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"Sing unto the Lord
with thanksgiving:
Sing praise upon
the harp unto our God."
Psalm 147-7

   

Therapeutic Harp

The harp has been used for centuries to produce soothing music which brings peace, rest and healing to the mind, body and spirit. The first mention of the therapeutic use of the harp occurs in the Old Testament in 1 Samuel 16:14-23, when a "skilled harper", namely David, was brought to King Saul, who was in a restless and fearful state. After David played his harp for the king, Saul fell into a restful, healing sleep. There are many accounts of ancient Irish harpers being able to induce sleep, relaxation and healing of fevers and epileptic fits by playing certain types of music on the harp. Today, a small group of harpists are being trained to use the harp as a healing instrument in clinical settings such as hospice, hospitals, and nursing homes to induce relaxation and stress relief, normalization of heart and breathing rates, enhancement of oxygen absorption rates, normalization of blood pressure, and pain and anxiety abatement. In the case of the hospice client, therapeutic harp music has the ability to ease the transition through the dying process. Therapeutic harp music also has beneficial clinical applications in the chemotherapy process, easing nausea, anxiety and other undesirable side effects.

What makes the harp special?

The harp is an instrument with many unique qualities. The most outstanding is the ability of the harp to produce a mellow, resonant tone when a trained therapeutic harpist plucks a string, and combines certain notes to form harmonies. This tone is produced by the long string length and the shape and size of the sound box, which is roughly equivalent to the size and shape of the human torso. The mellow sound, coupled with the unusual resonance of the sound box, produces the beautiful "heart" sound of the harp which affects the physical, mental and spiritual aspects of the human being. On listening to harp music produced by a fine instrument and skilled therapist, one is drawn into a state of emotional, physical and spiritual well-being. For some people, deep relaxation is experienced; for others, a lifting of the spirit and morale occurs. Also, there are profound effects on the physiological functions, such as normalization of heart and breathing rates, normalization of blood pressure, enhancement of oxygen absorption, pain, nausea, and anxiety abatement and stimulation of mental faculties.

What is therapeutic harp music?

Therapeutic harp music is played on a full-range instrument by a trained therapist. This music produces, among other benefits, relaxation, peace of mind and spirit, harmony of body and spirit, emotional release, physiological benefits, and spiritual uplifting and encouragement. All these things enhance the healing process for hospital and clinical patients and ease the process of transition for hospice clients.

How can therapeutic harp music help the health care professional?

Therapeutic harp music has profound benefits for patients with cardiac and lung disease, as well as patients undergoing chemotherapy and psychotherapy. Drugs play an important role in healing in modern medicine; however, certain drugs have undesirable side effects. For example, the use of Valium and certain sleep aids have led to addiction and dependence in its users. The use of morphine in the hospice setting has had great therapeutic value; however, side effects including constipation and disorientation have their drawbacks. Therapeutic harp music is non-addictive and has no harmful side effects and is a valuable adjunct therapy with drug therapy. The use of therapeutic harp music as a mood lifter has direct beneficial use for the depressed patient, and a hospice patient on a large dosage of morphine may be able to lower the dosage when therapeutic harp music is used, so that the patient is more alert and has more quality time with loved ones. Patients with lung disease respond to therapeutic harp music with enhanced oxygen absorption levels, easing anxiety and breathing.

How can I arrange for therapeutic harp music?

A certified therapeutic harpist may be contacted by calling Joanna Mell at 951-547-4022 or e-mail at joannamell@hotmail.com.

Member of The Order of St. Luke The Physician
www.orderofstluke.org