For pediatric patients, music therapy feels like fun: playing instruments, singing, listening to songs or even making music. But even more than that, music therapy is about helping your child heal by reducing their pain, easing their anxiety, and helping them develop coping behaviors and build motor skills.
The board-certified music therapists at Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist Brenner Children’s Hospital use evidence-based and personalized practices that promote children’s physical, mental and emotional well-being. They help your child socialize, express themselves and communicate.
Music therapy isn’t just about helping your child recover - it’s about helping them thrive, too.
What Is Music Therapy?
Music therapists personalize sessions for each child, so music therapy looks a little different for everyone. It all depends on your child’s needs, interests and personality. If your child loves to bang on a drum or needs time with other kids, it might look like a drum circle. If your child needs to relax and lower their heart rate, it might look like singing along with a music therapist who plays guitar.
Benefits of Music Therapy
Music therapy is the use of music as a clinical tool to help patients heal. Study after study shows it works and can help your child focus on many goals, including:
- Pain and anxiety management: Music therapy can ease pain and anxiety, as well as reduce the use of medications.
- Physical functions: Just one music therapy session can reduce heart rate and respiratory rate.
- Coping skills: Music therapy explores positive ways to cope before, during and after procedures, such as feeling identification and lyric analysis.
- Self-expression: Music therapy allows your child to communicate through songwriting, music making, music listening and lyric analysis.
- Family support: Studies show that music therapy can increase the bond between you and your child by writing personal songs or learning an instrument together.
- Developmental support: Music therapy can improve communication skills, motor skills and social skills by creating a band with family and staff during admission.
- Bereavement support: Music therapists can provide legacy-making projects and bereavement-focused sessions for families and patients in songwriting or heartbeat recordings.
Even better - kids, who are full of creativity and curiosity, think music therapy is a fun form of medicine. And we believe that even in the hospital, kids deserve to have fun.
Music therapy can treat many types of conditions, including pediatric developmental and behavioral challenges, such as:
Music therapy can help meet sensory needs and help children stay calm during tests and treatments. It can also support social, behavioral, cognitive and communicative skills in children with autism.
Music and rhythm help children focus on their breathing during scary situations, lowering their heart rate and promoting relaxation.
Music provides a non-pharmaceutical way to reduce stress. It grounds children in sounds and activities: in enjoying familiar songs, playing instruments or creating music with family or new friends.
The brain releases dopamine when we play or listen to music, creating feelings of pleasure. Music also allows children to express emotions in ways that words cannot, which allows them to understand their feelings and connect with others.
Some patients can sing phrases fluently, even when they’re unable to speak them. This is because the entire brain processes music, whereas only the left hemisphere of the brain processes speech. This is a valuable tool for children with conditions such as aphasia due to a traumatic brain injury or stuttering due to oral-motor challenges.
Sophie’s Place: A Special Music Therapy Space for Kids
Within Brenner Children’s Hospital is a musical oasis called Sophie’s Place. It’s where patients can play musical instruments, perform on a stage and record in a high-tech recording room. Here, kids can be loud. They can be creative. They can heal. Most of all, they can simply be kids.
Sophie Rose Barton was a young singer/songwriter and music volunteer who believed that she could help people and change the world through music. Unfortunately, Sophie unexpectedly passed away at 17. Thanks to Sophie’s family and the Forever Young Foundation, Sophie’s legacy endures at children’s hospitals around the nation, including ours. Sophie’s Place at Brenner’s Children’s Hospital is the only one of its kind in the Southeast.
Music Therapy Services
At Sophie’s Place, children can:
- Play instruments, such as guitars, pianos and drums
- Record songs in a high-tech studio
- Perform on a stage
- Write their own songs
- Listen to music
- Discuss lyrics
Frequently Asked Questions
Music therapy is the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to meet non-musical goals, guided by a board-certified music therapist. This might involve singing, listening to music, playing instruments, discussing lyrics or joining a drumming session.
They complete music therapy programs that cover how music therapy supports patients across settings, including memory care, school systems, hospitals, addiction treatment centers and hospice care. Then, they complete a 6-month internship at a qualified music therapy program. After that, music therapists must pass a national board certification exam that shows they have the knowledge and skills to practice in a clinical setting.
We can see how music therapy makes a difference in our patients, and studies support what we see. Music therapy can help patients relax before an operation and it can lessen the amount of anti-anxiety drugs patients need. Studies also show that music therapy lessens patients’ pain. To learn more about the research on music therapy, read Research and Impact of Arts.
Join us! We invite musicians and music lovers to help us create music for - and with - the children of Brenner Children’s Hospital. Submit a volunteer application.