When our team presents to a room of healthcare professionals, one of our biggest points that we drive home is the simple fact that, if we believe music holds the power to help us, then we must acknowledge that it also holds the power to harm us, if and when it is used incorrectly.
Think about it for a minute – if music can positively influence our heart rate, breathing patterns, feelings, and emotions, then music can also negatively influence our heart rate, breathing patterns, feelings and emotions!
Even though introducing music as a treatment option in the healthcare setting is much less invasive or costly than introducing a drug/medicine, scalpel, or some sort of painful physical exertion, if any element of the music is introduced in an inappropriate way for the moment or environment, then it can cause stress, anxiety, aggravation, and can open the floodgates of emotions. Opening the floodgates can be a great thing – but it is important to do so in a safe, therapeutic setting, which is what Music Therapists do best.
How can music be inappropriate to the moment or environment? A few simple answers include: timing, tempo, volume, instrument selection, genre of music, song selection, history of song, pitch and key of song, placement of sound source, and the overall timbre of the music being played. If some of these elements don’t sound simple, but instead very complicated to you, don’t worry! Music therapists are equal parts trained musician and trained therapist — because the MUSIC and the THERAPY are equally important!
We often hear statements like, “Oh we have music therapy in our facility — we have a harpist who plays in the foyer!” And while we truly love that patients have access to music that they may enjoy, we always want to gently remind our audience that music therapy is a clinical treatment option which is provided by a trained and board-certified Music Therapist (“MT-BC”). So while the harpist may be the best at their craft, if they are not an MT-BC, then the music they are providing is not music therapy. And what if a patient is being subjected to music that they don’t like? What if harp music causes agitation, anxiety, or even triggers an emotion or memory that a patient who is isolated in their room needs assistance processing? When not carefully curated and presented, simply stated, music can be harmful.
If you have questions about how to safely incorporate music into your healthcare setting, we can help! Please consult and hire a Music Therapist; and while we would love for it to be us, we understand if you go elsewhere — just make sure they are a Board-Certified Music Therapist who is credentialed by the Certification Board for Music Therapists — and in states like Georgia, be sure they also have their state license to practice!
All MT-BCs should have the below badge readily available to show to you, and should also have a 5-digit certification number. You can also look up certification status of any music therapist here.