Is Music Therapy Just For Children's Hospitals?

A few weeks ago, we wrote that many of the best of the best children's hospitals offer music therapy.

But is music therapy just for kids? Regular readers of this blog should already know the answer to that question.

Of course music therapy isn't just for kids! Music therapy can provide valuable outcomes across all populations in the medical setting. There's plenty of research that supports the medical, patient satisfaction, and cost benefits of music therapy in medical settings across all ages.

However, sometimes a little bit of peer pressure is the most effective evidence out there.

11 of the top 18 hospitals offer music therapy.

Yep. 61%.

Every year, U.S. News and World Report publishes an "honor roll" of the cream-of-the-crop hospitals. There are 18 on the list this year, and 11 of them offer music therapy!

It gets better...

6 out of the top 6 offer music therapy!

I know, 5 out of 5 sounds better, but you can't leave out #6 when they're on board with music therapy too!

Here's what that top 6 looks like:

  • Johns Hopkins Hospital
  • Massachusetts General Hospital
  • Mayo Clinic
  • Cleveland Clinic
  • UCLA Medical Center
  • Northwestern Memorial Hospital

Wow. A few recognizable names on there, eh?

Music therapy is far from being something just for children's hospitals, and with the nation's top hospitals buying in, it's easy to imagine this trend growing.

Ready to join the likes of Johns Hopkins and the Mayo Clinic? The George Center will design and staff a music therapist for YOUR hospital!



Image credit: Flickr user terren in Virginia

Hospitals That "Get It"

If you browse through the U.S. News and World Report's list of top hospitals, you may notice an interesting trend.

TONS of them offer music therapy!

Just how many?

Well, a full 90% of the children's hospitals on their "Honor Roll" offer some form of music therapy to their patients.

But what if you break things down by speciality? What about the growing field of NICU Music Therapy? If you examine the Top 50 Hospitals for Neonatology, you'll notice some big trends with NICU-MT:

  • 3 out of the top 5 neonatology programs offer NICU music therapy.
  • 6 of the top 15 offer music therapy
  • In all, 11 of the top 50 neonatology programs offer NICU music therapy services.

That's pretty dang impressive!

Now, we can't really say that music therapy or NICU music therapy is directly responsible for improving the rankings for these hospitals. In fact, based on the method behind the rankings, it's not likely that gains from music therapy programs are directly measured and accounted for.

However, it DOES show us that the best of the best "get it" when it comes to music therapy. They understand the impact music therapy can have on medical outcomes for patients, their satisfaction level, and the fiscal gains that are possible with medical music therapy.

More and more hospitals are jumping on the trend, and there's plenty of evidence that supports their decision.

Interested in getting YOUR Atlanta area hospital on board with music therapy? Let's talk!



3 FASCINATING Studies on Music Therapy in Hospitals

Medical music therapy is a fast growing field, but it's far from "new!" There's some truly fascinating research out there on using music therapy to support standard medical procedures taking place in hospitals all across the country every day.


1. Live music therapy reduces time required for MRI scans (Walworth, D.D.)

5-minutes per scan saved when supported by a music therapist may not sound like a lot, but when you multiply that across the hundreds of MRI scans performed in major hospitals every year, you've saved some serious time! And we all know how much people LOVE shorter wait times...


2. Music therapy supported device increases effectiveness of feeding for premature babies (Cevasco, A.M.; Grant, R.E.)

The Pacifier Activated Lullaby (PAL) Device is a neat piece of music therapy technology that can shorten how long premature babies stay in the NICU. This study found that using the device 30-minutes prior to feeding increased the effectiveness of the feedings.


3. Patient-preferred music decreases anxiety, increases relaxation, and improves patient perception of hospitalization (Walworth, D.D.; Rumana, C.S.; Nguyen, J.; Jarred, J.)

As you might imagine, brain surgery can be a little stressful for patients. This study found that patients who received live music therapy (using patient preferred music, of course) had improved quality of life indicators prior to the procedure. That's a relief.


Did you know The George Center offers music therapy services to hospitals in the Atlanta area? Set up a consultation to learn more!


Image credit: Wikipedia Commons



Round Up, August 12th

Welcome to the new week, readers! This week, we'll celebrate the one year anniversary of The George Center Blog! But we've got a Round Up to get to, and there are some great music therapy stories in the news this week. Let's get to it!

How Music Therapy Works (Boston Magazine)

I just love the name of this article! Lots of news outlets have covered what music therapy is, but I love that Boston Magazine decided to tell readers how music therapy works. Definitely worth a read!

Music Therapy Faculty Presents in Norway (Marylhurst University)

Dr. Kern is a respected leader in our field, and editor of Imagine Magazine, an early childhood music therapy magazine that The George Center will soon be featured in. It's great to hear about her getting international opportunities to demonstrate her knowledge!

Norton Audubon joins hospitals nationwide embracing music therapy (Courier-Journal)

It's always great to see music therapy expanding into more hospitals! Medical music therapy is a fast-growing field with some powerful research behind it. The George Center offers music therapy services for hospitals and medical facilities right here in Atlanta!

Lung Flute Blends Music, Therapy, and Innovation (University of Buffalo)

Hmmm, here's an interesting device! The Lung Flute helps clear mucus build up in the lungs simply by having the user blow through the pipe, which vibrates a reed, causing acoustic vibrations to loosen mucus in the lungs. Pretty cool!

Now, as a music therapist, I'm interested in seeing how this device might be modified to facilitate a musical experience while preserving the medical function of the device that might encourage regular usage. Imagine if users were able to play simple songs on the device. Might encourage patients to use the device regularly or even decrease fatigue while using it!

Interested in learning more about how a music therapist could improve services at your healthcare facility or hospital? Contact us today for a free consultation!


Round Up, July 29th

I'd hate to be the bearer of bad news...but the Summer of 2013 is coming to an end. Can you even believe that? The good news on this subject is this: Any Dream Will Do is coming back! If you missed out on our teen performing arts group last year, you DEFINITELY don't want to miss it this year! Details on that will be coming soon! To stay up to date, head over to our Facebook page and click "like!"

On to the Round Up...

Music may help lessen kids’ needle stress (

In a new study, children who listened to music while receiving IV insertions showed lower stress and anxiety. In order to facilitate controlled variables, the children all listened to the same music recordings. Yet we KNOW that patient-preferred music is more effective, as well as live music vs. recorded music, so just imagine how helpful a music therapist might be at a hospital making rounds on the pediatric ward!


Don't Trust Online Tests For Alzheimer's Disease (Forbes)

Unfortunately, scams aimed at older adults have been around for a long time, with the advent of the social web bringing about all new scam methods. In this instance, we have online "surveys" that scare you into believing you have Alzheimer's Disease and pushing you to buy supplements and other "preventative" treatments.

However, as detailed in this recent Forbes article, these online surveys are bunk. As anyone who has Googled symptoms of anything before, sometimes it's best just to get your health advice the old fashioned way, at your doctor.


Dementia Largely Undiagnosed in China (Huffington Post)

Interesting study conducted that found that over 90% of dementia cases in China go undiagnosed. China has the largest population of individuals with dementia.

10 Epic Fails in Classical Music (Classic FM) pretty hilarious. At least it is for the music nerds among us. If you don't read the whole list, at least watch this video of this kid's flawless recovery after a cymbal...accident. A true pro's pro.


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The Music Prescription

One of the questions I frequently get asked when I tell people what I do goes something along the lines of:

"So, do you just play different songs for people to make them feel better? What songs do you use? How do you choose the right ones?"

As someone who works in the field, I've always found this question a bit odd. However, once you examine where it comes from, you get a better understanding of not just people's conception of music therapy, but as healthcare as a whole.

We've discussed the paradigm shift in healthcare from a disease-centered approach to a patient-centered approach at length on this blog. When you move the focus from the disease to the patient, several important factors change:

  • A holistic approach gains more importance
  • Decisions are made by health teams rather than individuals who do not communicate
  • Healthy living becomes more of a long term mission rather than a short term "recipe."

Music therapy fits perfectly into this mold. Not only can music therapy address a client's physiological needs, but their emotional, cognitive, and spiritual needs as well. Collaboration is highly important in music therapy. And of course, there is no "recipe" for success, but rather music therapy utilizes individualized plans for each client based on their needs.

It's from this "disease-centered" view of medicine that I think our original question stems from. Most of us are conditioned to a formulaic approach to wellness.

Ailment + Pill = Health

So when you hear about this "music therapy" thing, of course your initial idea is:

Ailment + Song = Health

However, this formula is missing several vital variables. The client's preferences, the client's individual needs, the client's cultural background, their age, the setting, etc. I don't think there really is a "formula" to follow.

When I say there's not a "formula," I certainly don't mean to say that there is no evidence-base for what we do. I think a more appropriate analogy might be that of a nutritionist. While certain truisms carry across clients (to lose weight, you must burn more calories than you consume), it's not as simple as saying "Acid reflux? Eat more of this, eat less of that."

It's a brave new world of healthcare, one that examines all of a patient's needs, and when our focus is on the individual, patients win.

Interested in learning more about music therapy? Come visit our clinic and meet with our staff! Sign up for a free consultation below.



Image credit: Flickr user

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

Sci-Fi Music Therapy Part 2: Deep Brain Stimulation Surgery

Lately, I've stumbled across a few articles featuring some high-tech medical equipment and surgeries, and of course my therapist mind wanders and asks "How could music therapy work with this technology?" In part 1 of this serious, I discussed Ekso Bionics. In part 2, we're looking at a new type of surgery called deep brain stimulation, or brain pacemaker surgery.

What is it?

In neurologic diseases such as Parkinson's, patients may experience tremors, stiffness, and limited mobility that affects their quality of life. Drinking from a glass, driving, or participating in leisure activities such as golf or music can become difficult or impossible as a result. Medicine is available to help control this, however it must be taken multiple times a day, which can be difficult to keep up with. It also results in "peaks and valleys" of functioning between doses as the medicine takes effect then slowly fades. Additionally, as Parkinson's is a progressive disease, the dosages must be frequently adjusted by a doctor in order to have the desired effect. And of course, every medicine has side effects.

So what if there was another way?

Get ready to have your mind blown by medical science.

Deep brain stimulation, or DBS, is a procedure in which a device, similar to a heart pacemaker, is implanted into the brain. The device sends electrical signals to specific areas of the brain and blocks the abnormal neural signals that result in the tremors, stiffness, and other neurologic symptoms of Parkinson's.

Let's pause for a minute and reflect on how amazing that is.

Now obviously, this is a surgery that takes some precision. You can't simply stick this device anywhere in the brain, you could cause serious damage! So in order to accurately place the device, patients are woken up during the surgery and given a series of tests to determine the best placement of the device.

Think of it like going to the eye doctor when she asks you "Which lens is clearer, 1 or 2? 2 or 3? 2 or 4?"

Except this time it's "Are the tremors worse or better now?"

Recently, UCLA Health performed the 500th DBS surgery. To mark the occasion, the hospital "live-tweeted" the procedure from the operating room! They took pictures and videos and posted them on Twitter as the surgery was happening, explaining what the doctors were doing.

You can check out the surgery here. If those kind of things make you squeamish, you may not want to view the link, though any site of blood or other internal body parts is minimal.

Here's where it gets cool.

The gentlemen they were operating on is a musician! In order to help test the best placement of the device that helped reduce his tremors the most, they decided to have him perform one of his favorite leisure activities right there on the operating table. They had him bring a guitar into the O.R. and play it while the doctors were performing surgery on his brain.


So. Cool. So the next logical question is...

How could a music therapist help?

The patient must perform a series of neurologic tests while the doctor is working in his brain. Even with anesthesia and other drugs, I can imagine this can be a bit unnerving for some patients. We already know that music therapists can provide procedural support during medical procedures to help ease nerves and calm patients. What if we could do it in the O.R. for surgeries such as this? Rather than a standard set of neurologic tests, what if we designed a set of music-based tests that measured the same functions? Instrument play, basic movement activities, all using patient-preferred music that allowed the doctors to gather the information they need, but tailored around the patient to help calm his or her nerves and forget about what's going on behind the curtain.

It seems like a very feasible thing to accomplish. The surgeons could meet with the music therapist and describe the types of movements they need the patient to perform in order to determine the best placement of the device. The music therapist could then suggest various music-based activities that will accomplish these functions. The music therapist could then meet with the patient to tailor the procedure to their musical preferences.

Then it's time to scrub up and head to the O.R.!

What do you think? What are some other ways a music therapist could support this procedure? Leave a comment and let us know!

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