movie script. I have been involved in active music-making with our students and have seen their moods shift and their bodies regulate.
At Black Mountain Academy we pay attention to our students’ love of the arts and strive to get them involved in their areas of interest, be that creating physical art, digital art, music-making, music production, film, photography, or creative writing. We work to ensure our students have a way to express themselves and tap into their innate creativity and artistic abilities, but also have positive coping mechanisms to slow and reset their limbic systems, through the expressive arts.
Gabby Ritter, MS, MMT, MT-BC, LMFTA Primary Therapist