Patients listen to the sound prescriptions in a vibroacoustic recliner that has built-in speakers to amplify the sensations of the music. The chairs — or sound lounges, as she calls them — are used all over the world in hospitals, nursing homes, hospices, juvenile-­detention centers and schools for special-needs children.

“You need to try one,” she says, directing me to Sarajane Williams, a licensed psychologist who pioneered Vibroacoustic Harp Therapy (VAHT) nearly 20 years ago and has a Somatron vibroacoustic chair. Turns out, Williams lives not far from me in Lower Macungie, a rural township in southeast Pennsylvania. I arrive at her home the Saturday after a dinner party, tired and weary from cooking for 22 and arguing politics with my husband’s family. We talk first — “You won’t be in any shape to ask questions afterward,” she tells me.

A classically trained harpist, Williams discovered the benefits of vibrational therapy in 1990, while working as a biofeedback technician at a chronic-pain center in Bethlehem, Pa. The center used a “sound bed” to blast patients with vibrations.

“I saw how effective it was for relieving pain and anxiety,” she says, so one day she brought in her harp, plugged it into the microphone jack and began playing. “I found the denser tissue responded more to the low notes and the higher frequencies to the peripheries: fingers, toes, head,” she said. Thus, she was able to tailor the therapy to the individual.

One of her patients receives weekly VAHT sessions to ease her migraines and fibromyalgia symptoms. “Nothing else works,” Williams says. Other benefits of the treatment include decreased blood pressure, heart and respiratory rates, improved breathing, improved sleep, increased mobility and emotional release. “It’s like a jackhammer,” she says. “It loosens things up.”

She then directs me to a leather lounger near a large gold-filigree harp. She covers me with a blanket and reclines the chair backward so my feet are above my heart. She begins to play, plucking the strings of the harp one at a time.

“Where do you feel that?” she asks.

A wave of vibrations swells across my lower back.

String by string, she works her way up my spine until she hits the higher notes, which register as soothing pools of color in my head.

“The meridians of your body are like strings on the harp,” she says. “When you pluck them, you release the tension and recharge them so they get what they need.”

Within 30 minutes, the stress of the dinner party begins to melt, and I feel like I’m floating in a sound bath. She was smart in telling me to ask questions first. After, I can barely speak, my face flush with relaxation. I decide for the next family gathering to seat everyone in a sound chair and serve tuning forks.



KATHLEEN PARRISH is a freelance magazine writer and an instructor of journalism at Lafayette College in Easton, Pa. She has written about adult beauty pageants, silent retreats and opera star Andrea Bocelli for American Way. She is co-author of the book My Life on the Run: The Wit, Wisdom, and Insights of a Road Racing Icon.