Therapeutic Music FAQ

Therapeutic musicians are often asked questions like these about playing therapeutic music at the bedside.

What is the return on investment (ROI) for the healthcare facility to hire therapeutic musicians?

There are many.  Faster healing times can result in higher patient turnover rates. Decreased anxiety in patients can result in a less harried, more efficient staff. Decreased stress all around can result in higher satisfaction surveys from patients, their families, and staff. Adding a therapeutic music program to your facility’s offerings can result in increased publicity. Conducting research on the benefits of live, acoustic music at the bedside can result in grant money and recognition.

Can any musician play at the patient’s bedside (without training in therapeutic music)?

You decide. When a degree or certificate is available, people who have that credential often argue that no one can do their job without it.

If you are on the staff of a healthcare facility, do you feel comfortable having an unskilled, uninsured musician address individual patients? (As a Certified Music Practitioner, I have my own liability insurance.)

If you are a musician, would you feel capable of walking into the room of someone who is sick or dying, who could be in critical condition, who might have just come out of heart surgery, who might not be able to speak with you about what they want, who is in their most vulnerable state—could you play for them, one on one, to foster a healing environment?

Are you taking jobs away from music therapists?


The best analogy is to think of music therapists like physical therapists and therapeutic musicians like massage therapists. Then ask: Do massage therapists take jobs away from physical therapists?

Music practitioners perform a task that some music therapists are beginning to include in their therapy toolbox, but the focus of music therapy is therapy. Therapeutic musicians do not do therapy.

Do you play specific songs for specific health conditions?

Not quite.

This is a big reason that therapeutic musicians receive training. If we could state which song always works for which illness, then this work would be much simpler!

There are general rules that Certified Music Practitioners are trained to follow with regards to what types of music work or don’t work for certain conditions. For example, we’re not going to play music with an irregular rhythm for a patient with a heart condition. We’re not going to play non-stop notes for a patient with COPD.

But the rule first and foremost is to play what works for the patient that you are with. Even if you have played for that patient before, what worked then might not work the same way today.

The changing nature of what works and what doesn’t necessitates training in observation and the skillful alteration of musical elements.

What do you do with your guitar if there is an emergency with the patient?

I get out of the way fast.

My guitar is lightweight and I carry it with a strap. If there is an emergency, I can quickly move out of the way.

Creating a healing environment

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