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How Our Music Therapy Program Helps Children Cope With Hospital Stays

A young patient at Gillette Children's

While every patient has a unique care plan, one thing all Gillette families can agree upon is the fact that there is power in music. Music therapy helps manage pain, helps a child adjust to a hospital environment, provides positive emotional experiences, and promotes comfort and relaxation. It is something most patients look forward to each week. 

Music therapy teaches kids that treatment can be fun. Furthermore, when done in a group setting, it fosters socialization. Whether it is singing, listening, dancing, playing instruments and/or writing songs, our board-certified music therapists encourage every patient to get involved. It is a useful tool in helping children cope with a long hospital stay. Its practice dates all the way back to World War I, when patients were dealing with both physical injuries and emotional trauma. 

Music therapy can’t replace the necessary medical procedures patients need. However, your child’s providers and caregivers still work together, similar to any other treatment. As always, the goal is to provide a safe, healthy environment for both patients and their families.  

Understanding The Many Benefits Of Music Therapy 

The great thing about music therapy in a children’s hospital is that there is no age limit, and no previous musical experience is necessary. Plus, in contrast to medical procedures, it is noninvasive with no risk involved. All you need to do is listen and you can participate. Parents even find that it helps them with their own stress and anxiety. Everyone can relate to feeling a sense of happiness after hearing their favorite song. 

Research shows us that the whole brain is involved when playing and listening to music. This includes areas that control movement, speech, emotional processing and memory. It has even been shown to reduce anxiety, improve motor control and help premature babies develop. Simply put, the benefits are tenfold.  

Music therapists can even assist in managing pain. In playing a slow, soothing song, it engages the brain’s reward circuitry and helps manage pain perception. Even in children who are unable to communicate, we often see their heart rate go down and see their breathing regulate. It can be quite calming, which helps a child focus on taking deep breaths. Research even shows a change in brain patterns. Plus, relaxing music can hep stabilize blood pressure if a patient listens to it before, during or after their surgery. 

Any Age, At Any Level, Can Join 

Music therapy comes in all shapes and sizes. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. Some patients enjoy musical games. Others like to play instruments, which has been shown to promote motor skills and cognitive functioning. Older patients look at music as self-expression and enjoy writing lyrics. Every patient, from infants to teenagers, can benefit from music therapy. It helps instill confidence, which flows over into other areas of a child’s life. 

Even when COVID-19 turned the world upside down in 2020, children all across the country were able to benefit from music therapy. Gillette utilized Facebook Live and interacted with the kids via the comments. Patients requested songs and chatted amongst each other. While it didn’t feel the same, it was a wonderful alternative that everyone was thankful for. 

Understandably, many children struggle when confined to their hospital rooms. Moreso, when a child loses their ability to communicate, music therapy gives them a way to still do that. Overall, in playing positive, encouraging songs, it can bring joy during a particularly difficult time. No matter what your child is going through, whether it be stress, grief, or anxiety, the team at Gillette is here to help. Learn more about our music therapy program and the many ways it brings smiles to young faces.


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