Lisa Jones and Karen Norris have a unique opportunity to witness the power of music firsthand. They bring smiles, laughter and hope to many children and families facing a medical diagnosis – and the challenges that a diagnosis might bring.
As part of the Children's Health℠ music therapy team, Jones and Norris work closely with children to help them ease pain before or after procedures, express emotions during difficult times, or just spend time creating happy moments and lasting memories through times of stress and uncertainty.
"Music is a very effective tool to help children cope with their diagnosis," says Jones, who has more than 20 years of experience in music therapy. "It can help reduce pain, alleviate stress and even improve a patient's vital signs by relaxing the body."
"When you walk into a hospital room with a child and their family and see their faces light up, you know they understand the impact music can have," Norris adds.
Music therapy as a tool to cope with a diagnosis
Perhaps the biggest benefit of music in the hospital is that it can help children cope with a new diagnosis or an extended hospital stay.
"It's very difficult for children to be themselves in a stressful hospital environment," Norris explains. "The beauty of music is that it's a great outlet for children who are experiencing big emotions but can't express them through words."
"Words are over-rated," she continues. "Music can crack those emotions wide open to help children feel in control again."
How does music therapy work?
The music therapy team works closely with a child's caregivers to identify how music could best help the child. Then, they create an approach that is right for each child, whether that is playing music for a child to listen to, writing lyrics together for a song or even filming a music video.
Benefits of music therapy
Research has shown the wide-ranging positive effects music can have on a child in the hospital. The benefits of music therapy can include:
- Alleviating pain and discomfort
- Connecting with the care team
- Helping children express their emotions
- Improving vital signs, feeding and sleep in premature babies
- Promoting positive moods and relaxation for the entire family
- Reducing stress and anxiety before medical procedures
- Assisting in decreased length of stay at the hospital
"So much of what we do deals with the emotional benefit of music," says Jones. "It's amazing to see a child light up when you walk into a room and hear from the nurse or parent that it's the first time she's smiled at anyone, or help a teenager find a song that captures his emotions."
Music is for everyone
Music therapy doesn't just help children. It is a powerful tool for parents to help process difficult emotions. It can also help support bonding and healing long after a child goes home from a hospital.
"Music has so many powers," Jones explains. "The work we do in the hospital can easily be translated to the home, helping children and parents bond and connect."
Norris adds, "You don't need to be facing a difficult time or in the middle of a hospital stay to take advantage of the benefits of music. And you don't even need to be a musician – or musically inclined – to introduce a love of music to your family."
Discover simple ways you can use music at home to improve your child's development.
Music therapy at Children's Health
Children's Health was one of the first hospitals in the country to offer music therapy, reflecting a belief in a holistic approach to care. Now, we offer the largest music therapy program in the region. Drawing on the universal language of music, our board-certified music therapists use a variety of musical experiences to create a therapeutic relationship with children and family members. Watch a video celebrating the joy and positive effects of music therapy at Children's Health.
(Song: "Sing" by Pentatonix)