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By Allyson Kraemer
Updated: 02/19/2014 9:26 pm MST
An emerging therapy is bringing hope and nourishment to babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
“When live music is provided, by a music therapist in conjunction with a family, baby’s tend to gain weight faster. It improves their oxygen saturation rate, and in some studies, they’ve been released from the NICU earlier than babies who have not had music therapist working with them,” said Dr. Kathleen Murphy. Cash Michael Stephens is soothed in St. Mary’s NIC Unit. “He was born January 8. I was 26 weeks pregnant,” says Tracie Stephens, Cash’s mom. “He was not due until April 15th. He was only one pound, 15 ounces. Now he’s up to three pounds, two ounces.” All thanks to a music therapist. “Amazing Grace is what we sang to all of our kids. I think all of our kids. That’s the first song they could sing. We plan to keep that tradition with him,” Stephens says. Murphy, an Associate Professor of Music Therapy at the University of Evansville, sings and then hums his favorite lullaby. “Parents who sing to their babies, there’s a better bond. They feel closer to their babies,” Murphy shares. But for Tracie and Michael Stephens, who think they can’t carry a note, Murphy says, ” Your baby has heard your voice for a long time while they were in the womb, they think you’re the MET opera star. They think you’re the best singer in the world. It’s really all they know and they want to hear that voice because it’s a comfort.” Two music therapy students begin the session by assessing the room. “We’re trying to get a pulse on the stress levels, the tension levels and then we’re trying to create music to sort of bring everything down,” Murphy says. Doctors say the lub-dub of a heartbeat and the woosh of the ocean drum create a sense of safety. “It’s just interested to watch him see how he reacts. He always seems to know when I need that smile and I need my spirits lifted,” Stephens says. St. Mary’s also partners with the University of Evansville Music Therapy Program in the Oncology Unit, Pediatric Feeding Clinic, and Rehabilitation Institute.
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Music Therapist Trisha Garvin has worked with hundreds of patients and their families. She bases the therapy sessions on patients’ needs and their music tastes. Sometimes she even makes CDs of a client’s favorite musical selections to play on the days between music therapy sessions and to keep as a treasure after a loved one has passed.
By Laura Raines
On May 1 of last year, Georgia became the third state in the nation to require licensure for music therapists. The minimum credential to practice music therapy in the state is the MT-BC (music therapist board certified).
The new law is considered a win by people who work in the growing profession and anyone seeking music therapy.
“As the demand for alternative therapies continues to grow, it is crucial to strengthen the law, which governs how music therapists practice in Georgia, said state Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, who sponsored the bill. “With the passing of SB 414, patients can rest assured knowing their music therapist is operating under the highest level of professionalism.”
Music therapy — in the broadest sense — has a long history.
“Using music therapeutically goes back to the beginning of time, really; every culture has examples of it.