About Harp Therapy


What is Harp Therapy?

Almost everyone has experienced a mood shift from listening to music. At times we benefit from enhancing or changing our moods, especially if the mood is harmful in some way.

Music is the ideal tool. Harp is the ideal instrument.

According to Harp Therapy pioneer, Christina Tourin, “The harp is the only instrument that can be tuned in a mathematically ‘pure’ fashion within itself so that all the harmonics come out when it is in tune…Harmonics vibrate in proportionate sympathy with each other and their effect would be similar in the body when the sound vibrates the different layers of density of tissue and bone. The range of the harp is also great enough so that when it is played, the harmonic series comes out into our minds and bodies.” Additionally all strings are “open” strings which bring a fuller resonance into the room.

A Harp Therapist observes where the subject is emotionally, listens for tones in the voice as well as watches breathing patterns for clues as to where to begin with the person receiving therapeutic music. By using these tones which resonate with the person receiving this therapy, and matching the mood, the Certified Harp Therapist gently shifts toward a more positive direction by using ancient musical formulas. The session can include the subjects favorite style of music or genre, as well as specific requests when appropriate.

Another important benefit of Harp Therapy is that it is virtually side-effect free. Having said that, it is helpful if clients or their caretakers are aware of a particular style of music or tune which may trigger negative emotions.

It is very important to understand that Harp Therapy is not Music Therapy. Music therapists work with a clinical model, diagnose problems and seek a musical prescription.

A Certified Harp Therapy Practitioner(CHTP) is technically called a Therapeutic Musician, and works with an educational model, accepting the subject and their condition as they are and working with the present mood. When resonance with the subject occurs, the Harp Therapist is able to slowly and gently shift to a different style, mode, or mood depending on the desired outcome of the subject.

Although the verbiage may seem small to some, it is a very important distinction for clarification of sessions, outcomes, and also for legal purposes. Music Therapists and Harp Therapists are known to work in tandem in some facilities especially when patients are bedridden, in need of emotional support.

Martha Waldvogel-Warren

When I was 12 years old, I saw a harpist perform and thought that it looked like magic, wondering how she could know which string was which? I was discouraged that I had not pursued this. My thinking was that “It’s far too late for me…I probably should have started when I was 3 years old.” Luckily I disregarded that sentiment by the time I entered my first year at Ball State University where I was accepted as a music performance major studying Piano and Oboe.

A close friend invited me to go to Professor Elizabeth Richter’s Faculty Harp recital which inspired me to pursue harp lessons. I found that I had patience for the Harp like nothing else. Elizabeth nurtured me and within approximately 18 months I was playing harp with the orchestra. I went on to earn a Master of Music at the prestigious Cleveland Institute of Music under the guidance of Alice Chalifoux.

I lived as a professional musician for many years, doing much orchestral work throughout the Mid-West and Eastern states of the US. With a healthy wanderlust, I pursued solo opportunities which led me to play in Las Vegas, on a Cruise ship which sailed to many Central American destinations, as well as a job in Tokyo, Japan.

It was there I met the love of my life, Urs Waldvogel, a Swiss citizen who happened to be in Tokyo on business. After a long international courtship, we married. I moved to Switzerland where I stayed for nearly 13 years. Remaining active musically, I continued to perform and began teaching in music schools in the Zurich region.  Additionally I recorded several CDs. Many of the CDs are recordings of the Duo, Stones Unturned, which was formed with Christopher Layer (remember my friend who invited me to the harp recital…yep) who had become an exceptionally successful musician in New York City in the meantime.

In 2007 I returned to the US, family in tow.  Now with two fantastic children, we settled in West Michigan. I returned to orchestral work and began to teach in College and University as well as privately. Despite having heard of Harp Therapy, it took me a long while to warm up to the idea of pursuing this.

As a sceptic, but with an open mind, I enrolled in the International Harp Therapy Program (IHTP).

From Sceptic to Enthusiast

The stars had aligned for me to find a local hospital to do my internship.
Fellow graduate of the IHTP, Carol Bechtel, had paved the way and established the HarpCare program at Holland Hospital with then Senior Chaplain David Blauw. I completed my internship there as a Certified Harp Therapy Practitioner and provided Harp Therapy interventions at this institution for thousands of patients.

Another part of my internship was done with groups in several different assisted living facilities where I continue to provide memory care and general vibrational therapy programs. Presently, I also work in affiliation with Anchor In-Home-Care for their clients providing one-on-one sessions.

It is difficult for me to find words with enough power to express the amazing things I have experienced through my work at the hospital. There are books and books of journals I have kept, filled with experiences and reactions from patients. One of my duties at Holland Hospital was to keep a spreadsheet of patients and what transpired in Harp Therapy sessions. The number of patients who I have provided service for is now well in the thousands.

One thing I have learned from decades of teaching harp is that when you share your knowledge, you learn your craft even better. Now I have the opportunity to teach for the International Harp Therapy Program.

I’m excited to further solidify my knowledge in this field and aid in its growth.

The Beginning of Harp Source

In recent years it has occurred to me that there are many people outside of the hospital environment who could benefit from Harp Therapy sessions. Young and old are suffering from a myriad of conditions which are exacerbated by stress and fear. A Certified Harp Therapy Practitioner addresses this element of our well-being with direct feedback from clients as the session takes place.

Another important benefit of Harp Therapy is that it is virtually side-effect free. Having said that, it is helpful if clients or their caretakers are aware of a particular style of music or tune which may trigger negative emotions.

If in-person sessions are not possible, online options have proven to be quite effective as well. Recorded music is the next best thing. Options of recorded material will continue to grow on this site.

Does Harp Therapy work for everyone? – Not everyone is open to these types of interventions. However, the amount of people who accept and benefit from Harp Therapy when I personally have offered this service is well over 90 percent in my experience. One never knows until they try.