Bariatric Support Group

Facilitator:  Janalea Hoffman, Music Therapist


Janalea Hoffman has been providing music therapy at Shawnee Mission Medical Center for 12 years, and works with oncology patients, surgical patients, and patients experiencing pain or stress. 

She spoke about how music can be used therapeutically and for recreation, and there was discussion about how when used therapeutically it is frequently to decrease stress and to calm, and when used for recreation,  it is usually louder and used for increasing energy.  Janalea cited a number of scientific studies which have shown the power of music to heal.  One of the first was done in a critical care unit and ½ hour of listening to classical music had the same effect as 10 mg of Valium for the patients. 

Janalea spoke about your “sound environment” and how that can affect all living things. Sunflowers, which as we know follow the sun, turn away from loud rock music, but return to following the sun when listening to soft, calming music.  Cattle are known to provide healthier and better quality meat when they are in a peaceful environment, as opposed to those subjected to loud noise all day.  One couple working with a therapist because the husband was abusive found that when he came home, if he played more peaceful music instead of loud aggressive music, the battery stopped.    The sound environment also affects children – particularly in school.  Schools next to airports, subways, and other loud environments were found to be much further behind in school that those where the school was in a more peaceful environment. 

Janalea spoke about how we adapt to the beats per minute of what we are listening to, and we did a couple of experiments to see if our breathing and heart rates adapted to music that was set at 50 beats per minute.  A lot of Janalea’s music is performed at 50 beats per minute in order to physiologically slow the heart rate, breathing and blood pressure of patients, because we tend to synchronize with the beat.  The body responds to music physiologically, emotionally, spiritually and even analytically, and as we slow to the 50 bpm, it also increases our immunity.  Ocean waves lap the shore at 60 beats per minute, which is why so many are drawn to the shore and find it such a peaceful place to relax.

Janalea also showed us some of the instruments she uses to teach people how to play in order to relieve stress and prevent themselves from returning to addictive behaviors, such as alcohol, drug or food addictions.  She uses a number of Native American flutes, and also demonstrated a beautifully full sounding Cathedral Drum, which has a full, echoing tone, and is wonderful for children to experience.

Janalea has a studio out near the Overland Park Arboretum and Botanical Gardens on 179th just west of Metcalf Ave., and provides 2 hour classes there for $25.  She also has a number of CD’s for use in relaxation.  For more information about her and her classes, instruments and CD’s you can go to her website: