Welcome to Ignite Music Therapy’s October newsletter edition discussing the important role of music therapy in our hospitals!
I know that we have touched on some of the aspects of the role of music therapists in the hospital setting, but I wanted to dedicate an entire newsletter to bring awareness to the powerful impact music therapists have in this setting.
Coping and Expression
Increasing coping skills and self-expression are very common goals, especially for some of the older kids and adults who get admitted to the hospital for various reasons. Sometimes these patients are getting a new diagnosis and are struggling to cope with this new labeled burden. If they express an interest in learning a new instrument, music therapists will definitely provide coaching and encouragement to help these patients be able to use music making on their own time as a coping skill through this difficult time in their lives. We also use creative music making through instruments, song choice, or songwriting as an outlet for these patients to express and process their emotions and thoughts. It can be very powerful and life changing work for these individuals and is amazing to see the journey they take.
Pain management is a goal for many patients in the hospital setting for a variety of reasons. Some patients are getting blood drawn, IV’s inserted, PICC placements, pain from the illness they are dealing with, etc. Music can be a very beneficial tool to use as pain management because of how the brain works. Our brains can only handle a certain amount of stimulation. If we utilize music to be the majority of the mental stimulation, it reduces the amount of pain our brains can process, therefore reducing the amount of pain people feel. We can also use the iso-principle (another concept we have discussed previously) to match the patients where they are at and help bring their body to a more relaxed state, allowing our bodies to heal and reduces the pain as well.
This goal is a big one for infants, toddlers, and young patients, especially those who are in the hospital for a long amount of time (cancer patients, rehabilitation patients, etc.) These kids that are out of school, out of an environment focused on learning and growing are often times are more subject to falling behind in those developmental milestones, which are so important. For these patients we focus on our speech goals, eye tracking, imitating, more academic songs (ABC’s), and so much more. This not only helps them continue growing and learning, but helps them to continue moving forward in their development.
In some hospital settings the music therapy team takes part in palliative care. This can be a very emotionally taxing part of the job, but is so necessary and needed by some of the families and patients we work with. These patients are individual and families that are going to need long term support. A big portion of this is legacy making, songwriting with family members to help them cope with the situation they were put in, and creating memories with their loved ones through music. This often involves recording original songs, improvising, and even creating songs as a family to honor and show their love to the individual who is needing that long term medical care and support. It is difficult work, but shows how powerful music can be, connecting us on a deeper level.
Music therapists also work closely with the rehabilitation team. Our goals often support the goals the other therapists, (speech, occupational, and physical therapy), are working on. Since music is an emotional medium, we often times will also support these patients through their emotional journey of relearning tasks they could once do without thinking. This too can be very powerful work and it is amazing to see the determination and inspiring progress these individuals make.
If this newsletter sparked any questions or further interest in how music therapy can help in this setting, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with your comments and we would love to continue the conversation with you.