Psychiatric Care and Therapeutic Harp


“I have felt tensions ease and depression lift. The transformation which sometimes takes place is quite remarkable.”  – Pamela Goddard

For the past year, Pamela has been making weekly visits to the Behavioral Services Unit (the locked, inpatient psychiatric area) at Cayuga Medical Center, under the direction and with the support of Chaplain Tim Dean. The hospital staff in this unit is grateful for her services.   They greet her with smiles when they see her walk in, warmly welcoming her presence because they hunger for what she brings: an open-hearted invitation for all to join in a calmer, quieter space where breathing is easier.

Some patients with mental health and behavioral problems are not easily reached. Their emotional overload can feel exhausting, compelling, internally directed, achingly lonely.

In playing, Pamela calms her own breath, centers her own body, focuses her own energy on the healing properties of sound, and joins to be a part of this community as she plucks the harp strings.   Those in the unit respond in kind. The soothing music draws them out. Bodies quiet as they listen, patients isolated in their own rooms open their doors to hear better. Staff take advantage of the shift in atmosphere by scheduling a creative arts session during this time.

Pamela reports that the work has been deeply gratifying and affecting for her. “I’ve been given some extraordinary gifts in doing this work. People have shared deep conversations about music. Sometimes patients share their art work with me. I’ve had some really beautiful interactions.”

We hope that an ongoing partnership between Cayuga Medical Center and CompassionHarp will continue so that staff and patients will be able to rely on professional services that so clearly offer healing benefits, augmenting medical care.

Joyful Music for Elders at Groton Health Care Center

Pamela also visits the Groton Health Care Center, a rehab and nursing care residence, each month.   There she plays the harp and sings familiar popular songs for an hour for those residents who are able to join her in a lounge.   Then for a second hour, she visits residents who are unable to leave their beds.

Sometimes, she says, it’s hard to know who is giving and who is receiving.   A woman “Yolanda”, all alone in her bed, requested she sing “Raindrops on Roses” from the Sound of Music. So they sang together: Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens…When the dog bites, when the bee stings, when I’m feeling sad, I simply remember my favorite things, and then I don’t feel so bad.

In the months since Pamela had this request, remembering the song and sharing it with people such as Yolanda, has helped her feel better when she herself is sad or discouraged.   She thoughtfully reflects, “Singing this together raised the happiness level for all of us. This is the amazing and healing power of music.”