Just your typical day of music therapy...

By Ray Leone, MMT, MT-BC 

Ray is a Board-Certified music therapist who directs A Place To Be’s medical music therapy program through a partnership with Inova Health Systems.

There is a myriad of ways that music can help in a medical setting, and in working as a music therapist at a hospital, each day is unique unto itself.  When walking in the door in the morning, I have no idea what the day will bring, what music will be provided or whom I will see.  However, each day is challenging and rewarding…and always filled with music as a means of healing and support.

Here is what a recent day of music therapy was like at the hospital where I provide music therapy services:

- There was the patient, on a ventilator in the ICU, who was anxious and scared.  Music was used to comfort both her and her husband and she appeared to relax and find some comfort in the music.  Her heart rate and respiratory rate decreased significantly.

- There was the post-operative patient who was in pain and hadn’t been able to get any much needed rest.  As the music started, by first matching his pain and then slowly transitioning to a more comforting mode, his pain seemed to subside a bit.  He closed his eyes, his breathing slowed and he appeared to fall asleep.

- There was the older woman who was confused and agitated.  She and her daughter have had a rough couple of weeks.  The nurses were having some complications in trying to insert an IV tube that was needed for medication.  The patient was anxious, as was her daughter (and I sensed a bit of anxiousness in the nurses as well).  Music was used as procedural support, creating a soundscape to sooth and comfort all in the room.  The procedure was ultimately a success and then the patient was resting comfortably.  Her daughter, teary-eyed, gave me a hug and thanked me for being there.

-  There was the gentleman recovering from cardiac arrest, whom, as his nurse said to me, “was running at 1,000 miles an hour” and having trouble coping with being in the hospital.  I sang some favorite Merle Haggard and Johnny Cash songs for him and his wife.  They were holding hands and smiling and the music seemed to help him (and her) just regulate and take a break for a bit.

 - My colleague saw multiple patients in Pediatrics, including a 5-year old who was exhausted and in pain.  When the music therapist sang “Let It Go”, her face softened and she smiled.  Suddenly she was a typical 5-year old again, finding comfort in a familiar song.

- My COPD group continues to master the recorder!  And…work on their breathing.  Today we continued work on a swinging version of the 50s song ‘Rockin’ Robin’.  When they play their recorders and sing together, they feel good about themselves and in being with each other.  Suddenly, they were not thinking of breathing as being labored and exhausting; they were breathing life into their instruments…and into themselves.

Finally, I was recently honored to have been asked to attend and play some music at the memorial service of a woman - a wife, a daughter and a mother of 2 young teenage daughters - whom had an effect on many of us in the oncology unit.  I had seen her and her family several times during her final days.  These were very emotional sessions, but, I believe the music provided some comfort when there really was nothing else.  It was a beautiful service and I was so honored to have been there and be a part of the beginning of the healing process for this family.  And for me, as I had been thinking about this family quite a bit, I was able to find some comfort and some closure as well.

Just your typical day of music therapy in a medical setting.

The healing power of music…

(*the stories presented in this blog are based on accounts and experiences and are not actual accounts and experiences)