We lost one of the greatest artists of all time when Aretha Franklin died August 16, 2018. Her legacy and contributions are impossible to measure, and her voice was often referred to as a national treasure. I listened to not only the words and music of her songs but also felt the emotions they evoked. She once said, “Music does a lot of things for a lot of people. It's transporting, for sure. It can take you right back, it's uplifting, it's encouraging, it's strengthening.” In a different genre, I have also been captivated by the seemingly perfect pairing of music and prose in Elton John's songs, and his depth of human understanding. He was quoted as saying, “Music has healing power. It has the ability to take people out of themselves for a few hours.”
Benefits of music and music therapy
What is it about music that is encouraging, healing, and powerful? What does music bring to the caring experience?
In a graduate course, I wrote a paper and gave a presentation on the use of music therapy (MT) with cardiac patients in acute care. I played a recording from Rimsky-Korsakov's The Flight of the Bumblebee for my classmates; the music made everyone fidget in their seats as their heart rates and breathing increased. I then played a passage from Debussy's Claire de Lune, which had the opposite effect; everyone calmed down and heart rates and respirations decreased. This nonscientific presentation showed that music could have an effect on individuals under normal health conditions.
What might happen during times of disequilibrium? An excerpt from the American Music Therapy Association's definition of MT states, “Through musical involvement in the therapeutic context, clients' abilities are strengthened and transferred to other areas of their lives. Music therapy also provides avenues for communication that can be helpful to those who find it difficult to express themselves in words.”1
Many research studies have supported the beneficial effects of MT, particularly with specific populations, such as older adults with dementia or children with autism.
MT in a practical setting
A descriptive study by Franco and colleagues measured the recommending practices, knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and expectations of physician and nonphysician practitioners regarding MT as a cost-effective complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapy.2 Of the 544 participants who completed a survey, the first group included 237 physicians, and the second group included 307 (56.4%) participants who were NPs, certified registered nurse anesthetists, certified nurse midwives, physician assistants, and clinical nurse specialists.
Overall findings indicated that physicians were neutral to recommending MT, whereas nonphysician practitioners held positive perspectives about recommending MT. NPs and the other group two participants tended to have greater knowledge of MT and spent more time with patients, thus opening themselves to the possibility of using MT. Prior experience with MT influenced attitudes, beliefs, and expectations, with negative experiences reducing the inclination to recommend MT. Patient acceptance plus costs were also considerations.
Do you use MT in your practice? Patients are usually open to integrating CAM in their treatment. Remember, “Music is the universal language.”
Jamesetta A. Newland, PhD, FNP-BC, FAANP, DPNAP, FAAN
2. Franco PF, DeLuca DA, Cahill TF, Cabell L. Why practitioners should care about music therapy: understandings its clinical relevance and practical implications through an evidence-based study. Altern Complement Ther