The power of music to heal

musicI attended the “Music and Medicine” conference, hosted by the Irish World Academy in association with the Graduate Medical School, University of Limerick, today.

Some very interesting presentations, and of particular interest to me is the work being done by music therapists in the cancer setting.

In the current edition of Hospital News is an article on this very subject by Ron Foster. The article focuses on children in an oncology setting, but the benefits are far reaching and it gives a flavour of what can be achieved with music therapy.

Windsor Regional Hospital was one of the first in Canada to introduce a music therapy program in 2003 that included music in treatment plans in the hospital’s complex continuing care and cancer programs. It was a joint collaboration of the hospital, the Windsor Symphony Orchestra and the Music Therapy Centre at the University of Windsor’s School of Music.

A number of studies since the 1950’s indicate that music improves pain relief, enhances the quality of life for people who are ill and has a huge effect on a person’s mood. It is said that music creates an immune response that affects the patient physically, producing an emotional and cognitive response.

Music is said to make a difference to people with mental health and cognitive needs, Alzheimer’s disease, acute and chronic pain, substance abuse and learning and behavior disorders. The music therapy program treats the whole person, not just the body and can include music improvisation, drumming, songwriting, performance and relaxation. “Music profoundly influences our lives and improves the quality of life for everyone. It is amazing to see the reaction of patients, families and staff when music drifts through the hallways.” says Sandy Curtis, the original project coordinator.

Windsor Regional Hospital also expanded upon the idea and developed an In Concert with Wellness program for patients, families, visitors and staff. Through donor generosity, a grand piano was acquired for the lobby to introduce and encourage community musicians, both professional and amateur to perform to a varied and enlightened audience. “We recognize that healing is not just physiological and that environment can contribute greatly to a patient’s well-being,” says David Musyj, President and CEO. “The music can be heard drifting up the elevators and does lift the spirits of all those in the hospital.”

The Music Therapy in Medicine Program combines the remarkable creative and healing powers of music to enhance quality of life. The magic of music lies in its unique capacity to reach out simultaneously on many different levels – physically, emotionally and spiritually, making it a powerful tool for change. Music Therapy can make a difference between isolation and interaction, pain and comfort, dependence and empowerment and between demoralization and dignity.

You can read the article in its entirety here

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