music therapy

Della Molloy-Daugherty is a Foundation Director for the SVF.

An SVF Board Member’s Perspective

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Della Molloy-Daugherty is a Foundation Director for the SVF.

Della Molloy-Daugherty

My name is Della Molloy-Daugherty, and I am honored to be a part of Small Victories. I am a Board-Certified music therapist, and I have provided clinical services to both adults and children with traumatic brain injury.

In 1993, I received my Bachelor’s degree in music therapy, completed a six month internship, and sat for the national Board Certification exam. My first job as a music therapist was with an inpatient, acute neurological rehabilitation program. I worked very closely with physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy, and I was amazed at how well active music making – moving to music, singing music, and playing musical instruments – created a multitude of opportunities to target, strengthen, and refine functional skills that the patients were working so hard on in their rehabilitation. Music was stimulating motor responses when a person was not motivated to move. Music was generating speech through singing with a person who was nonverbal.

Since that time in the mid-1990s, we now have a vast body of scientific research conducted through neuroimaging technology which concludes that music is processed diffusely throughout our entire brain, and that our brains thrive on the structure that music provides in order for it to coordinate its complex work. The observations I had witnessed clinically were now validated with scientific evidence. This is a profound notion, as music is something that is pervasive in our society; it is everywhere, easily accessible, and widely accepted as something that nearly everyone enjoys.

I went on to receive my Masters and Ph.D. in music therapy, and have provided music therapy services for over twenty years. I am currently the music therapist at Dell Children’s Medical Center in Austin, Texas, where I work with children of all ages. Even after over twenty years as a clinician, I continue to be inspired at the way that active music making engages the entire brain; stimulates emotional responses; impacts our biological rhythms that we have in walking and breathing; allows us to engage in physical activity by playing an instrument, singing, or moving to music; and last but not least, brings people together in a group for a common goal – to make music. It is here that people can feel like they are an important part of a group; that their part is necessary; that they are needed so that the group music product can be made.

Over the past twenty years of working as a music therapist, I have observed how music encourages and engages people in ways that are profound. Experiences in music – playing an instrument, singing, writing music, dancing – allow a person to have a voice, to be heard, to be physically, cognitively, and emotionally active, and to be a valued member of a group. It is my goal to help this organization connect people with traumatic brain injury to arts experiences in their community, and to help share information with our communities about the neurological, emotional, and social benefits for adults with TBI being engaged in music experiences.