Music Therapy Pilot Program offered at Hoops Family Children’s Hospital
Beloved storyteller Hans Christian Anderson understood that even the most enjoyable fables and fairytales might not stir the soul of a distressed child. “But where words fail,” he said, “music speaks.”
For children who are hospitalized, fear and uncertainty aren’t eased by the constant sounds of monitors, wobbling gurney wheels and other equipment. But now, pediatric patients will hear a new sound on the floors of Hoops Family Children’s Hospital – music. HFCH is partnering with Aspire! Conservatory of Fine & Performing Arts in Ashland to conduct a three-month pilot project to introduce music therapy to pediatric patients and their families.
“Music therapy helps create surroundings that can often support children and their families while receiving medical care,” said Carleigh Cazad, MT-BC, board-certified music therapist with Aspire! Conservatory. “Music therapy provides opportunities for the patient and their family to express their feelings toward illness, while also supporting the goals set by their treatment team. Often, this can improve their overall outlook and optimism.”
The concept of using music to supplement medical treatment isn’t new. Music therapy dates back centuries, but, in the modern era, gained traction following World War II, particularly in the treatment of men suffering from what is now called PTSD. At Hoops Family Children’s Hospital, music is used within a therapeutic relationship to address physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs. Following an assessment, a qualified music therapist creates a treatment plan that can include creating, singing, moving to, or just listening to music.
“We started the pilot in December with funding from donations to the Cabell Huntington Hospital Foundation, so there is no cost to patients,” said Melanie Akers, HFCH director. “Reviews from patients, families and staff have been overwhelmingly positive already.”
So what is an example of how music therapy can make a difference for a child?
“We have a patient whose family speaks Spanish. Carleigh Cazad learned to sing the Christmas song, “Feliz Navidad,” before he was to come back for his next treatment,” said Brooke Bella, APRN, FNP-C, who works in Pediatric Hematology/Oncology at the Edwards Comprehensive Cancer Center. “When the family arrived for his appointment, Carleigh sang the song and they were in tears. These are the kind of moments that make our patients’ days a little better.”
During the pilot program, Cazad will meet with patients from 9 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday, providing emotional support, facilitating movement, and engaging patients in an outlet to express their feelings.
“It is so rewarding to know that in some way we can use music to make the hospital stays and treatments a little more comfortable,” said DeNeil Hartley, administrative director for Aspire! Conservatory. “If we can provide any level of comfort and hope for these special children, then we have fulfilled our ministry. My heart is full!”