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Music Therapy at The Bridge

February 5, 2015 12:23 PM


Bridge_Beats_Jan,_2015An innovative music therapy program launched in November, 2014 in Dallas is an example of the results of long-term relationships established by our AMTA staff and volunteer efforts of AMTA members. The foundation for beginning a music therapy program at The Bridge, an agency providing innovative & effective services to homeless individuals in Dallas, was laid by AMTA’s Al Bumanis several years ago when AMTA hosted Nathaniel Ayers - the subject of the book and movie “The Soloist” - at our annual conference in San Diego. Nathaniel and his sister, Jennifer Ayers-Moore, of the Nathaniel Anthony Ayers Foundation, were struck by the wide-ranging impact of music therapy and they were both touched when Al jammed with Nathaniel on stage at the conference. When she was asked to give a talk at the annual fund-raising breakfast for The Bridge, Jennifer told their administrators about music therapy and recommended they contact some local music therapists. Al Bumanis put them in touch with AMTA member Cathy Knoll, who then gathered a team of music therapists in the DFW area to talk to administrators at The Bridge about music therapy. After just one meeting, decision-makers at The Bridge were ready to add music therapy services to their programming for homeless adults in Dallas. Within two months, they brought on Kamica King, MT-BC, of King Creative Arts Expressions to head up the music therapy program at The Bridge. Kamica (second from right, back row) and some of the participants in the Bridge Beats group are pictured above.

Members of the MT@The Bridge advisory team who gave unselfishly of their time and expertise to make this dream a reality include Barbara Bastable, Cathy Knoll, Janice Llndstrom, Michael Zanders, Kathleen Coleman, Tina Farquhar, Kamica King, and Debbie Dacus, along with behind-the-scenes support from Robert Krout, Nancy Hadsell, and Nicki Cohen. In addition to their time commitment, The MT@TheBridge advisory group joined with the community at large to donate generously to the music therapy startup fund. King reported, “From sound equipment to a variety of musical instruments, everyone's generosity has allowed the guests at The Bridge to have access to a high quality, well rounded variety of musical resources from day one of the program. This outpouring of support has been incredible”

Phase one of music therapy services at The Bridge began in the fall of 2014 with Bridge Beats, a twice weekly general music therapy group where guests participate in sessions involving active music making, creative arts, songwriting and lyric analysis, addressing goals such as development of positive coping skills, stress reduction, emotional expression, and mood elevation. When music therapy was announced at the Bridge, several existing volunteers were interested in knowing how they could engage with the program. After careful consideration, a volunteer component was piloted. Music therapist Kamica King said, “Our volunteer component has been a great tool to raise awareness about our field and its role in homeless recovery. Whether signing a guest in or helping them get settled pre-session, the volunteers are very dedicated and have also commented that they are gaining a lot from their experience during Bridge Beats as well.”

King shared in general terms the plans for expanded programming in 2015. In phase 2, music therapy offerings will be expanded to offer sessions that focus on meeting the unique needs of sub-populations on campus. All the guests at The Bridge are experiencing homelessness, but there are sub-populations even within that, i.e., those dealing with mental health needs, a history of substance abuse, trauma, or a combination of the aforementioned.

One other innovative service in the planning stages for The Bridge in 2015 is a music therapy group designed exclusively for the staff, from frontline staff to administrators. King said, “From an in-service and other music therapy demos I've put on so far, many staff members have mentioned how much they need and are looking forward to what music therapy can bring to them.”

King also reported that The Bridge recently identified the need for additional evening programs As a result, she is exploring the role music could play in that space. King said, “I get to wear my prior career hat in program development and coordination to explore how volunteers, music therapy students, and others can fill this niche with music-based activities. A music-based programming series would not only expand the menu of evening offerings, but also double as a mechanism to connect guests to music therapy services.” 

When talking about The Bridge, president and CEO Jay Dunn emphasizes the importance of providing guests with proper care rather than serving as a Band-Aid for the homeless population in North Texas. “Integrating behavioral healthcare with other stabilizing services has reduced vulnerabilities for the high costs of serious behavioral health problems,” said Dunn. “And expanding the scope and schedule of our services has resulted in more participation and better functionality for guests—both critical components to homeless recovery.”

The Bridge provides homeless recovery services to more than 10,000 guests annually, representing about 85 percent of Dallas County’s homeless population. Recovery services available to adults experiencing homelessness include emergency and transitional shelter, meals, showers and hygiene kits, primary health care, behavioral health care, recreational and educational programs, job placement services, and housing placement services. Considered a model for homeless recovery by the State of Texas, The Bridge benefits the broader community by improving public safety, health and quality of life. Visit for more information.