FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What is therapeutic music? Therapeutic music is live acoustic music, played or sung, and specifically tailored to a patient’s immediate need. It is an art based on the science of sound.
What does a Certified Therapeutic Musician do? A Certified Therapeutic Musician uses the inherent healing elements of live music and sound to enhance the environment for patients in healthcare settings, making it more conducive to the human healing process.
How is a recipient’s environment enhanced during a therapeutic music session? A therapeutic musician enhances the patient's environment to make it more conducive for natural healing processes to take effect. The intention is to promote healing – as opposed to curing – by bringing the body, mind and spirit into balance. The effects are four-fold: Physical Emotional Mental Spiritual
What makes therapeutic music different from a musical performance? Certified Therapeutic Musicians are trained to offer music that will enhance the environment and make it conducive for healing, relief, rest, and other benefits the recipient needs. The purpose is not to entertain or give a performance.
Can therapeutic music cure medical conditions? Therapeutic music promotes healing, not curing. Healing is a holistic view of human health pertaining to all aspects of the human being – mental, physical, emotional and spiritual wholeness – not just the physical aspect. Curing is done by doctors and mainstream, or allopathic, medicine.
What is a typical therapeutic music session Like? Live therapeutic music is typically offered one-on-one. A Certified Therapeutic Musician will assess the patient's current state and behavior through observance of patient and environmental cues and will then offer appropriate therapeutic music. The music may be familiar or unfamiliar, structured (such as written tunes) or improvised, using rhythmic or non-rhythmic tempos, depending on the situation and the patient’s needs. In working with the mood of a patient, the therapeutic musician may play music which falls into major, minor, or modal sounds that will uplift, ground and center, or soothe.
What are the benefits of live therapeutic music? Benefits can include, but are not limited to: Distraction Refocus of attention Altering the sense of time Reprieve from the present situation Relieving anxiety Reducing stress and blood pressure Augmenting pain management Providing a bridge for communication between loved ones Relieving body and mental tension Accelerating physical healing of post-surgery and injured patients Easing the birth delivery process Aiding mental focus in Alzheimer’s patients by lifting and clearing the consciousness Assisting the dying by facilitating ease in the transition process
Who benefits from live therapeutic music? Those who commonly greatly benefit are persons experiencing life’s transitions, such as birthing and dying, and those experiencing terminal illness, injury, chronic illness and/or disease. This may include babies in NICU, patients in Hospice care, people recovering from strokes and other TBI and children coping with life threatening or emotional crises. Facility staff and family members accompanying the patient also benefit from the music. Though Certified Therapeutic Musicians are trained to offer music in the scenarios above, evidence also shows the benefit of music in non-clinical settings, in both human and animal recipients. Therefore, the scope of locations where therapeutic music is offered is ever-expanding to wellness centers, veterinary clinics, zoos, schools, churches, mental health clinics, and more.
Where do Certified Therapeutic Musicians work? Certified Therapeutic musicians work primarily at the bedside of patients in clinical environments including hospitals, highly skilled nursing centers, treatment facilities, nursing homes, and hospice (palliative care) facilities. In the hospital, they may work in areas that include pre-op, recovery, ambulatory care, extended care, emergency room, surgical intensive care, intensive care, neonatal intensive care, pediatric, psychiatric, dialysis and cancer treatment units. With growing evidence of the benefit of Therapeutic Music in non-clinical settings, Therapeutic musicians might also work in massage and physical therapy, educational institutions, chiropractic and dental offices, wellness centers and yoga studios, schools, churches, veterinary clinics, and more.
How are Certified Therapeutic Musicians trained? The NSBTM accredits three types of Therapeutic Musician training programs: classroom-taught, online with some on-site internship requirements, and self-paced independent study. Students receiving certification through an NSBTM accredited program have met a common set of minimum standards set by the Board which include an extensive curriculum, demonstrating musical proficiency and completing at least 45 hours of hospice/hospital internship playing at bedside. All of these programs assign mentors to work with new students. Information about each of the programs can be found in the Program Directory.
Why is live music preferred over recorded music? While recorded music can have a beneficial effect on the listener, live therapeutic music is preferred for several reasons: There is no substitute for personal attention. Music can be immediately altered to best meet the patient’s needs. Because acoustic (live) music is not compressed and digitized like recorded music is, it contains a much richer spectrum of vibrations and harmonics.
What are some common misconceptions about therapeutic music ? One common misconception is that there is only one type or style of music that is beneficial for all patients. This is not true. Each patient has unique needs and the patient’s circumstances determine the type of music used. Other misconceptions are that therapeutic musicians are merely entertainers, or have not received sufficient training. These are also false. Therapeutic musicians are certified through extensive training programs which provide high-quality training, require internships and hold high standards for each graduate.
Is there research to support live therapeutic music? The documented effects of music on mood and physiology date back to the ancient Greeks, the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Today the effectiveness of music as a healing modality has been well-documented in music therapy, music-medicine, nursing, psychology and other scientific landscapes. Recently several controlled studies have been published which demonstrate the efficacy of live, therapeutic music in decreasing pain and anxiety, and in regulating heart rhythms. Additional information about research results can be found in the Research and Publications tab on our website.
What is the difference between a Music Therapist and a Certified Therapeutic Musician? Music therapy is prescriptive, interactive, and requires a 4-year college degree. The music therapist uses musical instruments and music making as therapeutic tools primarily to rehabilitate the normal functions of living and improve quality of life through studying and promoting measurable changes in behavior. Therapeutic Music is non-prescriptive, does not require active listening or interaction, and requires a certification. A Certified Therapeutic Musician uses the artistic application of the intrinsic elements of live music and sound to provide an environment conducive to the healing process.
Who is qualified to practice therapeutic music? Musicians who complete an approved Therapeutic Musician curriculum with supervised internships from an accredited training program are qualified to practice as Certified Therapeutic Musicians and can use the title Certified Therapeutic Musician, or the title awarded by their individual program. Certified graduates are required to maintain and enhance their proficiency with Continuing Education Units (CEUs).
How are Certified Therapeutic Musicians paid? Each healthcare facility funds therapeutic music differently. Funds may come out of a particular department’s budget, or from the facility’s foundation, auxiliary or special funding, or attained from grant sources. Some Certified Therapeutic Musicians work as employees, while others are independent contractors for a facility or work in private practice.
What is the future of therapeutic music? Since the inception of the therapeutic music field in the early 1990’s, hundreds of Certified Therapeutic Musicians have served humanity and made a difference in the comfort care of patients. Many healthcare facility administrators recognize the significant benefits that live Tterapeutic music brings to their patients, families, staff, the organization’s reputation, and enhanced patient satisfaction. Facilities also recognize the need for musicians to be trained and certified in order to understand and follow proper protocols for the protection of the patients, staff, and musician. The practice of therapeutic music is expanding beyond the clinical setting. Therapeutic music can be utilized in offices, veterinary clinics and shelters, yoga and meditation centers, and many other locations where relaxation and stress relief will increase performance, satisfaction, and overall health. Online platforms are also making it possible for Certified Therapeutic Musicians to bring live therapeutic music to people who are home-bound or in remote locations. The possibilities are endless.