Music therapy team offers coping and care to Wolfson Children’s patients and families

New recording studio provides dedicated space for music therapy services.

For children and families in the hospital, their experience is often scary and full of unknowns. At Wolfson Children’s Hospital, board-certified music therapists use music to address the physical, emotional, cognitive and social needs of patients and families.

One way music therapists can help children express their emotions and process their experiences is by writing songs with them. From drafting lyrics to recording vocals and instruments for a polished final product, patients of all ages can express themselves and their feelings in creative ways.

A recent donation by Christ’s Starfish Foundation provided a dedicated recording studio space for the music therapy team, who are part of Wolfson Children’s Hospital’s Family Support Services department. Now, patients can take their musical talents to the next level with a visit to the studio, where they can record vocals and experiment with instrumentals as they create their songs.

The recording studio features a host of equipment including guitars, keyboards, drums, microphones and an adaptable desk so all patients can access the recording equipment. Acoustic tiles on the wall provide better sound in the room and there is ample space for families to join.

“One way we can use the recording studio is to incentivize patients,” said Dannielle Caldwell MT-BC. “Patients may be nervous about a procedure or working toward certain benchmarks, such as physical therapy goals, so we tell them that once they get through the procedure or hit those benchmarks, we will take the song we’ve been working on into the studio and finally record it. It gives them something to look forward to.”

Memory-making and legacy-building services

Another way the recording studio is used is for memory-making and legacy-building activities with families. Wolfson Children’s Hospital music therapists can record children’s heartbeats and create “Heartbeat Bears” that provide a tangible memory for families. If families are looking for a more creative process, music therapists can write songs with families and set the lyrics to a track that features the child’s heartbeat.

“Our mobile recording studio cart allows us to go right into ICU units and work with patients or families,” said Morgan Maxwell, MT-BC. “Without this equipment, we wouldn’t be able to work with so many of our patients and families who might not be able to leave their hospital rooms.”

Multi-talented professionals

In addition to using recording studio services to guide patients and families through their hospital journey, music therapists provide a host of other services as well.

For our Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) patients, positive sound reinforcement from our NICU-MT certified specialists helps infants build positive associations with sound to counter negative experiences from sounds of alarms and monitors. Music therapists can also help children relax during certain procedures and IV or port placements for our hematology and oncology patients, which makes it easier for healthcare providers to access a vein throughout treatment.

Lyric analysis also helps patients at Wolfson Children’s Hospital, especially in the behavioral health unit. Whether it’s in a group setting or one-on-one session, music therapists analyze preexisting songs with patients and relate the lyrics back to individual situations, helping to strengthen coping skills.

“By using music, we are able to help children advocate for themselves and for better care when they are confused or in pain,” said Caldwell. “Sometimes what they can’t say in words, they are able to say through music.”

Music therapy services at Wolfson Children’s Hospital are provided free of cost to patients and families. Together, our music therapists, child life specialists and social workers comprise the Family Support Services department, which reduces the impact of stressful or traumatic events that affect children and families within the hospital setting.