Employee Awards and Accolades

Music a way of life for Case Manager

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

As a veteran mental health professional, Jack Stevenson understands music’s powerful effects on a person’s psyche.

As a performer for nearly all his life, he witnesses them every time he takes the stage.

A self-taught musician and multi-degreed clinician, Stevenson often gleans lessons applicable across each discipline. And as a Blended Case Manager at Stairways Behavioral Health and lead vocalist and guitarist for the band Jackson Station, Stevenson is able to bring them into practice each chance he gets.

“Being a BCM is not a job for me,” he said. “I get a lot of self-gratification in putting people at ease and I get to do it at work and I get to do it with music."

Stevenson’s ability to use music as a tool in his work as BCM is thanks in no small part to its universal appeal.

“Out of thousands of people I’ve worked with, only two have ever said they didn’t like music of any kind,” he said. “Everyone loves music.”

That certainly includes Stevenson, who, at 51, has more than three decades of professional experience under his belt since he joined his first band, Endless Summer, shortly after high school. For the past nine years, Stevenson has assumed top billing for Jackson Station, a six-man classic rock tribute band that has earned critical acclaim, played venues such as Erie Downtown Block Parties, 8 Great Tuesdays and opened for bands including Cheap Trick and Three Dog Night.

Jackson Station specializes in covers celebrating the definitive American singer-songwriters such as Springsteen, Seger and Petty.

Appropriately, Stevenson’s selection of classic story songs is able to evoke a variety of emotions, which often serves as an opening for open and direct conversation.

“The biggest agent of change in life is the relationships we make with other people,” he said. “And music is a great way to build a relationship when our guard is down.”

In his work as case manager, Stevenson uses music in a similar way with clients.

“Music can be a gateway into what they’re feeling,” he said. “I ask them ‘why do you like this song?’ And they’ll say ‘Well it reminds me of a time when I was sad because of a breakup’ or ‘It reminds me of when my life was simpler and before I had these issues.’”

Whenever he can, Stevenson tries to incorporate music into his work.

When driving to an appointment or running an errand, he will make it a point to have on in his car the client's favorite radio station. Likewise, clients often enjoy visits to his Raven Sound music studio.

Interestingly enough, some of the more meaningful discussions occur at this time, Stevenson noted.

“When they’re sitting in an office talking, people might not always be comfortable opening up as opposed to when they’re sitting listening to music,” he said.

This experience should qualify as no shock, as in multiple studies, research suggests that music helps benefit our mental health by improving cognitive performance, reducing stress and elevating mood among other things.

But for Stevenson, listening to music isn’t merely “clinically approved,” it’s just right.

“(Music) is really a way to have emotions in the most natural way,” he said. “You don’t turn on the radio because you hope to have a song speak to you. You turn it on to relax and sometimes that’s when it really does speak the most.”

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