Campus Spotlight: Music Therapy

Publication: Around La Jolla

Author / Writer: Barbara Reuer, PhD, NMT–F, MT–BC


As many people know, music has been used in medicine for thousands of years. Ancient Greek philosophers believed that music could heal both the body and the soul. And, Native Americans have used singing and chanting as part of their healing rituals for centuries. The more formal approach to music therapy, however, began in World War II when US Veterans Administration hospitals began to use music to help treat soldiers suffering from shell shock.

Today, music therapy is a well established health care practice that uses music to address physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs of individuals of all ages. Music therapy improves the quality of life for all individuals as well as children and adults with disabilities or illnesses.

There is evidence that when music therapy is used with conventional treatment, it can help reduce pain, help relieve stress and provide an overall sense of well being. Additionally, studies have found that music therapy can lower heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate, rapid heart beat, depression, relax muscle tension and sleeplessness.

Music therapists work with a variety of physical, emotional, and psychological symptoms, designing music sessions for individuals and groups based on their needs and tastes. Aspects of music therapy include making music, listening to music, writing songs, and talking about lyrics. It may also involve imagery and learning through music as well.

Three new musical therapy programs were developed this past year:

Parkinson’s group (2x/week) – co-treating with OT/PT, focusing on physical rehabilitation and cognition

Pain clinic – direct service to outpatients, helping patients reduce intermittent and continuous chronic pain through a variety of techniques

Surgery program – following patients’ pre- and post- surgery

The impact of theses sessions extends not only to the patient and the therapist involved, but to the family and friends surrounding them as well. In a particular session with a patient, our therapist noted that the patient’s wife was exhausted, trying to be strong but tired of the situation – distancing herself from her husband. “At the end of the session, the patient and his wife were bonding once again, crying, holding hands, and he thanked me, saying that the music took him to different places and moments of his life. The wife said, ‘What a release!’” the therapist commented. “Afterwards, they asked me if I could sing ‘Something’ by the Beatles, which was their wedding song. It was so self-actualizing to see the impact that the entire experience had on them and for that matter, on me.”

For more information, or to request for a patient, contact Music Therapy at ext. 6248   [ end ]


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