Hearing the Music, Healing the Body

Scripps Employee Newsletter

by Catherine Hooper


Jingle Bells, Silent Night and White Christmas are all songs that we find ourselves singing along to during the holiday season. Music has the power to transport us to a specific place and time, ignite our memories, lighten our mood and bring much-needed relaxation during the busy holiday time.

In 2015 MusicWorx Inc., a San Diego-based music therapy company will be celebrating 20 years of bringing the healing power of music therapy to Scripps patients. Founded in 1987 by Dr. Barbara Reuer, the company now serves four Scripps campuses and has held more than 30,000 sessions with Scripps patients to date.

“I have a great deal of respect and appreciation for the leadership at Scripps Health,” says Dr. Reuer. “Scripps Health was the first hospital system in San Diego County to recognize and embrace music therapy as an integrated treatment modality. Our team is diverse, and we find the best therapists with the right skill sets to provide the appropriate treatment for each patient.”

How Music Therapy Works
Hospitalization can be a stressful time for both patients and their families. Music therapy, a clinical and evidence-based practice, blends therapeutic methods with the enjoyment of music. Sessions are individualized for each patient to help address patient needs — to calm fears, ease pain and help the overall patient experience.

At Scripps, a MusicWorx therapist delivers bedside care starting with a brief assessment of the patient’s condition and discussing a patient’s musical preference.

“We try and find a piece of music that they can connect with,” says Noelle Pederson, a MusicWorx board-certified music therapist. “Often, once I begin to play, you can immediately see a person’s face light up and their body begin to relax.”

Equipped with various musical instruments, such as a guitar, small percussion or a keyboard, the therapist conducts a session lasting an average of 20-30 minutes. Music therapists use music from all genres to assist with a patient’s well-being and often encourage patients to participate with the therapy by selecting songs, playing or singing along, or even participating in song writing or guided relaxation.

Songwriting and lyric discussion can be used for emotional processing, or a way to tell their story. “We often start writing down their thoughts, which we can develop into lyrics,” says Pederson. “This helps patients work through a particular problem or trauma they are facing, and it can also be a distraction from an uncomfortable treatment or stress they may be feeling.”

Benefits for our Patients
The use of music to treat mental and physical illness has been documented throughout history. Listening and playing music can influence mood, behavior, speech, social interaction and more.

Music therapy also has physical effects. Research shows it can help lower heart rate, blood pressure, as well as help patients deal with a difficult diagnosis, depression and even assist with end-of-life comfort care. The results of music therapy are immediate. A patient’s physical and emotional response to the music can be visible during and/or after each session.

A Passion for Making and Sharing Music
“I’ve always loved and had a passion for music and being involved in helping people,” adds Pederson. “Once I started working in the hospital setting, I knew it was where I needed to be.”

Music therapy doesn’t end with the patients and their families. Pederson says she often hears from the hospital staff that they also enjoy the sound of music while they work. Many times they say it helps make their work more enjoyable and often less stressful.

“This type of work is very rewarding,” she notes. “Not only do I get to do something that I love, but I am helping patients and making a difference in their lives as well.”


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