Abigail D’Arcangelis, MT-BC

Abigail joined SVWC in 2012 as its first full-time music therapist. She is responsible for the establishment of the music therapy department, providing individual and group music therapy services, establishing a music therapy internship and supervising music therapy interns and university music therapy practicum students in their training. Prior to joining SVWC, Abigail provided music therapy for individuals ranging in age from 3 months to 103 years in settings including medical hospitals, group homes, skilled nursing facilities, schools, and psychiatric facilities. Abigail graduated from Nazareth College of Rochester, New York, with a bachelor’s degree in music therapy. In addition to her Board Certification in Music Therapy, Abigail has received further specialized training in neurologic music therapy and hospice and palliative care music therapy.

What Is Music Therapy?

Music therapy is the clinical research-based application of music and therapeutic techniques by a board-certified music therapist to achieve individualized, non-musical treatment outcomes pertaining to an individual’s cognitive, communicative, physical, social or emotional functioning and health.

What Is a Music Therapist?

A music therapist is a trained professional with a completed college degree in music therapy and the credential MT-BC, which denotes successful completion of the National Certification Board for Music Therapists examination and that the music therapist is board-certified. Only professionals meeting these requirements and maintaining this credential are qualified to provide music therapy.

Why Music Therapy?

From our heartbeats to a mother’s lullaby, from motivation at the gym to learning the ABCs, from a song eliciting memories of a special person to tapping our toes to a good beat — most of us have experienced the connection of music and rhythm on our minds and bodies.

Neuroscience research explains that music activates and processes throughout multiple regions of the brain. It validates that music can actually affect the non-musical functions and behaviors associated with these brain regions and, in some cases, alter the brain by creating new neural pathways or strengthening old ones. We see this demonstrated in individuals previously unable to speak after a stroke, or those with an unsteady gait due to Parkinson’s, presenting with marked improvement after receiving neurologic music therapy.

Social science substantiates that music’s cultural and social qualities play a role in this mind-body connection, as well as the interconnectedness of music with one’s identity. Tap into one’s musical preferences, and you tap into his or her culture, life experiences, sense of familiarity and self-expression. We see this in otherwise-unresponsive individuals with Alzheimer’s disease becoming more oriented and engaged when presented with a meaningful song from their past.

Through fostered therapeutic rapport between client and music therapist, research synthesized with clinical application, and skillful adaptation of music and therapy by the therapist to meet individualized needs, music therapy effectively and enjoyably achieves meaningful functional changes in clients’ health and wellness.

What Does Music Therapy Typically Involve?

Typically, music therapy involves:

  • Facilitated clinical treatment techniques referred to as music interventions
  • Elements of creating, performing or listening to music, including active client music-making interventions or more receptive music interventions, dependent upon the treatment goal
  • Predominantly client-preferred music, when applicable
  • Treatment goals focused on improving, restoring or maintaining client functioning

As with other clinical therapies, such as physical therapy or counseling, referral, assessment, treatment planning, implementation, documentation and interdisciplinary communication are integral components of music therapy.

Services Available at Shenandoah Valley Westminster-Canterbury

Individual Music Therapy

One-on-one music therapy services are utilized at SVWC to address a variety of individualized treatment needs, based on referral and assessment.

Research and clinical practice support the efficacy of music therapy in treating individuals with, but not limited to, the following needs:

  • Memory
  • Agitation
  • Motor Skills
  • Gait
  • Grief
  • Pain
  • Attention
  • Social Isolation
  • Speech

Including, but not limited to, the following diagnoses:

  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Alzheimer’s Disease/Dementia
  • Terminal Illness
  • Mental Illness
  • Stroke

Group Music Therapy

Music therapy groups provided at SVWC vary based on need. Inclusion in a music therapy group is based on specific assessment criteria.

Music therapy groups facilitated include:

  • Songs for the Senses: Sensory stimulation to elicit cognitive orientation and speech for late stage dementia
  • Tunes for Thoughts: Cognitive exercise for moderate dementia including orientation, speech, concentration, and long term memory
  • Musical Memories: Cognitive exercise for mild dementia, including short- and long-term memory, memory encoding and recall, and different types of attention
  • Musical Exercise: Upper and lower extremity range of motion exercises for ADL performance
  • Rhythm for Restlessness: To reduce agitation associated with Alzheimer’s and Dementia
  • Chime Ensemble: A performance ensemble for cognitive function and social-emotional wellness
  • Spirit Song: Co-facilitation between music therapist and chaplains for spiritual, emotional and social wellness
  • Neurologic Music Therapy Exercise Group: Range of motion exercises for Parkinson’s Disease; open to non-SVWC members in collaboration with the Greater Winchester Area Parkinson’s Support Groups
  • Music-assisted Relaxation: Various mindful relaxation techniques such as progressive muscle relaxation, active chanting, breathing exercises, and guided meditation, all accompanied by purposeful music, to develop skills for reducing symptoms of stress and anxiety.

Music Therapy Internship

Approved by the American Music Therapy Association, the music therapy department at SVWC offers a national music therapy internship program. The internship is designed to further prepare students in meeting the eligibility requirements necessary to complete the national board certification exam in music therapy and to complete a degree in music therapy. Interested applicants should click on the links below to learn more about the internship and application process.

Music Therapy Internship Fact Sheet
Music Therapy Internship Philosophy Statements
Music Therapy Internship Application


To learn more about music therapy at Shenandoah Valley Westminster-Canterbury, please contact Abigail D’Arcangelis, MT-BC at (540)542-0656 or adarcangelis@svwc.org.