Simon SudarmanSpearheading music therapy in Indonesia was his yearning since his early study of the link between music, psychology and health.
Now, after his promotion to professor of music psychology at the Indonesian Arts Institute (ISI) of Yogyakarta in 2011, Dr. Djohan, born in Palembang on Dec. 17, 1960, still finds it hard to make his dream come true.
“I’ve been the first and only professor of music psychology in the country. As I’m engaged in a comparatively rare discipline of science in Indonesia, I feel I’m struggling alone to realize music therapy,” said the 2005 psychology doctorate alumnus of Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta, smiling.
In fact, Indonesia has lagged far behind other countries in this method of therapy, which makes Djohan determined to put it into effect in view of the great potential of music for public health promotion.
“Sadly, this potential isn’t properly emphasized and enhanced to support patients’ healing in the hospital. Music psychology is still played down,” noted the ISI postgraduate lecturer with concern.
For Djohan, an interdisciplinary approach should be pursued to ensure more efficient and effective cures for patients. Instead of relying only on drugs, music therapy can help speed up recovery. “As we are left behind in applying this method, patients are again put at a disadvantage,” said the father of three who has visited Japan, Australia, Thailand and other countries to study the technique.
Historically, according to the recipient of the Therapeutic Uses of Music award from the College of Music at Mahidol University in Bangkok, Thailand, in 2009, music therapy was already known at the end of the 18th century, though it had earlier become a healing medium in several places like China, India, Greece and Italy.
“In America, this therapy was applied to treat victims of World War I to overcome the trauma affecting war veterans and today professional music therapists there are affiliated with the American Music Therapy Association [AMTA],” said Djohan, also a member of the Australian Music and Psychology Association.
The scarcity of music therapy experts or practitioners poses a constraint to his effort to popularize this treatment. He has difficulty finding peers for discussions or even further research. “So I’ve had to seek foreign partners via the Internet,” he revealed.
“Indonesian psychologists are actually aware of this therapy, but they very rarely apply it or delve further into it, possibly because they feel less competent to deal with the music, thus making them only attracted,” added the writer of several books and granted the government’s Satyalencana Karya Satya medal of merit in 2010.
Nonetheless, Djohan feels grateful for several hospitals’ positive response to his offer, though its application has not yet reached the therapeutic phase but is still meant as a tryout to test the effect of music on the hospital environment like waiting rooms and patients’ wards.
“It’s the limited use of music therapy to create an atmosphere of comfort and relaxation, before being applied to help heal patients,” explained Djohan, who is also a member of Yogyakarta’s Provincial Cultural Council.
Lately, music therapy has also been taught as a subject at some universities, particularly those with departments of music. According to Djohan, studies have shown that music can relieve various complaints and disorders like anxiety, depression, neurological trouble, insomnia and strokes, and can reduce the risk of infection, control heartbeats and lower blood pressure.
“Music therapy is important to speed up the process of healing in such conditions, which can be done in different ways such as singing, playing music, making rhythmic movements and just listening to music,” Djohan pointed out.
Medical consultation and treatment, however, should be carried on as music therapy produces its effect psychologically, which will later reduce the mental burden of patients. “Their positive mental state can aid or hasten the process of medical treatment,” he said.
The music used for therapy also varies, but any kind can serve this purpose. Indonesia’s diverse ethnic groups and varieties of music certainly constitute a supporting factor and major potential for therapeutic utilization.
Therefore, Djohan deems it necessary to make a more profound study and conduct more intensive popularization so that music therapy will be familiar to the public at large and widely applied like that in America and European countries.
“When this is realized, my hope is to enable Indonesia’s music psychology to contribute to the development of this science in the world. But my immediate quest is to go beyond its theory to put it into practical use for the benefit of many people,” he asserted.
For Djohan, who is also a postgraduate lecturer at Sanata Dharma University in Yogyakarta and Semarang State University, his inquiry into music psychology is interesting and challenging because he describes the science as a blend of humanities and the social and natural sciences so that it has a comprehensive perspective.
“Music psychology isn’t just for medical therapy, but also applicable to educational, industrial and social sectors and many other fields. But the important point is to introduce Indonesian music therapy, which is highly viable as music is part of a nation’s culture, and the studies made in advanced countries aren’t automatically compatible with Indonesia. In this way, while it’s scientifically beneficial, it also serves to strengthen national character and identity,” Djohan said.