Twin Cities Music Therapy Grows at CFPA

Music has this ability to hold the array of the human experience. In a way that you don’t have to name it, and you don’t have to explain it. You can allow the music to hold it.

Beyond creating performance and gathering spaces, the expansion is also providing business solutions for many organizations housed here at CFPA. Director of Communications Cuyler Dinegan talked with Twin Cities Music Therapy founder Lindsay Markworth about her practice’s past, present, and future here at CFPA.

Cuyler Dinegan (CD): To start, what is music therapy?

Lindsay Markworth (LM): Music therapy is using music to establish a connection, build a therapeutic relationship, and identify areas for growth within the music. For example, one area of our work is with people with autism or intellectual disabilities. Often we use music to work on socio-emotional growth—strengthening shared attention, social communication, and increasing flexibility.

Much of the work is hard to hold onto with words, but there are four essential music therapy methods we use:

      1. Receptive The client listens to music and responds to the experience silently, verbally, or in another modality (art, dance, etc).
      2. Recreative The client is encouraged to play or sing along to a song in a way that supports identified goals.
      3. Improvisation Spontaneous music making using simple instruments, body percussion, or the voice.
      4. Composition Supporting the client in creating their own music or lyrics.

It may look like we’re building music skills, but music therapy is ultimately building a person’s resources to be more independent, more confident, and to develop skills they can translate to interactions in their everyday lives—through music.

CD: What would you like more people to know about music therapy?

LM: It was formally established in the U.S. after WWII, working with military veterans. So in the scope of things, it’s a fairly new profession. But music therapy is grounded in clinical studies. As we build our body of research, we continue to open avenues for reimbursement, increasing equity and access to services. 

Music therapy is not currently reimbursed by insurance like other therapies, but the State of MN does have waiver programs which grant reimbursement. The MN Dept. of Human Services is also expanding access through waiver programs, for which Twin Cities Music Therapy is currently working on enrollment.

CD: How did Twin Cities Music Therapy begin, and develop into what it is today?

LM: We established eight years ago, after I moved back from the East Coast to be near family. My vision with a private practice was to create the opportunity for people with different abilities to experience music therapy that’s relationship-based and strengths-based. 

I studied the Nordoff-Robbins approach to musical therapy in NYC, and am still the only certified Nordoff-Robbins music therapist in Minnesota. It’s a very humanistic approach in this way of being with the music. It’s not that I’m the therapist/musician who’s here to teach you—we are two humans discovering together through a shared process. 

Today, Twin Cities Music Therapy has 10 employees providing services to 100 individual clients, as well as schools, community centers, day programs, group homes, and long-term care facilities.

CD: How did you arrive at CFPA?

LM: I literally snuck in the back door. Miya Kunin (Miya Kunin Strings, Studio B3) is a friend from Augsburg University who I’d played chamber music with in a string quartet. She invited me to use her space during downtimes to start, holding sessions for just one or two clients in between her classes. I operated through most of CFPA’s first floor in that way, then ultimately a room opened up and I jumped in as a tenant. We’re in Studio 105 now, and move into the new addition soon!

CD: How has Twin Cities Music Therapy adapted to new social parameters?

LM: Pre-Covid we were in the studio 6 days a week. We also provided at-home services, which continued in some cases—we carried on garage sessions with clients until the temperatures dropped to single digits. We were there in 32° weather with a space heater running.

We’ve built up to 75% of our individual clients with telehealth, which we’re still primarily doing. It’s been a process transitioning to virtual, but we’ve learned a ton, and have encountered situations where telehealth may make our services more accessible than in-person, even after public health improves. We’ve added several new clients through telehealth.

CD: What’s something you’re excited about for the future?

LM: The timing with the new studio is really exciting. Our whole team is getting vaccinated, so we will have strong immunity by April, to begin transitioning back to in-person with our clients again. Improved accessibility with the new addition will be huge—street-level doors, an elevator, new bathrooms—everything will be more accessible. 

Twin Cities Music Therapy will have two session rooms, an office, and a quiet, private waiting area. We will space out our sessions to allow time for ventilation. Jackie Hayes (CFPA Executive Director) has put a lot of thought into the addition’s windows and ventilation, given the current health climate, so it will actually be a lot safer going back.

And there’s such a need right now! We plan to try to reconnect with all our clients at the new space. It’s been such a hard year for everyone, but it’s especially isolating for school-aged kids, older adults, and people with disabilities. So to have this new space with options, accessibility, and safety features will be great.

CD: Finally, what’s a piece of music that you find personally impactful, and why?

LM: It’s been a journey, becoming a music therapist. My instrument is cello—I trained for years in cello in undergrad. I now use piano and guitar in the practice, and being a mom takes up time I might otherwise commit to being a cellist. But I recently revisited a piece that fits like an old sweater—Romberg’s Cello Sonata in E Minor—and man, it feels good to play.

We always talk about our clients developing their relationship to music, but there’s something key in reconnecting our relationship to it. 

CD: I find cello especially cuts through the brain straight to the heart. I remember experiencing a virtual cello solo early in the pandemic, and a flood of emotions released that I’d been withholding.

LM: Music is very powerful in that way. In talk therapy you’re limited to words. Music has this ability to hold the array of the human experience. In a way that you don’t have to name it, you don’t have to explain it. You can allow the music to hold it. We see that firsthand in the communities we serve.

Lindsay Markworth, MMT, MT-BC, is the founder of Twin Cities Music Therapy Services, LLC.—dedicated to providing the highest quality services using music to promote health through empowering children and adults of all abilities to become actively invested in their process of growth. Music therapy sessions are music-centered and creatively facilitated through individualized, evidence-based treatment. Learn more.