Sunday, September 19, 2010


YOSHIMI OTAKE.... Combining artistry and healing

I had the opportunity to observe Yoshimi at a therapy session the other day and needless to say, she is very impressive. Yoshimi is a certified therapist with Sounding Joy Therapists, Inc., one of the four therapists there. She has been with them for 2 - 1/2 years.

A native of Japan, she had gone to Minnesota in 1999 to study music therapy. To be a certified therapist, one needs to have at least a BA in music therapy and 1200 hours of internship. Yoshimi has a BA degree in psychology and a MA in music therapy.

She has practiced music therapy in New York as well as in Japan before obtaining the position in Hawaii with Sounding Joy. Yoshimi began playing the piano when she was 2 years old so music has always been a big part of her life. She now also plays the guitar and the flute.

When I observed her, I could tell that she was accomplished on the piano, even though she was working with a 61 key synthesizer and played mostly simple children's and folk songs. Those are the types of songs that the patients in the nursing facility have connections with and they provide a good foundation for therapy because the songs puts them in their comfort zone. She was very smooth in her chord changes and deftly inserted passing chords in appropriate places to subtly give the songs more depth. I mention this to illustrate how she plays "music" rather than just playing "notes" as many do.

Many entertainers play songs that they want to play, rather than playing songs that the patients want to hear. Or, in my case, I have to play the few songs that I can play. Over and over and over, if necessary. The children's songs bring back memories of a happy time in patients' lives and that encourages them to participate in the music rather than doze off. This enables Yoshimi to work with them on a physical level, emotional level and on a mental level because the music reaches them at all those levels.

Sounding Joy was established in September 2002. In 1994, Medicare began reimbursing for music therapy services. To qualify for reimbursement, the therapy must be prescribed by a doctor, be reasonable and necessary and the patient needs to show improvement in his/her condition as a result of the therapy. Medicaid also provides reimbursements as do various private insurers.

Please visit Sounding Joy's webpage a browse the services that they offer.

Yoshimi has always had music as a part of her life and found that whenever she encountered difficulties in her life, playing music somehow comforted her and brought her peace. That motivated her to want to learn more about music and its healing powers.

And the patients she services are glad that she decided to become a music therapist. Their eyes light up  every week when they see her.

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