More hospitals are recognizing the power of music in healing and comfort. Many organizations are hiring music Therapists that offer individual and group sessions, along with art and movement therapy to ease pain, expand social connections, and bring peace and comfort to patients.
The profession is growing. There are now 8,000 credentialed music Therapists practicing in the United States, according to the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA).
Music therapists typically require a bachelor’s degree offered through a school accredited by the American Music Therapy Association. Therapists also must complete 1,200 hours of clinical training before earning national certification.
Therapists working in general hospitals can use music to:
- Alleviate pain in conjunction with anesthesia or pain medication
- Elevate mood and reduce depression
- Normalize the hospital environment
- Promote movement for physical rehabilitation
- Relax or sedate, often to induce sleep
- Reduce apprehension or fear
- Lessen muscle tension for the purpose of relaxation, including the autonomic nervous system
- Improve memory
Joanna Bereaud, a music therapist at Boston Children’s Hospital specializes in working with younger patients. After the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, Bereaud was called in to play keyboard and sing songs while a young survivor had dressing changes to remove metal shards from her body.
Dana Osterling, another music Therapist at the Children’s hospital has used her skills to help entire families cope in difficult circumstances.
Osterling once had a 12-year-old patient who had been off of treatment for a long time. When the girl’s twin sister came to the hospital to say goodbye, the family asked Osterling to join the family in song.
Dana led them in a rendition of Katy Perry’s “Roar.” She said, “It was a really beautiful moment.”
The pandemic has taken a toll on frontline healthcare workers. Hospitals like Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) are using music programs to help health providers heal and cope with the trauma and stress.
The Boston Hope Music Teaching Project connected teaching fellows from the New England Conservatory with frontline health care workers for weekly private music lessons.
“The expectation for them is not that they get to be on the Carnegie Hall stage. The expectation is for them to have an instrument, and to learn to heal through it, and to express themselves,” said Boston Hope Music co-director Dr. Lisa Wong.
“Music Therapy can make the difference between withdrawal & awareness, between isolation & interaction, between chronic pain & comfort, between demoralization & dignity” – Barbara Crowe, Music Therapist