7 Reasons to NOT Start a Music Therapy Program at Your Hospital (and a Rebuttal for Each of 'Em)

If you'll allow me, I'd like to share with you a brief personal story. I recently had a bad experience trying to buy a used car. Many of you have probably had similar experiences. I felt they were dishonest with me and went back on a deal they had offered. Not cool.

The whole situation left a bad taste in my mouth. I felt like they insulted my intelligence by trying to tell me I didn't really hear what I heard and we didn't really talk about what we talked about. It's unlikely that I'll buy a car there, even if they have a great deal, because they lost my trust. I won't likely send any of my friends or family members there either.

However, this situation did remind me of the importance of honesty and transparency when working with others. I strive to be honest and transparent in my work everyday, and it's a bit of a point of pride around here at The George Center. We're always stressing the importance of communicating with our clients and their families, sharing what we're working on, and how the progress is going.

That got me to thinking about this blog, and all the articles we publish on how FANTASTIC music therapy is in healthcare settings for hospitals and assisted living facilities. And let me just say from the get-go, I firmly believe that music therapy is a FANTASTIC, powerful, effective model of treatment in health settings.

BUT (there's always a but, right?) that doesn't mean a program manager or director at a hospital or nursing facility doesn't have reservations. I get that.

So in the interest of transparency, and at the risk of talking myself out of a job, I thought I'd list a few reasons you might NOT start a music therapy program at your hospital.

BUT (see what I mean?) there's a catch. This is OUR blog. So I get to make a few rules, right? The catch is: I'm going to offer a rebuttal for each and every reason I list here.

I'll let it all air out, and I feel pretty strongly that once all the cards are on the table, you won't be left with many reasons to not give us a call and get a music therapist in your hospital, nursing facility, heck you'll even want me to come sing to you at your desk!

Reason #1: It's not in our budget! We can't afford a music therapist!

Hah! I knew you were going to say that! It always comes down to the numbers, doesn't it? Since I saw this one coming from a mile away, I've got plenty of counter arguments.

Music therapy can actually SAVE money! We've got the studies to prove it! Echocardiograms in children? BOOM! Prices slashed by $74! Think about it, having a music therapist come do procedural support for things like echocardiograms and needle pricks is a whole lot cheaper (and with less side effects) than using pharmaceutical sedatives. Don't worry anesthesiologists, there's still plenty of work out there for you.

Another study found that a NICU music therapy program could cut $10,000 off a NICU stay! You think that won't make a name for your hospital in your city?

Here's a study that found a music therapy program saved per patient hospice costs by $2,984 while costing $3,615. Not a bad ratio. Now wait, I can already hear you:

"But Andrew, $3,615 is MORE than $2,984!"

Yeah, I know. But consider this: why not SAVE money by contracting your music therapy services out to a private practice (we're got a great recommendation for one...) that specializes in that? You do it with all sorts of other services your hospital offers.

Which brings me to my next point...

Reason #2: I'm a director at a hospital, but I don't know the first thing about music therapy. How the heck am I supposed to create a music therapy program?

I gotcha again here: DON'T start a music therapy program on your own, leave it to an expert! How are you supposed to keep up with certification and license requirements, best practices, pay roll, keeping your MT up-to-date in her field, and yada yada yada...

We take this whole music therapy thing pretty seriously at The George Center. Our therapy team has all the certifications, licenses, and trainings you could ever want. We know music therapy.


Reason #3: We've already got a (music guy/volunteer musicians/college student) doing music here.

Look, would you hire your gym buddy to be your physical therapist after an injury? Would you hire a sophomore economics major to manage your portfolio? Would you let a volunteer extract your wisdom teeth?

If you're serious about starting a music program at your hospital or nursing facility, why leave it in the hands of anybody outside of a trained music therapist? It takes a lot of training and dedication to become a music therapist. We're pretty good at using music to address non-music goals.

Now, I don't mean to put down volunteer musicians or college students using music in hospitals. I think it's wonderful, and there is absolutely a place for it. But to expect the same results from one of these individuals as a music therapist is a bit like, well...asking your gym buddy to be your physical therapist after you tear your ACL. It's just not his area of expertise.


Reason #4: We're very self-conscious, and we want to fit in with the other hospitals.

Allow me to introduce you to a few hospitals currently offering music therapy programs (disclaimer: we have no affiliation with these hospitals nor they with us. But we do know some of their music therapists, and they're all pretty awesome.)

The list goes on and on. But I think I've made my point. Time to keep up with the Joneses...

 Reason #5: There's just not enough research out there for music therapy.

I want you to read three links:

  1. Music Therapy fact sheet from the American Music Therapy Association
  2. The Music Therapy Research Blog (founded by Dr. Blythe LaGassee, who is brilliant.)
  3. What if Music Therapy Had Big Pharma Money? (This one is to illustrate a point regarding research volume)

Reason #6: Even with the research, "music therapy" just sounds like mumbo-jumbo.

Can't fault you there, it is a funny name. What I can tell you is that there is some value in that funny name.

Reason #7: I just don't have any idea where to begin.


Image credit: Brandon Stovold