Music Therapy at Boston Children’s Hospital

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Music Therapy at Boston Children’s Hospital

Music therapy, a therapeutic practice that uses musical instruments to help people manage pain and stress, is becoming more widely utilized in hospitals around the US. It has the potential to benefit people of all ages–from babies to seniors with autism, dementia or cancer–without causing harm or distress.

According to the American Music Therapy Association, music can help alleviate pain, improve motor skills, enhance language development and boost self-esteem. Joanna Bereaud – a music therapist at Boston Children’s Hospital – notes that it also serves as an outlet for distraction and comfort during challenging moments.

Patients often feel anxious about their treatments, and music therapy can help them relax and get through it. That is why Boston Children’s Hospital began a music therapy program in 1996 with just four hours a week from students at Berklee College of Music; over time this has grown to encompass four certified music professionals working 130 hours weekly across both main hospital locations as well as satellite sites.

Research is showing that music can reduce preoperative anxiety, reduce stress and fatigue, as well as enhance motor skills in premature and sick infants. Additionally, it may benefit those who have suffered traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries or strokes.

Some therapists utilize technologies that monitor the body’s response to music to tailor sessions according to individual needs. For instance, Jantz – a music therapist at Boston Children’s – monitors his patients’ heart rates when they play guitars in the neonatal intensive care unit to see how they react to a song’s rhythm. He can then adjust his playing accordingly according to these changes in physiological response which may help them feel more relaxed and less stressed, according to Jantz.

Another technique, biofeedback, allows therapists to observe how a patient’s brain responds to music. It has been used for treating various health conditions like high blood pressure and seizures, according to Miller.

Music can be especially beneficial for those undergoing painful procedures or treatments, such as bone marrow transplants. One study revealed that music reduced pain and anxiety in donors undergoing donor site dressing changes.

Music therapy is being investigated as a possible procedural support during electroencephalogram (EEG) testing for children with epilepsy or seizure disorders. Likewise, it’s being considered as an effective pain management strategy in patients suffering from sickle cell disease and other conditions.

Music can often have both immediate and long-lasting benefits for patients with burns. According to a study published in the Journal of Music Therapy, when patients play drums their pain levels decrease significantly.

According to Al Bumanis of the American Music Therapy Association, when people hear drums their brains respond by releasing dopamine into the reward center of the brain. This can cause feelings of pleasure and reduce pain – similar to how food or sex may make us feel good.

Music therapists such as Whitehead-Pleaux, who works in Boston Children’s’ surgical orthopedics department, have been able to form relationships with their young patients that last years. Sessions may consist of playing tunes for them or creating songs together.

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- Welcome, SoundTherapy.com lowers anxiety 86%, pain 77%, and boosts memory 11-29%. Click on the brain to sign up or share with buttons below to help others: