EL CENTRO – According to Scott Dudley, a manager at the Imperial County Behavioral Health Department, music therapy can elevate mood, reduce stress and anxiety, and manage other medical conditions. Used as one of the programs at the county’s Behavioral Health clinic, music teaches patients how to play musical instruments, be a part of a team, and work through their mental health disorders, he said.
The program began about a year and a half ago as a vision to help patients with mental health disorders, Dudley explained, and the El Centro adult wellness center has benefited from having music as a part of patient care.
With the help of Sergio Alberti, an Imperial County native who became widely known for his musical skills, patients are involved in music sessions. After several years of touring and developing his musical career, Alberti decided to move back to the Imperial Valley and has since partnered with Behavioral Health to teach music to patients.
Dudley expressed his gratitude to Alberti and said the patients are grateful as well.
Several patients have joined a performance group called the “Superstars” and are currently practicing for their next confirmed gig at the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life next April.
“It’s common for patients with mental health disorders to feel isolated,” Dudley said. “Everything magnifies when you’re alone. We focus on getting them engaged. They show up and work hard every single day. The commitment to themselves, their craft, and each other is really helping them,” said Dudley.
Dudley said he has seen the patients also learn more than just music. He has witnessed them learn breathing patterns, teamwork, and discipline from showing up to practice every day.
“When someone doesn’t show up for practice, it makes everyone else wonder where they are. They go to check on their friend to make sure they’re okay. It provides a sense of community and it helps to make each person feel cared about,” said Dudley.
Being exposed to music by listening, playing, or learning is important for the Behavioral Health community, according to Dudley. It has helped several patients and reached them in ways typical therapy and activities do not.
Dudley explained that the staff in Behavioral Health do all that they can to help the patients. He explained how they helped to put many patients through high school and even college. Having a music program is just one of the many ways to help patients, but Dudley said he views it as a very important and necessary method to improve mental health.