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Frequently Asked Questions

Is it Music Therapy?

In short, no!

Therapeutic Music and Music Therapy are not the same thing. There are many differences in these modalities, but that doesn't mean you have to choose between them! Music Therapists and Therapeutic Musicians can work side by side due to their different training, techniques, and goals. Because of this, patients can benefit from both of these therapeutic services.

Why a Therapeutic Musician?

There are many important reasons to consider a Therapeutic Musician!

Education

A Therapeutic Musician is specifically trained and certified by the National Standards Board for Therapeutic Musicians, and has completed both clinical and independent practicums. A Certified Music Practitioner (CMP) is a graduate of the Music for Healing and Transition Program, and is required to regularly complete Continuing Education Credits in order to maintain this certification. Further, CMPs work within a Scope of Practice and are bound by a Code of Ethics in order to protect the patient, meet HIPAA standards, and provide the best quality of care.

A volunteer musician may play as a hobby, or hold a music degree. Volunteer musicians certainly have value, and it can be fun to share in their performances. They simply have not completed the specific criteria required by this profession. In healthcare facilities, only qualified medical staff like Certified Music Practitioners are allowed to enter private patient areas to administer care.

Assessment

CMPs assess the patient’s immediate needs by evaluating blood pressure, heart rate, oxygen saturation, mood, body language, etc. Without an assessment, competent care cannot be provided.


The Music

A volunteer musician performs for an audience as a form of entertainment, and may even take requests or work from a set list.

A Certified Music Practitioner provides an important healthcare service intended to support the patient's ability to heal, without requiring any participation from the patient. A CMP tailors the music to the changing physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs of the patient in the moment.

Treatment

CMPs are aware of the effects of all types of music, and utilize music's intrinsic components to address the patient holistically. Because music is an incredibly powerful medium and can have negative effects just as it can have positive effects, a trained and certified Therapeutic Musician is vital when it comes to providing treatment.

Untrained musicians may accidentally trigger injurious physical and emotional states. For more information about Music Induced Harm, please read this abstract.

Does it Work?

Therapeutic Music is an evidence-based modality and essential healthcare service!

Many studies have been performed to examine the effects of music on patients suffering from a variety of ailments. Music has had a place in healthcare for ages! Pythagoras (the "father of music") was the first person to prescribe music as medicine, teaching that one could heal using sound and harmonic principles. Modern studies confirm this! To read further, check out the Biblio section.

Who Benefits?

Everyone benefits from Therapeutic Music! Even visitors and facility staff naturally benefit by simply being in proximity. This unique and valuable healing modality addresses a variety of patient conditions:

Injury and Recovery

Chronic Disease

Emotional Crises

Terminal Illness

Life Transitions

Chronic Pain

Acute Conditions

Anxiety and Depression

Cognitive Impairments

Birth and Dying

What are the Effects?

According to the National Standards Board for Therapeutic Musicians,the benefits of therapeutic music can include, but are not limited to:

PHYSICAL

Vital Sign Support

Increased Oxygen

Decreased Blood Pressure

Decreased/Stabilized Heart Rate

Decreased/Stabilized Respiration

Augmented Pain Management

Relief of Body Tension

Accelerated Physical Healing

Easing the Birth Delivery Process

Easing the Dying During Transition

Change in Brainwave Frequencies

Allowing the Body to Rest

Affecting Digestion Systems

Stimulating the Vagus Nerves

“You can look at disease as a form of disharmony. And there's no organ system in the body that's not affected by sound and music and vibration.”

Mitchell Gaynor (1956-2015)


MENTAL

Reduced Stress

Refocused Attention

Altered Sense of Time

Aiding Mental Focus

Reduced Mental Tension

Encouraging Imagination

Increased Mindfulness

Altered Perceptions

• Stimulates Creativity

• Distraction and Dissociation

“Music is the mysterious key of memory, unlocking the hoarded treasures of the heart. Tones, at times, in music, will bring back forgotten things.”

Lord Edward Bulwer Lytton (1803-1873)


EMOTIONAL

Reduced Anxiety

Increased Morale

Stabilized Mood

Decreased Overwhelm

Allowing for Emotional Processing

Evoking Emotional Memories

Influencing Action

“Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent.”

Victor Hugo (1802-1885)


SPIRITUAL

Inspires Connection

Encourages Feelings of Harmony

Creates Opportunity for Presence

Increased Sense of Worth

Increased Empathy

Increased Inner Peace

Bridges Communication Between Loved Ones

Allows for Transformational Experiences

“The highest goal of music is to connect one’s soul to their Divine Nature, not entertainment.”

Pythagoras (569- 475 BC)

Where Is It Found?

Therapeutic Music can be provided in myriad environments! Because it is a comprehensive healing tool, it can be found in places like:

Hospitals

Dental Offices

Hospices

Nursing Homes

Chiropractic Offices

Psychiatric Facilities

Birthing Centers

Private Practice

Treatment Centers

Educational Institutions

Why In Person?

Therapeutic Music is ideally provided in person, and there are many benefits to this:

There is no substitute for compassionate presence.

Music brings joy and connection.

Music can be immediately adapted to the patient’s needs.

Live acoustic music is not compressed and digitized like recorded music. This allows for greater effectiveness as live music has a rich spectrum of vibrations and harmonics.

What's a Session Like?

A Therapeutic Music session is unique to each patient, and is adapted to meet the patient’s immediate needs. A typical session proceeds thus:

I obtain a referral

Referrals may come from a patient, their family or friends, their care providers, chaplains, or social workers.

I receive the patient’s permission

Many patients are curious about my instrument, and sometimes even mistake it for a barbecue grill! Often patients are happy to have both a visitor and a distraction from their time in the hospital. Nevertheless, it is always the patient’s choice to allow me in their room. I explain to the patient and any visitors who I am, my role as a therapeutic musician, and what they can expect from me. I invite them to relax and enjoy, reminding them that what I provide is not entertainment, but a service intended to facilitate healing.

I set up and begin to play

I position myself so that I can see the patient. Sometimes I am given information about the patient that guides my music, though frequently I must discern through observation what type of music would best meet their needs. While I have no specific agenda, I do hope to provide comfort and stability to the patient. It is quite rewarding to see a patient finally able to rest, allowing their bodies to heal.

During the session

I generally play for about 20 minutes, all while keeping my attention on any changes in the patient. Depending on the changes I observe, I may adjust the tempo, complexity, texture, melody, style, dynamic, or duration of the music. Changes can be subtle or overt, and can occur abruptly or over time. I am constantly observing and adapting to the patient.

I end the session

I may end a session when the patient falls asleep, when I feel I have provided sufficient care, or when the patient requests that I stop. I thank the patient (even when they are asleep) and quietly exit their room. I then document the session and note any changes I observed in the patient.

After the session

This work can be intense, and I sometimes need to take time to process the pain that I witness. I am grateful to those who appreciate the intimacy of my profession, and who share with me how a therapeutic music session has affected them. Read more in these Testimonials.

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