Music Therapy, Fine-Tuned for Transformations

Music Therapy can benefit people at any age

I’m a Music Therapist. I have been told by people, “You have the best job,” and “How wonderful it is you do this.” But more often, I am told, “I have never heard of Music Therapy.”

What is Music Therapy?

Music Therapy is the use of music by a board certified Music Therapist to achieve nonmusical goals. For example, children may learn academic skills through singing songs. Individuals in an eating disorder treatment program may work on self confidence and acceptance through song writing. Individuals recovering from a traumatic brain injury may play drums to work on coordination and strength.

Individuals receiving Music Therapy don’t need to be a musician to experience the benefits. My job is to assess what a client needs — whether it may be academic support, gait training, pain relief, an emotional outlet or personal expression — and then create a Music Therapy session targeted to assess the client’s specific needs.

In my work as a Music Therapist:

  • An 11 year old girl with autism practiced conversation skills.
  • Preschool children in an inclusion setting learned animal sounds and color names.
  • A family selected the patient’s favorite songs as the patient was actively dying.
  • A patient relearned ukulele chords so she could play her late mother’s favorite songs as a tribute to her.
  • A patient selected songs to play at her funeral.
  • A patient’s niece had the opportunity to play the piano for him during his hospitalization.
  • A war veteran shared about his experiences in Vietnam.
  • Children in a homeless shelter had opportunities for personal expression and success.
  • Dementia patients in long term care decreased agitation while listening to live music.
  • Individuals with Parkinson’s Disease rewrote the lyrics to “Don’t Stop Believing” to express how they were coping with their disease.
  • A couple celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary in the hospital, reminiscing, listening and singing to music they used to dance to.

What are the Effects of Music Therapy?

One of the most beautiful effects to observe is when Music Therapy provides the opportunity to form connections.

When singing at a bedside vigil for an actively dying patient, the patient’s wife requested “Fields of Gold.” This was a song the patient would call and sing to her on the phone while he was working. During the music, the patient’s breathing slowed and spastic movements decreased and the wife and other visitors all touched the patient’s arms, cried and shared stories about the patient. Prior to my arrival, the family was all seated away from the patient.

Despite not knowing what Music Therapy is at the beginning of the session, by the end of the session most hospital patients are requesting another session. Upon arrival, they may have rated their anxiety and pain “through the roof,” but at the end of the session they say, “I wasn’t even thinking about it. It’s gone.”

When Do You Use Music Therapy?

So, the next time you are at an individualized education plan meeting for your child, ask about music therapy.

When hospitalized, ask about music therapy.

When selecting a hospice or receiving hospice care, ask about music therapy.

When recovering from a traumatic brain injury, ask about music therapy.

Music Therapy can be effective for nearly every client-so please don’t hesitate to speak to a member of your care team about how to receive Music Therapy.

To learn more about Music Therapy or find a Music Therapist in your area, please visit www.musictherapy.org.

Has music helped you make it through a difficult time in your life? Share your experience in the comments section below or on the CaringBridge Facebook page.

Greta Mason is a Board Certified Music Therapist in Minnesota and a graduate student at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. In addition to music, she enjoys cooking, a good book, biking, golfing, playing soccer, hiking in State Parks, watching repeats of her favorite television shows, and playing games and spending time with her family and friends.

Comments (12)

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Daniel Zongrone Oct 13, 2014 10:33pm
Hi Greta I would like to speak with briefly regarding my music therapy support program Please send a reply when you can Regards Daniel dzongrone@ gmail .com
Ashis Mondal Oct 13, 2014 8:13pm
Excellent article
oyinlomo Sep 25, 2014 1:23pm
Seems it is not only me who has the passion for music I hope you achieve all your objectives and aims.
Theresa Sep 17, 2014 6:38am
My Heart is overjoyed and so touched by these messages. I want to do more to help. So thank you for inspiring me and pointing me to you and what you do for others I would love to walk along side you in life helping others. I want to know how i can help and how to do more. May you and your family be blessed always. Sincerely, Theresa
Diana Ice, MME, MT-BC Sep 16, 2014 7:01pm
Thank you for this and for spreading the word! I'm a Board-Certified Music Therapist and I can verify that what Greta says is so true! Music therapy is a powerful tool.
Mary E. Hanegraaf -Reeve Sep 16, 2014 6:21pm
When myy mother was in a nursing home after she fell and broke her hip she was very depressed and would not participate in any other the nursing home activities. She also had mild dementia. So, when a music therapist came to her room with a guitar one week and a harp the next week she actually sang along with the music therapist! I was thrilled to hear about her participation in music. My sister and I are both musicians and music educators as well as my husband and son. I am so glad in her advanced age she participated in making music with another person. Mary E. Hanegraaf Reeve, St. Paul Public Schools music teacher
Elizabeth Caputo Sep 16, 2014 12:17pm
Thank you! When my husband was in hospice a woman came to my apt. through hospice and played the gaitar for both my husband and myself. I believe my husband enjoyed it I know I certainly did. It was great for me to relax a bit when the musician came. I appreicate you reminding me of this. God bless you
Katie Cronin Aug 28, 2014 11:17am
A wonderful explanation of what you do and why you do it. Also a reminder on the many applications of music as a therapy from birth to death and the many days in between.
Sheryl Anne Lehman Aug 06, 2014 4:54pm
As a TBI recipient, I am confident that this is the treatment that perhaps I should have had. I played French horn before my accident but was resigned to discontinue as the soft pallet would not close. Having to quit playing, I felt as though I lost a close friend. I believe in music therapy as a necessary tool in anyone's recovery. God Bless Your Day.
Deacon Bob Bisciglia Aug 06, 2014 4:05pm
As a Pastoral Minister, I've had the privilege to be with many individuals along with their friends and families through sickness and dying. Prayers are always helpful through those difficult times and music adds yet another dimension in ways that ministers to our spirit through the Holy Spirit. I have witnessed so many times the calming and soothing effects beautiful music can provide for the dying and everyone present. I did not realize, before reading your article of the many uses and applications of Music Therapy. Greta, I am encouraged and inspired by what you are doing and pray for your on going success in this most important ministry!
Betty Cook Aug 06, 2014 8:42am
Greta. Your explanation of what you do for others made me so proud to be your great aunt. I'm also pleased that shortly you will do some of your preparation on my old piano. Prayers that your music vocation will bring you satisfaction and joy for many years
Angela Aug 05, 2014 5:11pm
Greta, thank you for sharing more about what you do and how you help those in need. Music is a big part of our lives - we take my 20mo daughter to a music class every week and have for almost a year now. Did you see the video of the young man who used music to help him speak in front of his class despite his stutter? It was so moving to see how music can transform people and help them accomplish great things. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cWeKiZS-dxM