Benefits of Music Therapy

Matthew Frederick

By LaShante Keys, Empath Health Community Partnership Specialist

Music can calm minds, bodies and emotions. It can create a sense of relaxation and comfort in care, daily life and wellness.

Music Therapy Helps Many

Matthew “Matt” Frederick, MT-BC is a board-certified music therapist of 11 years at Suncoast Hospice. He works with four south Pinellas County care teams caring for patients and families in their homes, nursing homes or assisted living facilities.

Music therapy sounded like an interesting field to pursue for Frederick.

“I always felt connected with music and knew I wanted to work with people. My guidance counselor in high school suggested music therapy. Having never experienced music therapy or worked with a therapist myself, I took a chance and went off to college to see what it was all about,” he shared.

This specialized clinical care treats people on many levels.

“Every aspect of a person is interconnected. The beauty of music therapy is that it is a whole-person experience. Social, emotional, physical, spiritual, cognitive and sensory perceptions can be integrated during each session. Backed by many years of research, it’s a wonderful modality to get right to the heart of a matter. It’s really profound. It’s really wonderful,” he explained.

Music therapists provide care for babies, children and adults in many settings.

“There are all kinds of different applications. Usually they have found that babies who receive music therapy in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) are able to heal and leave the NICU sooner. Music therapists are being used more in the autistic community, and that has been very effective. Music therapy is used in the education system working with kids who have cognitive, physical or any kinds of limitations,” Frederick explained.

He added, “Music therapy is used in physical therapy; if somebody has a stroke, a music therapist can use rhythm that can help the legs and feet work better. It is used with people with eating disorders, addiction or with at-risk youth. It can be helpful at adult day centers for stimulation and support for older adults who are aging. There’s a music therapist I know who works at the VA (Veterans Administration). It is really helpful doing any kinds of therapeutic work with veterans. Post-traumatic stress is being addressed and it has been a really effective modality for them.”

Caring for Suncoast Hospice Patients

Frederick’s care for patients has included song choice, passive listening, active music making and improvisation, singing, playing an instrument, moving as if dancing, reminiscence, socialization, lyric analysis and songwriting. He has seen great engagement and impact.

“Often the patients I work with display many positive benefits from the sessions and they anticipate future sessions. We often use live music, but also use recorded music. There has been smiling, laughing, connection with memories, bonding with family members and even singing and speaking after not having done so for periods of time,” he noted.

Comfort and quality of life also improve for patients.

He added, “Patients can display signs of improved coping and ability to adapt to new environments, feel/express/process deeper emotions, relax and display diminished physical symptoms, such as pain, shortness of breath and anxiety.”

In one case, playing gospel music resonated and helped.

“I had a lady who is in a nursing home and adjusting to that life. Faith is a big challenge for her because she misses that part of her life. When I arrived, she told me she had anxiety off the charts. I brought recorded music and she was able to listen. I played some gospel songs for her and I could see her shoulders drop and her breathing slow down. She said she felt more at peace and relaxed. At the end of the visit she was calm and even fell asleep. It is cool how that worked,” Frederick said.  

Supporting Families 

Families may also need self-care and relief when caring for their loved ones.

“Family members may experience caregiver fatigue, loss of knowing how to relate with a loved one when a disease changes that person or feelings of not doing enough, guilt, helplessness and anticipatory grief,” he said.

Music can also help soothe their well-being.

Frederick shared, “I always tell people to use music that they connect with and enjoy. I encourage the daily, repeated use of recorded music in a safe and controlled environment, particularly the same song or album to strengthen a desired effect, such as relaxation. The more you strengthen a response repeatedly, the more your brain and body will adapt to the new reality you are creating. I also suggest pairing the music experience with any other sense for an increased response, such as visualization, aromatherapy or massage. Music also can be used in a wellness setting, such as groups that do yoga together for wellness and spiritual connection.”

Comforting patients and families is fulfilling.

“Working as a music therapist with Suncoast Hospice is a unique blessing. Being with people at this stage in their life is an honor, one that I continually learn from every day. I am blessed to celebrate with others, allow them a safe place to process their life or questions, bring a sense of hope or peace and unite relational/family bonds. It has broadened my view of life that we are all interconnected in some way, shape or form,” he expressed.

Learn more about Suncoast Hospice care, services and career opportunities at SuncoastHospice.org or call (727) 467-7423.

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