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NEWS | Nov. 25, 2014

Wounded Soldiers learning to play musical instruments as part of their therapy

By Lori Newman BAMC Public Affairs

Occupational therapy offers wounded Soldiers assigned to the Warrior Transition Battalion at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston many leisure activities as part of their recovery process, but one activity seems to be a hit.

For a few hours once a week, the small portable building that houses the WTB Rehabilitation Department is transformed into a practice studio where novice performers can learn to play the guitar or piano.

A nonprofit organization provides the instruments and instructors to help the wounded warriors reach their musical goals.

"In the therapeutic music group, Soldiers work on improving their skills by learning to play an instrument," said Dr. Cynthia Jones, a registered occupational therapist.

The benefits can include increased memory, concentration, planning, communication, leisure exploration, anger and stress management and increased range of motion, Jones said.

While a client may have fun doing a therapeutic activity, there are specific goals targeted at the desired skills occupational therapy is having the client work on.
"Occupational therapy is an evidence-based profession that achieves health, well-being and participation in life through engagement in occupation," Jones said.

Occupational therapy assists patients with activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing, money management and education as well as work, leisure and social participation.

"Occupational therapists initially assess client's competency in skills needed for success in the client's desired life roles and use activities to improve proficiency in those needed skills," Jones said.

For instance, Sgt. 1st Class Kenneth Simmons said he has wanted to learn to play the piano for more than 20 years.

"I really want to learn how to read music and play and understand what I am doing," Simmons said. "I think it's very therapeutic. I block everything else out and concentrate on playing the piano."

"This is one of several leisure activities the Soldiers can participate in," said Narciso Sorio Jr., occupational therapy assistant.

"Learning to play an instrument helps them focus, manage their emotions, relieves anxiety and helps enhance their communication skills."

Staff Sgt. Thomas Keller, who has been learning to play the guitar, agrees with Sorio.

"It's a chance to try something new, and music is always relaxing. It helps me relax and clear my head," Keller said.

The music lessons are a starting point, explained Sorio, but they also highly encourage the warriors to try other activities such as rock climbing or golf.

"We are trying to help them regain confidence not only in their physical abilities, but also progress emotionally so they can be functionally independent in all aspects of their life," Sorio said. "It's about taking care of the whole person."