Laura Beer

Dr. Laura Beer, department chair and music therapy program director, talks about creative arts therapies and their positive impact with Gary Bloxom of Metroscope in March 2016.

In the course of the interview, Dr. Beer described how people benefit from creative arts therapies, how one becomes a creative arts therapist, and the future of the profession.

“For example, someone who has advanced dementia, who seemingly can’t speak anymore, or doesn’t recognize their son anymore…  when we bring in music therapy, it activates a part of their brain that remembers music, remembers song lyrics, and responds emotionally,” Beer said.

Creative arts therapists sometimes work with healthy people, Beer said, though their clients often have mental health issues. “There are art therapists working with children in psychiatric units. There are drama therapists, psychodrama, play therapists and dance movement therapists. So it’s quite a wide range of different creative arts modalities.”

“They’ve really come about since World War I, when a lot of soldiers returned from active warfare,” Beer continued. “They used to call it shell shocked, and there was really no effective treatment. And they found that music and art and movement were having what seemed like miraculous effects, but now we know are actually neurological identifiable effects.”

“Many veterans, both men and women, have literally had their lives saved because of the creative arts therapies,” she said.

When asked who is an ideal candidate to become a creative arts therapist, Beer said they must first be at a professional level in their own art form, as an artist, musician, actor or dancer.  “I really think it takes someone with maturity and deep sense of compassion for others,” she added. “And a willingness to really get involved in working with people, and not everyone is cut out for that.”

Students who enroll in a university program to become a creative arts therapist will learn to approach therapy with different populations, Beer said, including people in hospice, with autism, undergoing cancer treatment, recovering from a stroke, or who have suffered a loss. The programs in music therapy and art therapy at Marylhurst University provide a “very well-rounded and rigorous education and training,” she added.

When asked about the future, Beer said her vision is that every hospital in the United States will have at least one creative arts therapist on staff. “It’s a needed service,” she said, “from the neonatal intensive care unit to the palliative, pain control area to oncology and the children’s ward.”

Dr. Beer’s interview will be broadcast Sunday, March 20, on the following stations:

6 am:           94.7 Alternative Portland (KNRK)

6 am:           92.3 Classic Rock (KGON)

7 am:           97.1 Charlie FM (KYCH)

7 am:           105.1 The Buzz (KRSK)

10 pm:         99.5 The Wolf (KWJJ)

10 pm:         1080 The Fan (KFX)

Listen online anytime at

Laura Beer is director of the music therapy program and chair of theDepartment of Art, Music & Creative Arts Therapies at Marylhurst University. She is an established researcher and author in peer-reviewed journals, a published songwriter, and she serves on the Editorial Board of Music Therapy Perspectives.