Music Therapy in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

Published by Sara Chigani on: Jul 08, 2020 — Music Therapy

One of the aspects I love the most of being a music therapist is that music therapy can be practiced in a multitude of different settings with clients ranging in age from premature infants to elder adults. I love being able to meet lots of different people and seeing how much music can assist with their specific health need. At one point in my career, I had the opportunity to work in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). That was my first time working with this population and it was a wonderfully educational experience. I got to see firsthand how such a vulnerable group of patients can be positively impacted by music. Not all NICUs have music therapy services, however a lot of times when an infant stays in the NICU the family is not always aware if music therapy is offered. So, as you can imagine, educating families and even hospital staff is important. Not all infants are appropriate candidates for music therapy so being aware of the limitations is also important with this fragile population. Depending on the baby’s gestational age, he/she may be sensitive to light and/or sound. When you think about a hospital room, they aren’t always the quietest of places. A lot of hospitals will dim the lights and sounds, as much as possible, but hospital monitors will “beep” and there’s always some noise that can’t always be attended to. That’s why, when appropriate of course, music therapy is a great supportive service in the NICU. Music therapists are able to apply the music intervention and adjust the music as necessary, in real time, to the address the specific needs of the infant. Because we are able to continually assess the infant, we notice any signs of overstimulation and adjust the treatment. Additionally, some infants require extended time in the NICU to make sure they are completely healthy to go home. During that extended hospitalization, developmental milestones may take longer than usual. Another benefit to providing music therapy in the NICU is that we can work on those developmental milestones so that families can use that as a jumping off point when their baby gets home from the hospital. Below are several graphics we made that outline different music therapy interventions that are available to the NICU population and their benefits. Enjoy!

Sara Chigani, MA, MT-BC

Music Therapy in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)


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