I have seen needed relaxation, a break from challenging health situations, laughter, tears, lowering of blood pressure and reduction of pain, communication between families and, generally, support and care in difficult personal challenges.Margaret Stephens, CTHP
The world's oldest known musical instrument, the harp, is a stately presence in the modern-day orchestra. In the patient spaces of Dartmouth Cancer Center, it brings a gentle comfort with sound, and sometimes touch. Through the talent of trained therapeutic musicians or Certified Therapeutic Harp Practitioners, harps provide patients, caregivers and staff with access to a melodious respite from cancer and stress.
Therapeutic harp was a service offered through the Complementary Care Program that was only available at Dartmouth Cancer Center in Lebanon. Now, the service is available in Manchester and Nashua, New Hampshire, and St. Johnsbury, Vermont, as well. The expansion of therapeutic harp services, all free of charge for patients and families, is made possible by the generosity of Prouty and other philanthropic supporters through the Friends of Dartmouth Cancer Center.
There are three Certified Therapeutic Harp Practitioners at Dartmouth Cancer Center in New Hampshire and Vermont. Margaret Stephens has been a familiar face in Lebanon since 2008. Joining Margaret is Pam Stohrer in Manchester and Nashua, and Patty Williams in St. Johnsbury. "I have seen how music and the harp have touched the lives of so many patients, caregivers and staff. I have seen needed relaxation, a break from challenging health situations, laughter, tears, lowering of blood pressure and reduction of pain, communication between families and, generally, support and care in difficult personal challenges. The stories go on," says Stephens. "I am thrilled that more patients and families are having access to this type of therapy."
A therapeutic harpist observes and intuits a listener's needs, and then chooses musical styles, tempos, rhythms, modes and melodies that are appropriate to meeting those needs. The goal is to create a "sound space" or a "cradle of sound" for each person. Margaret, Pam and Patty may bring different harps with them - a Celtic lever harp may be used in sitting areas to provide calming sounds for multiple people, or a Reverie harp, for instance, can be played directly on patients' backs so they feel sound vibration throughout their body.
Dartmouth Cancer Center's Complementary Care Program, made possible by The Prouty, offers a variety of free programs that enhance the well-being of patients and caregivers throughout the cancer journey and into survivorship. Programs include support groups, massage, yoga, meditation, Qigong, nutrition, creative arts and writing and more. For more information or to request a program guide, email CancerSupport@hitchcock.org or call (603) 650-7751.