“12 months, 12 gestures” spreading music in Hospitals

We give one step further within the initiative “12 months, 12 gestures” and focus on a word that represents the essence of the great work we do every day as health professionals:


Because we accompany our patients and their families every day. We accompany them since they are born until they die, often in hard and complicated times. At the same time we get involved, empathize, attend, ask, thank and above all… we look.

Why not putting background music? What do you think?

We have organized a programme of concerts in collaboration with the municipal schools of music of our region: Vegadeo, Coaña, Tapia de Casariego, Castropol, Navia, La Caridad, Orchestra of the Conservatory of Western Asturias. The concerts will be weekly and will take place in the Hall of the hospital in Jarrio at 6 PM. They are directed to patients and relatives of Jarrio hospital, as well as professionals in the Area of health and public in general.

Because music, like care, is an art that influences the physiological, psychic, and spiritual aspects of people; feelings and emotions. It brings benefits to health, well-being and quality of life.

I invite you to enter the Youtube channel of “12 months, 12 gestures”, where you can see videos of the initiatives that we are doing.

As Plato said: ” Music gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, to sadness and life comfort and joy to all things.” Welcome to the concerts of the health Area I-Jarrio (Asturias)!

A warm and musical embrace.

Delia Peñacoba Maestre
Head of Management of Care and Nursing Area I

*Original can be found at:

Re-posted with permission

Education, Social Work/Helping Profession/Mental Health

Autistic Children and Therapy

Written by Victoria Brewster, MSW

Imagine having a child with autism and waiting 2 1/2 years for therapy to begin. The parents of a four-year old autistic boy in British Columbia are going public.

“From his initial referral to speech to his first appointment, it was 920 days — of waiting,” said mom Christine Long.

Imagine being the mom who is not working so she can stay home to informally provide speech therapy to her son that technically the government should be providing or even the educational system. This is Canada after all, which has universal healthcare and many services like social work, speech therapy and nursing services along with basic exams and tests are provided to its citizens or permanent residents through local clinics and schools as part of our taxes. There are long public waiting lists, for the actual assessments and therapies and there are wait lists for independent, privately run services, which can be expensive. In Finn’s case, the Longs say:

“Hiring a private speech therapist to work with him daily would cost approximately $4,000 a month.”

Provincial figures show the median wait time — just for initial assessment — is 31 weeks. Then there is the wait for services to actually begin. What happens to the children in the meantime? What if both parents work and cannot stay home to provide ‘speech therapy” to their child? Wait times are even longer in other provinces, Ontario, in some regions face a delay of 4 years to get intensive therapy.

According to the Parliament of Canada, an ideal EIBI treatment, children should be in therapy for 40 hours per week, 7 days per week, 52 weeks per year. Families must become an integral part of the program to ensure generalization of their child’s new skills outside of teaching sessions. In Quebec, different programs are offered in an attempt to provide more flexibility to the families. In Canada, most provinces have agreed to partially fund the treatment for pre-school children; for example, up to $20,000 per child per year in British Columbia and New Brunswick. When such a ceiling is in place, most families will opt for a less intensive program if they cannot afford the difference.

In Canada, we have a Canada Health Act which covers:

  • a “medically necessary” hospital service;
  • a “medically required” service rendered by a medical practitioner; or
  • “when the law of the province so permits,” a “similar or additional service rendered by other health care practitioners.”

Since the Act does not specify which individual medical services are provided, this decision is determined by each province with its provincial medical association. Therefore, to be wholly or partially covered by a provincial health insurance plan, EIBI would have to be included as a specific treatment in the province’s list of “similar or additional services” along with “health care practitioners” who provide such services.

As one who was trained as a social worker and works in the social services field-where is the justice in asking a parent to wait 2-4 years for speech therapy for their autistic child?

*First posted at:

Emotional Intelligence (EQ), Humanity, Social Work/Helping Profession/Mental Health

Emotional Intelligence and Preventive Mental Health Care

by Victoria Brewster, MSW

I read the following article ( and the first thing that came to my mind is that the events of Friday and all the other events that have occurred in the world where someone who was angry and full of hate either attacked and injured or murdered innocent people is not about gun control!

Instead, I focus on the next paragraph for the article that discusses Mental Health Care. This is the focus. Society helping society. More services for those that are suffering from either serious Mental Health issues or the episodic depression, anxiety, anger, self-loathing, low self-esteem and negative internal dialogue that is happening for so many.

We need to take a look at why so many people feel this way. I am sure our consumeristic, materialistic, gotta have the latest electronics, more money, more status seeking society is to blame. Or perhaps the unacceptance of those that have physical or developmental challenges to face every day? Intolerance of different cultures, religions and ethnicities?

We as humans need to return to a more basic lifestyle that focuses on family, friends, community- a ‘village’ type of atmosphere where neighbors actually say hi to one another, help one another and watch each others kids. The book, “It Takes a Village” by Hillary Clinton describes this kind of lifestyle.

Acceptance, compassion, empathy, tolerance and respect need to be a focus and taught to youth on a regular basis. By doing so and having these qualities become the norm, things will change…..

EQ or Emotional Intelligence should be taught in every school as part of the core curriculum with older students acting as mediators for the younger students to assist with leadership skills, the ability to identify feelings, to raise self-worth. Imagine the school environment! Teachers and educational staff along with parents also learn these skills and it becomes part of the school environment and hopefully is carried over into the home environment.

To me, youth should be the focus. If we have positive impact on their learning now, change will follow them as they grow up and go through high school, university and into their adult lives after. and are worth taking a look at on this topic.

Humanity, News, Social Work/Helping Profession/Mental Health

A Continuation of Ashley Judd’s, “All That is Bitter and Sweet”

by Victoria Brewster, MSW

My initial write-up focused on the first half of the book. ( This write-up focuses on the second half of the book which is part of Ashley Judd’s treatment, healing and acceptance of self along with her continued humanitarian work with Population Services International (PSI) (

Treatment occured after she participated in family week for her sister’s inpatient treatment for an eating disorder. Ashley Judd participates in an inpatient treatment of intensive soul searching, acceptance of self and to face the youth she grew up in. To no fault of her own she became a co-dependent and the ‘Lost Child’ in her family and often fell into periods of depression and contemplated suicide as a teenager.

No youth should ever have to feel this way, as no adult should either. There is so much to live for if only one can see past their internal pain, their grief, their disappointments with others and themself.

With meditation, prayer, participation in a ’12 Step’ program, journaling and recognition of the internal world, Ashley Judd is able to move on in her life and continue her humanitarian work which is extremely inspiring and motivating to me.

She goes to India, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of the Congo…..but it is her work in Rwanda that has the most impact on me because of the countries stance on rebuilding a community after the 1994 genocide where so many people were murdered, approximately 800,000 dead because of being a different affiliation that one was born into. It was the Hutu vs. the Tutsi. The rape, killing of women, children and men just because of their ethnicity. Very hard for me to understand living in the western world. (

Has the world not learned, not integrated all the genocides that have occured whether it be China, Tibet, Serbia, Turkey, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Darfur and let’s not forget the Holocaust where Jews, Gypsies, lesbians and gay men along with those that had physical and mental disabilities were murdered….. It is time for all the genocides and wars to stop!

I learned that the last Saturday of each month, every citizen of Rwanda gives 3 hours to community building or helping one another-what a great idea-community service that is mandatory, but in Rwanda comes across as part of the culture- Umuganda ( which means community service.

The world is suffering on so many levels-poverty, lack or resources, global warming caused by mankind, unacceptance of those that are of different ethnicities, from different cultures and religions, from different socioeconomic statuses…..It is time to step in the direction of acceptance, respect, each one of us becoming a humanitarian of sorts…to learn to be happy with the basics and a little extra. To focus on family, friendships, be at peace with ourselves and each other. I hope to see this happen within my lifetime, but seeing as the world has not learned yet, I am not so sure.

A quote from Ashley Judd that resonates with me, “Accepting something doesn’t mean I have to like it. It simply allows me to accept reality as it is actually is that minute, and then move into the solutiuon, rather than obsessing on the problem. Today, I believe we all need solutions.” (pg. 354)


Social Work/Helping Profession/Mental Health

Therapeutic Cooking and Culinary Therapy

By Victoria Brewster, MSW

One of my friends who has an MSW degree began a group this fall that focuses on Therapeutic Cooking with adults with Mental Health Issues. It is very new, little research has been conducted, but already the benefits can be seen.

A group of individuals, age does not matter and diagnosis does not matter. The focus is on socializing, learning to cook together, learning about food, the health benefits of food, how to shop for food, how to cook, how food affects your mood and the results; eating together as a group and the satisfaction of having cooked a healthy meal.

For individuals who are alone, perhaps are in a lower economic bracket, financially they may not be able to buy quality vegetables, fruit, meat or fish. Also, many adults who live alone do not cook a big meal for themself or may not know how to cook at all.

The research I have conducted focuses on Therapeutic cooking from an Occupational viewpoint such as one recovering from a stroke or other neurological illness/disease or physical disability.

“Cooking has therapeutic value physically, cognitively, socially and intrapersonally. Physically, cooking requires good movement in shoulders, fingers, wrists, elbow, neck, as well as good overall balance. Adequate muscle strength is needed in upper limbs for lifting, mixing, cutting and chopping. Furthermore, sensory awareness is important in considering safety while dealing with hot and sharp objects.” This is the therapeutic value noted by the University of Alberta.

There is much to learn and many benefits for almost every segment and demographic in society. Food has a lot of meaning culturally, ethnically, religiously and it brings people together whether it is baking, cooking a meal, shopping for the food and certainly sitting down together and socializing.

*First posted at:

Social Work/Helping Profession/Mental Health

Who is Your Imaginary Audience?

by Victoria Brewster, MSW

We all have our own imaginary audience who judges us, offers us support, inspires us and criticizes us. This imaginary audience is our own internal dialogue and where would we be without it?

We are our own committee. All of us at some point ask ourselves questions or make internal statements that make us pause, that are critical, that places us under scrutiny. “Everyone thinks I am………” or “Everyone  wants me to……..”

These vague, unconscious statements or questions affects us without our realizing it.  It makes sense when you think about it. Why do people have a fear of public speaking if they have never done it?  or  “I will not be caught wearing hot pink as it looks trashy.” Says who? Pink looks great on some people and why is the color hot pink, trashy’ looking?

So, what are you going to do about your own imaginary audience? Will you continue to listen? Will you all of a sudden notice this internal dialogue? Will you change the dialogue to something that fits your true thoughts? Your true values? Your true interests?

In reality our thoughts control us and our brain believes whatever we tell it-in a sense we are our own critic.

With New Year’s approaching maybe use this time to think about what you want to change in yourself for the 2013 year. A new job? Go back to school? Move to a new city or town? Start exercising? Try a new hobby?  How about be gentler to yourself and start telling yourself and your imaginary audience that you are a good person who can do anything if only you try…….

*First published at:

End-of-Life, Grief/Grieving/Bereavement

Professional vs. Employer Values on Death/Dying and Grief/Grieving

by Victoria Brewster, MSW

I am currently reading a book titled, Comfort by Ann Hood. Yes, I read a lot and as this is an area of interest for me….. this book is about a mother who loses her daughter to a virulent version of strep at age 5. The little girl goes into the hospital due to a high fever and dies 2 days later….I cannot even begin to imagine what this mother feels and is going through, but I can guess the depths of her grief as I am a mother myself.

I have older adult/senior clients who have lost adult children to various illness/diseases like cancer. No parent expects to outlive their children. The expectation is the parent goes first and then the child. It is still a book worth reading as it shows how different individuals grieve and no two people will grieve the same or for the same length of time.

Grief and Grieving along with Death and Dying should be core courses in any helping professional program whether certificate, degree or basic course work. Perhaps it is the time of year as I have had in the past 2 weeks, 2 clients die and 2 have been diagnosed with cancer.

No matter how a professional prepares themself, especially if one chooses to work with older adults, in palliative, hospice or in a hospital/clinic setting, you are not fully prepared. The professional needs to offer a listening ear, empathy and compassion with a client that is ill and the same for the family of a client who has died while keeping their own feelings in check.

Do you attend the funeral, call or send a condolence/sympathy card? What is the policy at your place of employment? What are your wishes as the professional and do they sometimes clash with your employer?

I am curious as to how other professionals who work with a population who is at risk, ill, with chronic health conditions, in palliative or hospice-how do you prepare yourself? What words of empathy, wisdom and knowledge do you offer to the family left behind?

Please feel free to send me an email with your thoughts or let’s get a discussion going on this topic!

* First published at: