How music helps heal the body, mind and spirit

Jennifer Barone and patient Ann Tranter celebrate Tranter’s last day of chemotherapy by singing “Hit the Road, Jack” together.

Originating before the written word and perhaps even before language, music has a long and varied history. While the purpose, theme and sound have changed over time, the appeal remains. And today, music even serves as a mode of therapy.

Because music is familiar and predictable, it has a way of evoking feelings of safety and security. It can motivate and inspire. It has no cultural or language barriers. That’s why music therapy can assist with healing.

“Music as therapy formally began after World War I, when musicians would play music for hospitalized veterans,” said Jennifer Barone, music therapist for Norton Healthcare. “Music has been shown to ease pain, discomfort and anxiety often associated hospitalization, healing and recovery.”

Music therapists are a unique blend of musician and therapist with specialized training in the use of music interventions to improve psychological, physiological and emotional well-being.

“What I love about music therapy is that it helps patients as well as their families cope by enhancing quality of life and giving families an opportunity to share time together in a positive, creative way,” Barone said.

Evidence shows music can significantly affect a patient’s perceived effectiveness of treatment, reduce pain and anxiety, and bring about relaxation and a more normal respiration rate.

Ann Tranter, who is currently in treatment for non-Hodgkin lymphoma and receives music therapy from Barone, has found music therapy soothes her headaches as well as cheers her up and brightens her day.

“The first time I had spinal fusion therapy, it was as though Jennifer saved my life,” Tranter said. “I was in a lot of pain and couldn’t get comfortable. With Jennifer’s guitar strumming and humming, I was able to get some relief and fall asleep.”

“Music therapy complements a patient’s existing treatment plan and does not replace traditional medical treatment,” Barone said. “It is used with people recovering from a variety of conditions, medical and surgical procedures, in rehabilitation, as part of cancer care and as a comfort to patients and families at the end of life.”

Music therapists work with the patient, family and care team to establish goals, develop a treatment plan, and create positive and successful outcomes.

“As we come to understand the healing connection between body, mind and spirit, music therapy makes perfect sense,” Barone said.

–Jennifer Reynolds

About our expert
Jennifer Barone is a music therapist at Norton Suburban Hospital, serving patients in the inpatient oncology unit and as part of outpatient services for Norton Cancer Institute.