Uncovering the power of music therapy

You may be familiar with the famous quote, “where words fail, music speaks.” This is especially true for the important work done by music therapists.

March is Music Therapy Awareness Month, which raises awareness of the use of music for enhancing the health and well-being of patients by certified music therapists.

“Music therapy not only empowers patients through the transformative power of music, it also gives patients a sense of community and belonging in their rehabilitation journey,” says Hannah You, a certified music therapist at UHN about the vital work of music therapy in health care.

What is music therapy?

There is a strong connection between music and healing. Music therapy uses music as a care tool for therapeutic intervention for patients to promote mental, emotional and physical health and well-being, with the intent to provide a powerful and evidence-based treatment. Music therapy is patient-centred and sessions are personalized to fit the unique needs and health goals of each patient. All are welcome, patients don’t require a musical background or experience to participate in music therapy.

What happens during a session?

Depending on a patient’s needs and requests, a session is designed to engage the patient with therapeutic elements of music. Music therapy sessions can include:

  • Listening to live music played by the music therapist. Patients can choose the music being played or sung.
  • Playing music with simple instruments
  • Writing an original song

Music therapy is about connection. These sessions can involve a variety of music styles and different ways of engaging with music to reach the patient’s treatment goals. A music therapist plans sessions tailored to fit each patient’s needs and uses music to connect and establish a trusting therapeutic relationship.

Who can benefit from music therapy?

Patients from all age groups and abilities can benefit from musical therapy. It is proven to be an effective approach to helping patients manage pain symptoms, and assist with mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, or developmental or physical disabilities.

How can you access music therapy at UHN?

At UHN, patients at the Pulmonary Rehabilitation Clinic at Toronto Western Hospital can participate in a music therapy group called Singing to Breathe. Singing to Breathe is a collaborative effort between patients and clinic staff and is almost entirely funded through the support of a generous donor, Joseph Mulder, in memory of his partner Richard Malo, who passed away from lung disease in 2015 and was a beloved patient of the Clinic.

Thanks to Hannah You, a certified music therapist at UHN for her help with this article.

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