Walk into any hospital and you might hear the strumming of guitars and harmonizing voices. This is most likely the music therapist. A growing number of hospitals, long term care facilities and out patient centers are utilizing these professionals to help patients more effectively deal with their illness and enhance the recovery process. According to the American Music Therapy Association, music therapy is the “clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program.”
Music therapists have at least a bachelor’s ideally from an accredited program. Through their music through passive or active means, they help patients reduce their stress, anxiety and discomfort in certain cases while increasing alertness and aiding in rehabilitating efforts in others. They are a common sight in children’s hospitals which tend to have full departments, but a growing number of organizations are using them. Music therapy is also used often for oncology patients and in management of dementia in long term care and the community setting.
A recent visit to the ICU showed that the role of the music therapist is not limited to patients who are awake and alert. Rather, he was strumming away and singing to an audience of heavily sedated and intubated patients. Interestingly, they are trained to observe the vital signs including heart rate, respirations and blood pressure, and adjust the tempo of the songs accordingly. I clearly observed the physiologic benefit in these patients.
More information on music therapy and its therapists can be found by contacting the American Music Therapy Association.