Medical Music Therapy

NICU and Procedural Support


NICU Music Therapy

What is NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) Music Therapy?

The National Institute for Infant & Child Medical Music Therapy was formally established in 2005. Its mission is to provide an international focus on research, evidence-based clinical practice, and professional training in the efficacy of music therapy for enhancing and humanizing medical treatment of infants and children.

Premature infants are extremely fragile with many beginning their treatment at a basic survival level. Handling and interaction can be harmful to their care and must be carefully designed to promote the medical/developmental goals of treatment in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), especially when adding non-essential stimuli such as music. Evidence-based music therapy treatment in this most critical setting is based on information about the needs of the infants, medical and developmental goals of NICU care, and music therapy protocols documented in refereed research literature. The National Institute for Infant & Child Medical Music Therapy maintains a list of individuals completing the NICU-MT training as a service to the medical community.

What does a NICU Music Therapy session look like?

Multimodal stimulation is paired with music to increase an infant’s tolerance for stimulation without
becoming overstimulated.  Four types of stimulation are used and are layered in the following order: auditory (lullaby style music), tactile (touch), vestibular (rocking), and visual.  If an infant can tolerate auditory stimulation alone, tactile stimulation is added in a systematic way.  The stimulation is synchronized with the infant’s development, head to toe and inside out.  Research has shown that this procedure can result in decreased length of hospitalization for infants in the intensive care unit, decreased stress behaviors, and increased daily weight gain.

A board certified music therapist conducts an individualized session with you and your infant in consultation with the infant’s medical team.  The initial session is 40 minutes in length including: parent hands on training/music therapy intervention, parent and medical team consultation, and NICU MT overview.  Follow up sessions are 30 minutes in length; 20 minutes music therapy intervention and 10 minutes consultation and documentation.
Lullaby style guitar music is used to provide auditory stimulation.  Parent/caregiver is educated about the signs of overstimulation, positive responses, and engages in tactile and vestibular stimulation.

Procedural Support

Music Therapy and Procedural Support
Medical prodecures can often be painful and create feelings of anxiety in patients undergoing them. Unfortunately, for many, they are necessary. For those healthcare facilities actively seeking ways to reduce the amount of sedation patients undergo, Music Therapy can be a cost-effective option for both invasive and non-invasive medical procedures. Use of music therapy as procedural support has been shown to decrease the need for sedation, and reduce the length of the medical procedure itself, which in turn frees up medical staff for other tasks. Music Therapy in Procedural support with both pediatrics and adults is designed to promote healthy coping strategies and decrease distress/anxiety in individuals undergoing medical procedures.

What Does it Look Like?
During use of Music Therapy as procedural support, the Music Therapist continually assesses the patient's responses in order to shift the focus of the music therapy intervention to positively influence outcomes. This can be done through altering aspects of the music itself, redirecting the focus of the patient's attention, and through the therapist's musical and non-musical interactions with the patient. Some often-used Music Therapy techniques in procedural support are music-assisted relaxation, and active music making and improvisation, to name a few.

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