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Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Music Therapy: A Growing Trend

Xueqiao Ma |
October 6, 2013 | 9:22 a.m. PDT

(Children's Hospital Los Angeles/Xueqiao Ma, Neon Tommy)
(Children's Hospital Los Angeles/Xueqiao Ma, Neon Tommy)
More than 5,000 certificated professionals work as music therapists, doubling growth in the past decades and making music therapy one of the more popular forms in the U.S.

As the founder of a music therapy program at Wayne University, Roberta Adler celebrated her 40-year-anniversary as a music therapist. She now sees about 90 patients a week.

Music therapy formally began in the 20th century, after musicians went to play for World War I and World War II veterans at hospitals across the United States. According to a scientific analysis in 2013, it has been proven by a psychologist in Canada that music has healing properties. 

The brain’s reward center releases a chemical associated with pleasure, which responds to music. It has shown that music therapy is a positive reinforcement of appropriate behaviors and a motivator to reduce negative ones, according to the American Music Therapy Association

Besides working with adults, music therapy can also help children, especially premature babies. Research shows that using live music with premies could increase birth weight and help them leave the hospital 13 days earlier.

Alexandra Field, the lead of the Artists Program at Children's Hospital Los Angeles, has worked as a music therapist at NICCU (Newborn and Infant Critical Care Units) for six years

“Typically it’s really simply melodies…children songs. Sometimes it's more complex... sometimes the mom played while the baby was in her womb because it's familiar to them,” said Field.

More than two dozen U.S. hospitals offer music therapy in their newborn care units and the popularity is growing. The Children's Hospital Los Angeles is one of the largest NICCU in the country, with 58 beds for infants.

Music therapy is not only in hospitals, nursing homes and schools are also hiring music therapists to help increase the level of communication, as well as physical and emotional skills.



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