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Creative programs offer memorable moments

September 11, 2014
by Julie Miller
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9/11 Never Forget

The image that has always stayed with me from September 11, 2001, was the gathering of members of congress on the steps of the Capitol Building, singing “God Bless America.” Every time I hear that song, I relive the scene of the men and women, unrehearsed, singing together—not exactly in-tune, but with incredible heart.

It didn’t matter who was a Democrat and who was a Republican. As a group, they probably comprised a wide variety of religious faiths, too. Their personal beliefs likely clashed now and then in the legislative process, but still, they showed their unity in music.

Closer to home

Those of you in the recovery community know that music can be extremely powerful in reaching patients, in coaxing patients to participate, and in encouraging patients to express the things they can’t seem to say directly. At the National Conference on Addiction Disorders in St. Louis in August, I attended a session about creativity and heard a few examples of music produced by patients for different purposes within their treatment.

The Achieving Resiliency, Responsibility & Recovery Through Creativity program at Preferred Family Healthcare provides individualized opportunities that allow clinicians to meet patients where they’re at. They use visual and performing arts as a form of language to enhance learning. It’s not art therapy, according to Kasey Harlin, program director, speaking at the session, but it’s a vehicle to allow patients to engage in care.

I see the power of creative outlet in my own experiences as well. As a member of a four-octave handbell choir, I often notice that when I’m playing music, I simply can’t think about anything else. The concentration required to play well takes over and whatever deadline or home-improvement project is gnawing at me seems to get out of my way for a little while so I can truly enjoy playing. One of my fellow ringers told me she came to practice on the day that her mother passed away because music was exactly what she needed at that moment.

I’m sure it’s difficult to fund creative programs, but there are plenty of examples of successful efforts nationwide. Tap into the expertise of a few of your colleagues and see if you can’t come up with some practical ways to add creativity to your program. No doubt the experience will offer your patients recovery moments worth remembering.


Julie Miller

Editor in Chief

Julie Miller


Julie Miller has more than 14 years of experience observing, analyzing and reporting on various...

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