Music Therapy: Readjustment doesn’t have to be a solo

Every week two friends get together with their guitars for a jam session. But this isn’t just any ordinary get-together. These two army veterans are participating in music therapy Fort Worth Veterinary Center in Texas.

Joshua Pope and Joshua Ashby met while stationed in Germany. Both from Texas, they became instant friends and supported each other when their unit deployed to Afghanistan in 2010.

“We met in Germany and were deployed together. We were on the same crew,” Pope said. “I was his shooter, he was the driver and we pretty much stayed friends.”

Readjustment counselor Van Hall has led the music therapy group at the Fort Worth Vet Center for the past several years.

Army veteran Joshua Pope during a music therapy group

Music encourages veterans to open up

“I use music on multiple levels to help veterans refocus, whether it’s expressing themselves, learning something new, or completing a task,” Hall said. “It also helps encourage veterans to open up and talk once we start playing music.”

Music has always been a big part of Hall’s life and he tapped into it during his time in the Navy.

“Music has helped me get through tough times and deal with a lot of isolation, seclusion and more [being] Years away from home,” Hall said. “I spent three of my four years in the Navy abroad.”

Music therapy is just one of the many therapeutic and counseling services available to veterans, active military personnel, and members of the Reserve and National Guard at the Fort Worth Vet Center.

“Jamming is almost spiritual.”

“Every time we jam together and mix in a song, something in you is released. It’s almost spiritual,” Hall said. “You come out a little more peaceful.”

Hall explains music therapy as a mindfulness technique that distracts someone from situations and thoughts that can provoke anxiety. When used at home, he says this technique is also useful for lowering general anxiety and avoiding adrenaline spikes.

Coaching, consulting and listening, Hall works with veterans and their individual musical abilities. In the past he has used guitar, keyboards, songwriting and even the ukulele as tools.

“I had to learn to play the ukulele right next to a veteran,” Hall said, laughing at the memory.

Someone positive makes a big difference

“Van is helping us more than he thinks,” Pope said. “Talking to Van, someone who’s positive, makes a huge difference. It’s nice to be here and I’m looking forward to these encounters.”

Vet Centers are community-based counseling centers that offer a wide range of counseling, outreach, and referral services to eligible veterans, active duty members (including the National Guard and Reserve), and their families, free of charge, in a secure and confidential environment.

The Vet Center’s counselors and staff, many of whom are veterans, are experienced and ready to discuss the tragedies of war, loss, grief, and transition after trauma.

Services include but are not limited to:

  • post-traumatic stress.
  • Military Sexual Trauma.
  • bereavement counseling.
  • Marriage and Family Therapy.
  • Resources for suicide intervention.
  • Assistance with VA benefits.

Veterans experiencing a crisis, or friends and family members concerned about one, can always contact caring, qualified responders at VA’s Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255, text 838255, or www.veteranscrisisline.net.

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