Music Therapy at CHOC Provides Healing, Positive Diversion

It is a known fact that listening to music can soothe one’s soul, but studies have shown that music can also promote the physical healing process. Some of the benefits that aid healing include pain management, relaxation, motor movement, enhancement of self-esteem and other social skills, and providing a positive diversion.

DSC_8947And, with the recent opening of our new in-house studio, Seacrest Studios, located in the Bill Holmes Tower at CHOC Children’s, enjoying music is just the beginning. The 652-square-foot facility includes five guest microphones; production-quality video cameras; and a green screen that will allow for patient participation in video projects. Live performances in nearby areas will also be broadcast through the studio.

We spoke to Eric Mammen, Music Therapist in CHOC Children’s Child Life Department, who shared the benefits of music therapy and having our very own multimedia studio at CHOC!

Q:  How long have you been at CHOC Children’s, and how did you become interested in this field?
A:  I have been at CHOC for just under 5 years and first became interested in music therapy while I was studying music in college. A class within the music curriculum was called, “Inside the Music Industry” and we had a different presentation each week about various career options available to those with musical talents.  I saw a presentation about music therapy and I knew in that moment I was going to be a music therapist.

Q:  What is music therapy?
A:  Music Therapy is the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program. To the untrained eye, or from the patient’s perspective, we are just playing instruments and singing songs.  However, in reality I am using the music to achieve quantitative and qualitative non-musical goals set by the patient care team.

Q:  What are some of the changes you have seen in patients who have participated in music therapy?

Eric Mammen, MT-BC, music therapist at CHOC Children's
Eric Mammen, MT-BC, music therapist at CHOC Children’s

A:  I have seen children use an extremity that they have been neglecting since a surgery and a child sit up for the first time in weeks to engage with the musical experience. Every day I see children laughing and playing while undergoing intensive chemo therapy. A 5-year-old little girl who was on the oncology floor for an extended period of time, immediately told me and her parents me that she forgot that she was in the hospital during our  “music time.” Many times the parents have tears of joy to see their child having fun and being a kid again, if not for a few minutes.

With the teens and young adults, we do song writing, song recording and learn how to play instruments. When I give the patient their CD with their own voice or original song, I always tell them that they have to listen to their music in their car as they drive away from the hospital – a victory song if you will.

Q:  How will the new Seacrest Studios benefit the kids at CHOC?
A:  We are so lucky to have a space within the hospital like Seacrest Studios.  To be able to broadcast audio and video throughout the hospital allows our patients to express themselves and relate to one another on a deeply personal and emotional level.

We broadcast the songs that the patients may write or sing within the music therapy sessions, during the radio shows. The patient can come down to the studio and be interviewed and share about their song. This studio allows them tell their story, share their experiences, and let the other children know that they are not alone in their battle.  We have great volunteers to help the patients feel welcomed and special when they are “on-air.”  Music is powerful and this new studio allows the patients at CHOC to experience that power in new and exciting ways.

To learn more about CHOC Children’s Music Therapy Program, please click here:

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