Music Therapy Can Help Patients Improve Emotional, Mental and Physical Health

Music therapy at University Hospitals Connor Integrative Health Network offers patients a way to use music to communicate and to improve their physical and emotional well-being. Music therapy plans are tailored to each patient’s individual needs, helping them get the most out of each session.


What is Music Therapy?

Music therapy is 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. Music therapy is an established health profession in which music is used within a therapeutic relationship to address physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs of individuals (American Music Therapy Association [AMTA], 2013).

For more information, visit:

AMTA Fact Sheet:

Benefits of Music Therapy

The music therapists at UH Connor Integrative Health Network use a variety of music interventions to address patients’ specific needs after making an assessment. For example, a music therapist may:                   

  • Provide live soothing music and imagery to assist patients in managing pain
  • Assist patients in writing and recording a song to express thoughts and feelings
  • Provide music to help patients refocus during medical procedures
  • Engage patients in music therapy techniques to aid in physical or speech rehabilitation
  • Provide music therapy strategies to help patients manage stress during hospitalization

Music Therapy at University Hospitals

Music therapists at University Hospitals Richmond, Bedford, Elyria and Ahuja Medical Centers provide services in the following units:

  • All Medical/Surgical Inpatient Units
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Geriatric Psychiatry at UH Richmond
  • UH Center for Lifelong Health at UH Bedford Medical Center

The UH music therapy staff also actively provides in-services, presentations and demonstrations on the benefits of music therapy to our entire health system, at medical and educational conferences, in the community, throughout the country and abroad.

Our Healing Harmony Program offers opportunities to volunteer your musical talents to help others. Please contact us for more information.

History of Music Therapy

Using music as a healing medium dates back to ancient times. This is evident in historical writings of ancient civilizations such as Egypt, China, India, Greece, and Rome. Today, the power of music remains the same, but music is used much differently than it was in ancient times.

The profession of music therapy in the United States began to develop during W.W.I and W.W. II, when music was used in Veterans Administration Hospitals as an intervention to address traumatic war injuries. Veterans actively and passively engaged in music interventions that focused on relieving pain perception. Numerous doctors and nurses witnessed the effect music had on veterans' psychological, physiological, cognitive, and emotional state. Since then, colleges and universities developed programs to train musicians how to use music for therapeutic purposes. The first degree program was developed at Michigan State in 1944.

Training of Music Therapists

Music therapists must earn a bachelor’s degree or higher in music therapy from an American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) approved program and have at minimum the entry level credential, MT-BC (Music Therapist, Board Certified). AMTA has specific curriculum requirements including courses in music, music therapy, biology, psychology, social and behavioral sciences and general studies (AMTA, 2013). There are over 70 undergraduate and over 30 graduate programs approved by the association across the nation. Upon completing the academic program at either the bachelor’s or master’s level, a 6-month internship is required at an AMTA approved clinical training site. Graduates must subsequently pass a comprehensive examination administered by an independent certifying body, the Certification Board for Music Therapists (CBMT), to earn the MT-BC credential which needs to be maintained by taking 100 continuing education hours in music therapy and in related fields every five years.

Music Therapy Research

Bittman B, Bruhn K, Stevens C, et al. Recreational music-making:  a cost effective group interdisciplinary strategy for reducing burnout and improving mood states in long-term care workers. Advances, 2003 Fall/Winter:  19 (3/4).

Blood A, Zatorre R. Intensely pleasurable responses to music correlate with activity in brain regions implicated in reward and emotion. PNAS, 2001 September 25: 98 (20) 11818-11823.

Bradley Palmer J, Lane D, Mayo D, et al. Effects of music therapy on anesthesia requirements and anxiety in women undergoing ambulatory breast surgery for cancer diagnosis and treatment: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Clinical Oncology, 2015 Aug 17 pii: JCO.2014.59.6049 PubMed PMID: 26282640

Gutgsell KJ, Schluchter M, Margevicus S, et al. Music therapy reduces pain in palliative care patients: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, 2013 May: 45 (5): 822-31. PubMed PMID: 23107609

Halwani G, Loui P, Ruber T, et al. Effects of practice and experience on the arcuate fasciculus:  comparing singers, instrumentalists and non-musicians.  Frontiers in Psychology, 2011 July 7: 2(156).

Lane D.  The effect of a single music therapy session on hospitalized children as measured by salivary immunoglobulin A, speech pause time, and a patient opinion likert scale. Pediatric Research, 1991: 29 (4), 2:11A                                                         

Rodgers-Melnick, Samuel; Kulas Foundation. The Effects of a Single Music Therapy Session on the Pain of Adult Patients with Sickle Cell Disease: A Mixed Methods Study.  In: [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): National Library of Medicine (US). 2015. NLM Identifier: NCT02270060

Rodgers-Melnick, Samuel; Kulas Foundation. Music Therapy in Sickle Cell Transition Study In: [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): National Library of Medicine (US). 2015. NLM Identifier: NCT02466555

Wan, Catherine Y. and Schlaug, Gottfried.  Music Making as a Tool for Promoting Brain Plasticity across the Life Span.  In:  The Neuroscientist, 2010:  16(5) 566-577.