BRAINsmART Therapy
for trauma and mental health

Nancy

Nancy E Lubow

PhD LPC MT-BC

 Teaching piano taught me how to think with the whole brain.
 

My Background 

I am first and foremost an artist,  thriving on art and piano lessons since the age of three, thanks to the visionary parenting of my poet -painter mother. As a teacher, I taught the skills of classical piano and the visual arts for twenty years in private school and conservatory settings. It was during a piano lesson with one of my most gifted students that I had the 'ah-ha' of a creative insight and changed the course of my career. I suddenly knew- without a doubt- that the true purpose of the arts was to heal and integrate the body, mind, and emotions of people at all stages of development.

 I am still a teacher and my passion to teach is expressed with both clients and other professionals in the field. I want to share how the creative arts and neuroscience work hand in hand as agents of therapeutic change. It is my mission to increase the awareness of how the cross modal utilization of the arts can scientifically re process and integrate the full range of traumatic experience. I had a unique and long term experience of creative immersion in the visual and musical skills, with a  life time of dance and  expressive movement arts.  This arts-based Brain-smart is the foundation on which I build my contribution to the field of  psychotherapy, education, and neuroscience.  

The Birth of BRAINsmART :  Cross Modal Creative Arts Approach to Trauma

In the 1980's, I was preparing students for performance competitions, testing the technical and expressive abilities they had in piano. I knew the real benefit of these competitions was not how they performed under stress, but how they each expressed the emotions of the music they were playing .  I began formulating 'brain exercises' for students with performance anxiety, because they would 'freeze' in competitions. I did want them to lose the joy of playing music because they were being judged.  In order to decrease the competitive pressure, I composed piano ensembles that inspired them to practice for one another and perform as a group.  We all discovered that in a 'safe' supportive environment, everyone could play better and learn more easily. 

As the academic and financial challenges of high school years came , I found  pulling their gifted children out of piano and art lessons. By Junior year, some of my most talented students had quit to prepare for the 'real world',  and get a job to pay for their car insurance  Music and art lessons were  a low priority in the schools so I understood that parents saw no career value in pursuing these 'extra-curricular activities. This left brain dominant  attitude dominants our educational process  and we are paying the price for it! We have an increased presence  of hyperactivity, sensory processing  and attentional disorders that could be prevented if right brain development through music  art and dance were not so neglected.   I witnessed hundreds of gifted music and art students giving up the music and visual training- which was the one outlet they had to 'express' emotions . So many  families  didn't grasp the connection between the child's creative expression and their daily self regulation!  

I decided to go back to school and study how the musical and visual arts had measurable benefits for the brain, body, and mental health.   I stopped teaching the skills of classical piano, drawing and painting and began researching how music and art skills during development made positive changes to the brain . So many of my  most 'gifted' piano and art students had struggled in school with subjects because they had a kinesthetic, visual or auditory learning styles. Their anxiety and depression decreased and their confidence and emotional balance  increased when they learned how to play an instrument or create an image on paper or canvas!

I used my piano students as subjects for a pilot study on music and  imagery which I submitted to the new International Symposium for Music Medicine. Little did I know that this study would  launch me into six years researching the brain, trauma  and creativity.In this pilot study, I demonstrated how  favorite music evoked the mental imagery and emotions represented each student's most recurring moods, thoughts ,and imagery.   From this point on I began to develop a cross modal creative arts series of exercises that linked the non-verbal languages of art, music and dance  to  the language of words . 

This was the birth of a therapeutic model designed to link the musical, visual, and kinesthetic modes of perception to words so that  people could release and re-organize  overwhelming events into a safe and meaningful stories.


Qualifications
I received my PhD in Interdisciplinary studies with a Concentration in Psychology and specialization in the psychobiology of Trauma and Creativity from Union Institute and University. This is a learner-centered institution that requires every student to write his own curriculum and find his own committee of experts in his field of study. Through this work I became mentored by Dr Sandra Bloom of Community Works and founder of Sanctuary model for trauma recovery. Dr Bruce Perry of the Child Trauma Academy, Dr Daniel Siegel of the MindSight Institute and Bessel van der Kolk of the Trauma Academy were direct influences on my research premise. I did my PhD at Union Institute and University because it permitted me to create an interdisciplinary doctoral program in psychology that where my dissertation was designed as of  training manual for professionals and scholarly literature review justified and supported all the practical exercises I designed. It is focused on training professional who work in the educational and clinical mental health settings where at-risk populations who have behavioral and attention issues originating in developmental trauma are frequently missed. As an educator /clinician I believe that learning must be therapeutic and integrative for brain ,mind, and body and that  therapy must be skill based and educational to be of any value.

In my research, I explore  how creative 'states' can become 'traits' . We can integrate the fragmented of those who had suffered trauma and the associated insecure, ambivalent or disorganized attachments, but mostly how creative immersion activates those areas of the right and left brain that correlate with meditative states and integrate the body mind and body into the problem solving process in therapy and .life
I am still a teacher and my passion to teach is expressed with both clients and other professionals in the field. I want to share how the creative arts and neuroscience work hand in hand as agents of therapeutic change. It is my mission to increase the awareness of how the cross modal utilization of the arts can scientifically re process and integrate the full range of traumatic experience. I had a unique and long term experience of creative immersion in the visual and musical skills, with a  life time of dance and  expressive movement arts.  This arts-based development is the foundation on which I build my practice and contribution to the field of  psychotherapy, education, and neuroscience.  

I studied the creative process and unique neural circuitry underling the creative mind. I discovered that creativity in any field activated and linked the verbal and image processing systems of the left and right brain, promoting synchronicity between hemispheres.  Brain science has become a powerful lens through wihich we can understand the mechanisms underlying the creative personality. The pre-medial frontal cortex appear to be the most specific neural correlates, along with the limbic system's intrinsic and extrinsic memory systems. The sensory and imagistic memory system is more easily and safely accessed by and by the cross modal exercises that I developed in my training manual for professionals working with at-risk populations. These people  desperately need body and brain centered interventions as well as outwardly focused tasks that direct their attention inward so they can self-soothe through visualization, music, creative writing and movement  . My research and dissertation resulted in a publishable training manual  that offered practical application for practitioners who were going 'beyond the talking cure' in their work with developmental trauma and adverse childhood events.

License, Certifications & Awards:  Licensed Professional Counselor, a Nationally Board Certified Music Therapist, (Certification Board for Music Therapists )  A Certified Clinical Trauma Professional ( International Association for Trauma Professionals) with advanced training in EMDR and my Specialization is in the Psychobiology of Trauma and Creativity