Music therapy

It’s no secret that music can be uplifting and relaxing in any situation. Erinn Frees, MA, MT-BC, board-certified music therapist at Children’s Minnesota, helping a patientA growing amount of evidence suggests that the power of music can also have significant benefits to patients and their families in clinical settings. Your child doesn’t need a musical background to benefit from music therapy. Children at any developmental age or developmental level can participate. Children’s Minnesota board-certified music therapists serve patients ranging from newborns to young adults at various levels of engagement and responsiveness (from sedated to active).

What is music therapy?

Music therapy is an evidence-based allied health profession that uses the clinical applications of music to meet individualized non-musical goals. These goals could be physical, cognitive, emotional, or social. At Children’s Minnesota, patients are seen for individual, group, or family music therapy sessions.

Benefits of music therapy

Music therapy can have benefits such as:

  • Pain management
  • Physical rehabilitation
  • Anxiety and stress reduction
  • Self expression
  • Family support
  • Relaxation
  • Normal growth and development
  • Opportunities for choice and control
  • Positive change in mood and emotional states
  • Learning coping skills and techniques
  • Effect positive physiological changes

About music therapy sessions

Although every music therapy sessions is different, here are some examples of common experiences and techniques by age group

Music therapy for infants is typically aimed at relaxation or developmental stimulation goals. Music therapy may reduce stress in infants, increasing oxygen saturation and lowering heart and breathing rate. When interacting with an infant, a music therapist might:

  • Sing or hum softly to your baby
  • Play a reverie harp or guitar
  • Use a variety of interactive percussion instruments and songbooks to encourage reaching, grasping, visual attention and interaction
  • Adapt music to be appropriate for infants who are able to tolerate only minimal levels of stimulation
  • Encourage family involvement through singing along, rocking their baby
  • Teach families how to use music to encourage growth and development

Music therapy for very young children encourages creative expression of emotions, opportunities for choices and control, and ways to cope with their hospital experience. Music therapy can also help provide distraction during uncomfortable procedures. A music therapist may provide opportunities to play and choose instruments such as drums, shakers, xylophones and harmonicas. Playing and listening to familiar songs can create a feeling of security for toddlers and preschoolers while promoting active engagement in their hospital experience.

Music therapy for school-age kids can be similar to interventions provided for younger children, but older children may be able to engage in more complex interventions such as songwriting, free improvisation and guided relaxation techniques. A school-aged child may be able to engage in projects which take more than one session to complete, such as writing and recording an original song or learning a simple song on the guitar or xylophone. These interventions can promote mastery and self-esteem as well as encourage involvement in their health care experience.

Music therapy for teens can be helpful for actively processing feelings and emotions associated with illness, developing techniques to cope with anxiety and pain, and providing normative musical experiences. Teens may engage in:

  • Songwriting
  • Creation of playlists to promote mood change
  • Lyric analysis to promote emotional processing, relaxation or movement goals
  • Guided relaxation and learn techniques to be used outside of the music therapy session

Family participation is encouraged in all sessions to the degree that the family desires. Siblings and family members are encouraged to sing, play instruments, and actively engage in the music therapy process. Family and siblings may benefit from an opportunity to participate in a creative, supportive outlet, which can reduce stress and promote well-being.

Collaboration with other hospital disciplines:

Music therapists may collaborate with various other hospital disciplines such as physical, occupational, and speech therapy; integrative medicine; chaplaincy; and child life. For example, a music therapist may co-treat during an occupational therapy session, encouraging grasp or fine motor skills through instrument play.

How to request music therapy during your hospital stay

To request music therapy services, please use the location contacts below:

Please call us at: 612-813-7394


Email us at: [email protected]

Please call us at: 651-220-6078


Email us at: [email protected]

Learn more about our music therapists

Our music therapists are trained at a bachelor’s or master’s degree level and have completed a supervised, clinical internship using music therapy. Practicing music therapists are required to obtain and maintain certification (MT-BC) through the Certification Board for Music Therapists.

About our music therapy internship

Children’s Minnesota offers a six-month, full-time music therapy internship. Interns receive feedback and supervision from board-certified music therapists and other health care professionals. They participate in both individual and group music therapy sessions. Find out more.

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