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Music therapy uses music to address physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs of patients. A clinical, evidence-based practice, music therapy can be used to reduce stress, manage pain and provide a physical, emotional or creative outlet. During cancer treatment, music therapists work closely with the care team — particularly child life specialists, speech therapists, physical therapists, occupational therapists and social workers — to understand what type of music therapy interventions are appropriate for children.
The brain processes information such as sights and sounds to help us make sense of the world around us. Music allows us to understand things that are complicated. It stimulates areas of the brain which control our emotions, memory, and physical movement. Music also increases the serum melatonin levels the body uses to relax. It causes the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine which activates reward centers in the brain. The reward system is part of the nervous system responsible for positive emotions and associative learning.
In music therapy, patients engage in specific music interventions with the assistance of a professional music therapist. In recent years, music therapy has become part of mainstream health care and it is effective in:
Music has the ability to evoke powerful imagery, emotions or thoughts. Patients and families may discuss the appropriateness of music therapy as part of their care plan. Music therapists offer the best uses of music based on need and music preferences to meet individual goals.
Music therapy utilizes a variety of musical activities including:
The type of music intervention often varies by age and developmental level. For infants, music therapy may involve listening to music, singing to encourage the child to respond to their own sounds (infant-directed singing) and interacting with musical instruments. Music therapy can help babies:
Fun music interventions may be used to address physical, emotional, cognitive, social and academic needs. Music therapy may offer the opportunity express thoughts and feelings that children may not be able to otherwise demonstrate. It can help with:
For older children and teens, music therapy can involve listening to, creating or analyzing music and lyrics. Music therapy can help older children:
Reviewed: June 2018