Music Therapy: Helping Emmett Heal


SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Being hospitalized is a difficult and often traumatic experience for anyone, but for children, it can be especially challenging. They are forced to endure painful medical treatments, unfamiliar people and separation from their families. As a result, many children experience anxiety, depression, and other emotional challenges while in the hospital. But now, therapies that don’t involve any medications, needle pricks, or painful surgeries are helping kids heal. Music therapy

This is more than just play time for little Emmett Bleyle.

Each song helps him heal.

Emmett’s mom, Rylie says, “Emmet’s official diagnosis is PMM2 congenital disorder of glycosylation.”

Rylie was told her baby boy would not live to his first birthday.

“They didn’t think he had another six months in him. And here we are.” Rylie says.

Five-year-old Emmett averages two to three hospital stays a month with a care team of more than 18 specialists. His mother believes a key to his survival is this … playing the piano.

Rylie says, “I started seeing Emmett when he was like 18 months old. He was so small, and he couldn’t sit up.”

Katie Lahue, Expressive therapist at Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital believes music, dance, art, and play helps hospitalized kids through the physical, emotional, and psychological issues that come with illnesses and long hospital stays. “Music access is a different part of your brain than other modalities do. And so, through music and the arts, we’re able to accomplish different goals.”

Using music to motivate kids like Emmett to work on different developmental goals.

“and also, it’s a way for him to express, kind of, his process being here and a way for him to express how he’s feeling, what he’s going through.” (:08)

Eliana Rivera, Music Therapist at Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital says, “Sometimes we can reach these kiddos better than other providers here in the hospital can.”

Studies show expressive therapies help children manage their pain and anxiety, boost immunity, and contribute to faster physical healing.

Rylie says, “Letting Emmett emotionally reset that way through dancing and through singing and through playing with instruments and things like that, I think that’s kind of reset his body to the point where we’ve walked away for some instances that we shouldn’t have.”

The magic of music, a powerful tool in helping kids like Emmett heal.

The music therapist at Intermountain also do something called legacy work. They talk to the parents, and work with them to create a song when their child is nearing their end of life. They play the song for the child, record it, creating a special memory for the parents.

Contributors to this news report include: Marsha Lewis, Producer; Roque Correa, Videographer, Editor.


REPORT #3067

BACKGROUND: Music therapy is the use of music as a treatment to assist in reducing stress, improving mood and self-expression. Music therapy experiences may include listening, singing, playing instruments, or composing music, and can help someone psychologically, emotionally, physically, spiritually, cognitively, and socially. Some benefits of music therapy are lowering blood pressure; improving memory; enhanced communication and social skills through experiencing music with others; self-reflection; reducing muscle tension; developing healthy coping skills to manage your thoughts and emotions; increasing motivation; managing pain; and increasing joy.


EFFECTIVENESS OF MUSIC THERAPY: Research in music therapy supports its effectiveness in six areas: psychological, emotional, physical, spiritual, cognitive, and social.  Music can stir up suppressed emotions that may then be released and lessen feelings of isolation. It can affect the body physically by changing your heart rate and lowering blood pressure and respiration rate, as well as improved motor development or processing. Music therapy helps with relaxation and/or improved sleep. It can even open the door spiritually and allow you and your family the opportunity to explore your own spiritual beliefs. Music can provide an increased sense of control, as well as coping skills, and bring people together socially, not just at large gatherings such as parties, weddings, or funerals, but in more informal, intimate, shared experiences, like a hospital room. Music therapy is also known to help autistic children improve their communication.


NEW APPROACH IN MUSIC THERAPY: Researchers from the University of York and the Royal College of Music, are anticipating a new way of harnessing music therapy for the diagnosis, assessment, and monitoring of depression. The study focused on the significance of “phatic” behaviors in improvisational music therapy, which is a form of therapy where a client and a therapist interact by making music together. Phatic behaviors in conversation can include small-talk, interjections, and gestures which put the other person at ease and strengthen social bonds and understanding. These behaviors can change during depression in a range of ways such as longer pauses within a speaker’s turn, a drop in rate of speech, an overall fall in vocal pitch, and a reduction in eye contact. Dr. Sarah Knight, from the University’s Department of Psychology, said, “We are hopeful this approach of monitoring changes in a systematic way is something that could be applied more generally as part of the framework of care that therapists provide.”


* For More Information, Contact:                         Jennifer Toomer-Cook

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