Mu­sic Can Be Good Medicine

Mu­sic may not seem as po­tent as a pill, but in many cases, it’s just what the doc­tor or­dered.

Wellness Update - - Content -

“We can help fo­cus their at­ten­tion away from that,” Stouf­fer said. “It gives them an av­enue for self-ex­pres­sion to share what they are think­ing or feel­ing and work on de­vel­op­ing cop­ing strate­gies.”

HER­SHEY, Pa. — Jan Stouf­fer, who works as a board cer­ti­fied mu­sic ther­a­pist at Penn State Health Mil­ton S. Her­shey Med­i­cal Cen­ter, uses mu­sic to help con­trol pa­tients’ pain and anx­i­ety, to ease their ad­just­ment to the hospi­tal set­ting, and to pro­mote phys­i­cal re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion.

“Health is a dance back and forth be­tween phys­i­cal and emo­tional needs, so the two need to be ad­dressed si­mul­ta­ne­ously for heal­ing,” she said.

In the hospi­tal set­ting, that means clin­i­cal, ev­i­dence-based use of mu­sic at bed­side with pa­tients to af­fect their heal­ing and well­ness. Rather than sim­ply go­ing room to room singing or play­ing mu­sic, mu­sic ther­a­pists work upon re­fer­ral from a doc­tor or nurse and use a pa­tient’s treat­ment plan and pri­or­i­ties.

Dur­ing an eval­u­a­tion, Stouf­fer and her col­leagues con­sider sev­eral fac­tors. They in­clude the pa­tient’s phys­i­o­log­i­cal state, their cul­tural back­ground and mu­sic pref­er­ences, whether the mu­sic should be pre­sented in a seda­tive or stim­u­la­tive style, and whether it should be pas­sively en­joyed or ac­tively cre­ated.

Breath­ing and guided im­agery tech­niques used with calm­ing mu­sic can help pa­tients strug­gling with pain and anx­i­ety feel more com­fort­able. For in­stance, a teen ght­ing can­cer may con­nect with the lyrics of Rachel Plat­ten’s “Fight Song,” while some­one else may use the sounds of an in­stru­ment to re­lease feel­ings such as anger or frus­tra­tion. Play­ing a wind in­stru­ment such as a recorder, ka­zoo, har­mon­ica or slide whis­tle can help those who need lung ex­er­cises.

But the mu­sic goes be­yond the bed­side.

For the past ve years, the Cen­ter Stage Arts in Health pro­gram has cre­ated an en­vi­ron­ment of mu­sic all over cam­pus. It hires re­gional mu­si­cians to play in com­mon ar­eas such as lob­bies and wait­ing rooms.

Claire de Boer, di­rec­tor of Cen­ter Stage, said the goal is to hu­man­ize the en­vi­ron­ment and soften edges of mo­ments that could oth­er­wise be more stress­ful. “It brings joy and cre­ates com­mu­nity be­cause pa­tients and care­givers can share the ex­pe­ri­ence of sit­ting and lis­ten­ing to live mu­sic to­gether,” she said. “It’s a type of en­gage­ment that doesn’t have to do with diagnosis or treat­ment.”

The pro­gram matches the mu­sic to the en­vi­ron­ment, whether it’s wel­com­ing pa­tients in a lobby or calm­ing them be­tween pro­ce­dures.

de Boer said the impact of the pro­gram has been sig­nif­i­cant. “We count how many peo­ple stop and lis­ten or smile when they walk by and it can be up­wards of 300 peo­ple per per­for­mance,” she said. Mul­ti­ply that by the 20 or so per­for­mances that take place across cam­pus each month, and it reaches thou­sands.

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