What is a Therapeutic Musician?
Some of the oldest hospices in Europe date back to the year 1000. These were the world’s first hospitals and health care systems, created by physician-monks and nuns, and their activities are preserved in a library of records called the ars moriendi, or the art of dying. At the end of life, the caregiver’s role was to find a unique way to relieve a particular person’s struggles and fears. The sacred art of dying traditions believe that a total environment is necessary for the dying to do their inner work. Therapeutic music is one of the most primal and powerful tools to support persons in transition.
The monks at Cluny, France a thousand years ago developed elegant caregiving practices using different modes of music corresponding to human moods. Recent years have witnessed a renaissance in the field of music thanatology, or the therapeutic use of music at the time of death. Whether the needs are physical, emotional, or spiritual, certain kinds of music seem to provide a sacred and safe container for the work of healing. [Adapted from The American Book of Dying: Lessons in Healing Spiritual Pain by Richard F. Groves and Henriette Anne Klauser, Berkeley, California: Celestial Arts, 2005.]
However, today’s therapeutic musician does more than comfort the dying. “A therapeutic musician is a musician that plays live music at the bedside of persons who are faced with physical, emotional, and spiritual challenges. Their interaction generally occurs in the person’s home, a hospice or in a clinical setting.” [NSBTM home page: http://www.therapeuticmusician.com]
“Therapeutic music is an art based on the science of sound. It is live acoustic music, played or sung, specifically tailored to the patient’s immediate need.” [http://www.therapeuticmusician.com/faq.html] Calming an agitated infant or accompanying a mother in the birth process is just as important as comforting the dying patient.
Since the inception of the therapeutic music field in the early 1990s, hundreds of graduates have completed training and are working in a variety of health care situations. Fortunately, an increasing number of health care facility administrators recognize the benefits that therapeutic music brings to their patients.
(See this article for more information on Therapeutic Musician Training Programs)