Healing maladies with melodies

Release Date: 7/9/2012

There's an adage that says music can heal the mind, body and soul. Amanda Stang has made it her life's calling to prove it.

Stang, who graduated with a degree in music from Ozarks in 2008 before earning a degree in music therapy from the University of the Pacific in California, is currently in a six-month music therapy internship at the San Antonio State Hospital. She works with patients ranging from adolescents to adults to Geriatrics.

"I lead both therapeutic music therapy treatment sessions and simple music sing-alongs," she said. "Music is my first love. Plus, I love interacting, developing meaningful relationships and helping people. I love getting to know my clients and experiencing the challenge of designing effective therapeutic treatments to help in their healing and stabilizing process using the power of music therapy. It's an absolutely incredible field and I leave sessions with a smile on my face and my head in the clouds."

At the University of the Pacific in Stockton, Calif., Stang did five semesters of fieldwork where she practiced music therapy with children with learning disabilities, older patients with Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease and people suffering from mental illness.

Amanda Stang

2008 Ozarks graduate Amanda Stang is taking part in a six-month music therapy internship at the San Antonio State Hospital.

"I truly experience such an amazing sense of bliss after working with my clients," Stang said. "Being able to observe and experience real changes in people first-hand is absolutely incredible."

After finishing up her graduate coursework, she moved back home to Albuquerque, N.M., and worked in order to save money for her six-month, unpaid internship. She worked as an assistant cross country coach at her high school alma mater, as an executive assistant for a local magazine, and also as an educational assistant for the Albuquerque Public Schools in its Residential Treatment Center (RTC).

"I worked at the RTC three days a week and the other two days I assisted a local music therapist," she said. "At the RTC, I worked with children deemed unsafe to be in the home due to aggressive behaviors. These were very difficult children suffering from a variety of disabilities and emotional disturbances. It was very challenging work and gave me some wonderful experience."

As part of her internship at the San Antonio State Hospital, Stang is responsible for knowing her patients' diagnoses, designing and facilitating appropriate music therapy treatments, and completing various assignments throughout the duration of the internship. After finishing up the internship, she will take the board-certification exam on her way to becoming a board-certified music therapist.

"Eventually, my goal is to work with veterans and focus on treating Post Traumatic Stress Disorder," she said. "I would love to work for a VA Hospital, possibly in California. I feel I truly found my home there."

Stang's work with students with learning disabilities has especially been satisfying for her. She grew up with a learning disability and she used the services of the Jones Learning Center for her first two years at Ozarks.

"Without the JLC, I don't know if I would have made it through my first two years of college," she said. "To this day, I believe Ozarks is one of the most academically challenging schools in the Southern United States. The guidance I received from the amazing staff at the JLC and the personal attention set me up for success. Somebody was always around to listen to my worries and fears and to help me see what steps I needed to take in order to achieve success. The JLC also helped to teach me how important recognizing other people's learning styles is and how to cater to those learning styles. I believe this prepared me for working with the immense variety of clients with whom I interact."

Stang said the JLC staff helped her particularly with taking tests in college.

"I have never been the best test-taker due to my fantastic ability to over-think everything," she said. "This may sound a bit silly, but any time I started to have one of my freak outs, my coordinator Debra Cline would walk through the door with a handful of bubble gum because she knew that helped me concentrate and helped to relieve my anxiety. And her timing was brilliant. If it hadn't been for Debra Cline and her magic bubble gum, I don't think I would have passed some of my most important tests in my first two years at U of O. Also, the fantastic tutors the JLC hired. The tutoring staff there, made up of both staff and students, was extremely well-trained and I credit a massive amount of my success to the time and patience they showed me, especially Deb Castleman. I didn't truly realize how special the JLC was until I left and felt a part of me missing. I do not believe I would be where I am today if weren't for Ozarks and the JLC and I don't know how I can ever truly thank them enough."

Stang said she believes she has found the perfect calling that combines her love of music with an opportunity to help people.

"I love that my job involves playing music all day," she said. "How can playing a guitar and singing all day not bring a smile to your face? Along with this, as anyone from Ozarks who ever interacted with me knows, I love people. I can't think of anything else I'd rather being doing than playing music and helping people."