Hitting the Right Notes
How music therapy helps patients heal, recover and process their hospital stay
At Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida, physicians and staff use every tool available to treat their patients from diagnosis to recovery. And sometimes that includes harnessing the power of music to help put patients at ease.
“Music is nonthreatening, and it can be adapted to so many different situations to meet the patient’s needs,” says Tracey Failla, the music therapist at Golisano. “We are an evidence-based profession, and there is a lot of research out there about the benefits of music therapy with pediatric patients for everything from pain management to coping with the end of life.”
At Golisano, Failla and the interns, who come to the hospital from the music therapy programs at Florida Gulf Coast University and Florida State University, work with patients in a variety of ways. “We use music to provide support during procedures or for distraction or relaxation techniques,” she explains. “We also use it as a way to help patients process their hospitalization, writing songs about their diagnosis or the experience they’ve had while here.”
Musical instruments help patients recovering from surgery regain their fine and gross motor skills. And for grieving family members of patients, music can be a way to deal with their loss. “We provide music at end-of-life situations to help the family process the death of their child,” says Failla.
The music therapy program at Golisano is funded through philanthropy and can be adapted to suit any type of patient of any age. “We use patient-preferred music,” says Failla. “We want to do something they enjoy and that is familiar to them, because it’s that much more motivating to get them to engage in what we’re doing.”
Sessions are typically oneon-one, but occasionally a group of similarly aged patients can be brought together for a drum circle or another musical activity. And the kids being treated by the hospital aren’t the only ones who benefit from the program.
“It can be such a unique and fun distraction for not just the patient but also their parents,” says Failla. “A lot of times parents are at the bedside and participate in sessions as well, and they verbalize to us that they feel less stressed when they see their child enjoying themselves. Music just makes you feel good. There are so many wonderful things we can do with patients to help them.”