Music therapy

It’s no secret that music can be uplifting and relaxing in any situation. A 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 level of functioning can participate. Our certified musical 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 a professional healthcare discipline that uses the clinical applications of music to achieve non-musical goals. Specifically applied music therapy interventions help establish a non-threatening, supportive environment in which the needs of patients and families can be met creatively.

At Children’s Minnesota, music therapy services include:

  • Instrument play
  • Singing Improvisation
  • Song writing
  • Lyric discussion
  • Music-assisted relaxation
  • Music for procedural support
  • Recording CD compilation music for end-of-life

Benefits of music therapy

Depending on the situation, music therapy can have benefits such as:

  • Pain management
  • Physical rehabilitation
  • Anxiety and stress reduction
  • 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.

Infants: 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 parent involvement through singing along, rocking or providing touch
  • Provide education to parents on using music to encourage normal growth and development

Toddlers/Preschool age: 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.

School-age: 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 healthcare experience.

Teens: 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 CDs and/or playlists
  • 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-centered sessions: 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.

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.

Music therapy hours

We provide music therapy regularly on both hospital campuses.

  • Children’s – Minneapolis: Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
  • Children’s – St. Paul:
    Mondays and Wednesdays: 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
    Fridays: 9:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

How to request music therapy

To request music therapy services, please contact:



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