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About Music & medicine

Frequently Asked Questions

Image: Louis Armstrong

  1. What is music therapy?
  2. How can music therapy improve health?
  3. What kind of training is required for music therapists?
  4. What is unique about your music therapy approach at Beth Israel?
  5. What types of music therapy sessions are available?
  6. What is a music therapy session like?
  7. Who can benefit from music therapy?
  8. Is there research to support music therapy?
  9. What current music therapy research studies are there at Mount Sinai Beth Israel?
  10. How can I get further information on music therapy referrals for myself, a family member or a patient?
  11. Where can I learn more about music therapy?
  12. Do you provide training or orientation on your music therapy approach?
  13. What is the International Association for Music and Medicine?
  14. How do I receive a free journal of the journal 'Music & Medicine' which is co-edited by Joanne Loewy and David Aldridge?

What is music therapy?
The American Music Therapy Association has defined music therapy as "the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program." (American Music Therapy Association definition, 2005).

How can music therapy improve health?
Music has been used in healing since the beginning of time. Currently, there is growing interest among health care providers regarding music and medicine. Clinical interventions are based on scientific research indicating that music therapy may

  • Alleviate pain
  • Regulate heart rate and blood pressure
  • Improve breathing
  • Ease anxiety
  • Reduce depression
  • Enhance quality of life
Patient feedback also indicates that music therapy has assisted in patient, family and community relationships and improved ego functioning.

What kind of training is required for music therapists?
Music therapists must pass a national board certification exam upon completion of an accredited university program and internship and are required by the Certification Board for Music Therapy to maintain ongoing training in current methods, policies and practices. Music therapists specifically study the evidence-based use of music (including both music listening and active music-making) to achieve goals ranging from neurological rehabilitation, speech development, stress management, physical wellbeing and psychotherapeutic aims. Our music therapists, licensed by the NY State Department of Education, are trained at the Masters and Doctoral level and are trained in the most current music psychotherapy techniques in pain relief, wellness, stress management and breathing modalities of music and healing.

What is unique about your music therapy approach at Beth Israel?
In addition to using music to improve physical symptoms, music therapy in a medical setting involves treating the whole person— body, mind and spirit. At Beth Israel, our medical music psychotherapy approach involves

  • Assessment of each patient's unique mind-body connection (how the mind is affecting the body and how the body is affecting the mind)
  • Support of coping mechanisms which have been shown to enhance the immune system
  • Treatment of the rhythms, resonances, tones, and timbres of the body to promote harmonic balance
  • Addressing physical, emotional, cognitive, developmental, social and spiritual needs of the person
  • Promoting self initiative, thereby enhancing one's sense of empowerment as a proactive force in his/her own healing
What types of music therapy sessions are available?
Music therapy is offered in one-to-one sessions with patients, in family sessions and in group sessions with other patients, family members, friends and/or medical staff. In addition, we provide environmental music therapy to promote a relaxing and soothing atmosphere for patients, families and staff on the unit. We are also implementing community outreach programs such as the Asthma Initiative Program (AIP) in local schools and outpatient services such as The Music & Health Clinic for performing artists and musicians, Music for AIR for adults with respiratory illnesses, and Music for CAIR for adults with heart disease.

Radiation Oncology and Chemotherapy, Tyler Seaman's Room Read more about music therapy for specific medical issues in the Clinical Services section for adults or children.


What is a music therapy session like?
A typical session may involve music listening, guided visualization, structured songs, clinical improvisation, song writing or music-assisted relaxation. All sessions are tailored to the patient's needs and preferences. At Mount Sinai Beth Israel, music therapists play live music, customized to the individual needs of each patient based on preferences, physical and emotional state. Unlike recorded music, live music can be adjusted and adapted to the patient throughout the session. For example, sedation may be supported by slowing the tempo of the music gradually and changing musical elements such as meter, arrangement and texture. Participants may choose to play, sing, direct or simply listen and are provided with easy-to-play instruments.

Who can benefit from music therapy?
We work with people across the life span, from premature infants in the NICU to people recovering from surgery to end-of-life care. Patients in the hospital may benefit from music therapy to alleviate pain, anxiety, or depression, provide gentle stimulation for loss of consciousness and enhance coping, communication and quality of life. People in the community who are coping with an illness may also receive music therapy through our outpatient programs for children and teens with asthma, adults with COPD or heart disease, and musicians and performing artists. Read more about music therapy for specific medical issues in the Clinical Services section for adults or children.

Is there research to support music therapy?
There are numerous scientific research studies that support the use of music therapy in medical settings that are published in peer reviewed journals. You will find relevant articles listed under each page in the Clinical Services section for adults or children or see our Related Links page for Websites containing research databases, authoritative literature and articles on music therapy.

What current music therapy research studies are there at Mount Sinai Beth Israel?
Our Masters- and Doctoral- level music therapy team conducts cutting-edge research in music and medicine. We currently have several studies in process. Follow the links below to find out more or to enroll in one of our studies.
  • Asthma Initiative Program for children and teens with asthma.
  • Music for AIR study for adults with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) with Johnathan Raskin.
  • Music for CAIR study for adults with cardiovascular disease with Stephen Bergmann MD.
  • The Heather on Earth Multi-site Neonatal Intensive Care Unit study for premature infants and their families.
  • Clinical Music Improvisation and Infusion Study - Helen Sawya Research Project at St. Luke's Roosevelt with Gabriel Sara MD
  • The Effects of Music Therapy in the Recovery of Patients Undergoing Spine Surgery with Peter McCann MD
How can I find further information on music therapy referrals for myself, a family member or a patient?
For questions about music therapy or referrals for yourself, your loved ones or your patients, please call (212) 420-2704 or email info@musicandmedicine.org.

Where can I learn more about music therapy?
Follow the links under Clinical Services section for adults or children to find out more information on music therapy services available for specific needs. We list our orientation and training programs in the Education & Training Section. Check out our Related Links page for other sites containing information on music therapy. In addition, the American Music Therapy Association includes general information on the field of music therapy.

Do you provide training or orientations on your music therapy approach?
We provide 1-2 day orientations and observations on our music therapy approach are available to anyone who is interested. We are also an AMTA-approved training site for music therapy students seeking the internship for board certification. For music therapy professionals seeking advanced training in our music psychotherapy approach, we have an International Training Institute and the Thanks to Scandinavia program.

What is the International Association for Music and Medicine?
The IAMM is an association which is comprised of medical professionals and music therapists and music and medicine professionals. Their next conference is July 3-8 in Bankok, Thailand. For more information visit www.iamonline.com.

How do I receive a free journal of the journal 'Music & Medicine' which is co-edited by Joanne Loewy and Ralph Spingte?
Email: mmd@sagepub.com.

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