Music Therapy Hospitals We Support

“As you know, music therapy provides our young patients with a unique source of comfort and strength. [The Peterson Family Foundation’s] partnership ensures that many more children will experience its profound benefits, and as the program gains recognition, it will inspire widespread appreciation for music therapy. I am grateful that you share our dedication to caring for children’s hearts and minds as well as their physical health.”

– Sam Hawgood, MBBS, Chancellor, Peterson Family Foundation Music Therapy Program at UCSF

Group music therapy session.

At the Peterson Family Foundation, we believe music therapy is one of the best strategies to help support children and teens through the challenges of their hospital stay. Many patients who are dealing with different forms of cancers, life-threatening illnesses and challenging disabilities have a strong spirit; music therapy provides an avenue to express this spirit and make sense of their experience.

Music therapy begins with a trained and certified therapist, who uses music as the mechanism to target symptom management such as pain, anxiety, and nausea. Children and teens are also given the opportunities for instrument instruction for coping, and songwriting and recording to tell their story and create a lasting legacy for themselves and their family.

This form of therapy varies from person to person depending on their abilities and preferences. Some children may find comfort in singing along to Taylor Swift, playing the drums brought into the hospital room, or creating a Hip Hop beat on the iPad, while others enjoy expressing their emotions through playing an acoustic guitar or a keyboard. The freedom and individuality music therapy provides ensures that children and teens will be able to find some sort of relief, regardless of age, abilities and interests.

Sitting in a hospital room, experiencing constant discomfort, watching the days go by is not easy for anyone – especially a young person. Offering a non-pharmacological, holistic approach to symptom management and emotional coping is an important step to better treating the whole child. This is why we think it’s so important to expand existing programs and help more hospitals offer this type of therapy to patients. Keep reading to discover new hospitals the Peterson Family Foundation supports in the future, as well as exciting growth and developments in our current programs.

Hospitals with Music Therapy Programs We Support

As noted in our previous blog post, Health Benefits of Music Therapy, music therapy provides mental and physical and behavioral benefits to patients. These benefits are why we want to focus the spotlight on these two hospitals we support:

  • Benioff Children’s Hospital at University of California San Francisco (UCSF) Medical Center
  • Mattel Children’s Hospital at University of California Los Angeles (UCLA)

Peterson Family Foundation founder Jeff Peterson with music therapists at UCSF.

Benioff Children’s Hospital at UCSF Medical Center
At UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital, the Peterson Family Foundation Music Therapy Program is an important part of their Creative Arts therapy team. This hospital uses music therapy to reach physical, neurological, communicative, emotional, educational and behavioral goals to promote positive therapeutic change. Our two music therapists also use music therapy to look at the complete child or teen, to bring forth their abilities and provide opportunities for creative self-expression and to find normalcy in the hospital environment. Music therapy provides a space for the child to be a child, and allows the patient to showcase their creativity and unique life experience.

Patients admitted to UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital have the opportunity to receive music therapy at their bedside. Physicians, Social Workers, Nurses, and Child Life Specialists refer patients for music therapy, and our music therapists Matt Logan and Brianna Negrete visit each child with a guitar and rolling cart of instruments. Families are often included in sessions and are encouraged to participate; family support is a core value of music therapy services at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital. Julie Pollman, a Child Life Services teacher and school program supervisor notes that, “Parents have reported that music was the only thing to bring a smile to their child’s lips during their hospital admission.”

Group music therapy is an option for patients at Benioff Children’s Hospital as well. With the construction of the new hospital at Mission Bay in 2015, came the Creative Arts Studio and Music Therapy Recording Studio where patients and their siblings, ages five and up, come and work together on whatever musical projects interest them. These projects include:

  • Group music making
  • Songwriting
  • Recording
  • Producing
  • Beat-making

An essential part of the Peterson Family Foundation Music Therapy Program at UCSF is Oliver Jacobson, a board-certified music therapist, and now consultant to the foundation. During his time at UCSF he acknowledged the poking, pain and suffering that children and teens experience during their time in the hospital, and the therapeutic process of music therapy. “I think those ‘aha’ moments in my sessions are when I see those walls come down, and kids opens up and trusts me, and trusts the experience – that it’s not giving them pain, they’re actually enjoying the experience, and feeling good as a result. There is a shift in a session when those walls come down and I get to see kids flourish into who they are and what they want to be.” Jacobson was even able to perform with Chris Martin of Coldplay for patients at the hospital before Martin’s Super Bowl 50 Halftime Show.

Success Story

As Kristin Chaset, a parent whose child has benefitted from a music therapy program the Peterson Family Foundation supports at UCSF Medical Center, explains, “My daughter’s response to music is immediate. Her heart rate slows, she relaxes her body, and her breathing becomes less labored. One look at the guitar and her eyes light up. Use that guitar to play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and the girl’s heart is yours. According to one of my daughter’s doctors, Twinkle Twinkle is more effective in calming her than the strongest sedative! Music therapy is just as much for parents and caregivers. The hospital can be a scary, sterile, and unforgiving place. Music therapy softens the edges, calms the nerves, and refocuses.”

Mattel Children’s Hospital at UCLA

Mattel Children’s Hospital at UCLA is a leader in creative arts therapies and a non-pharmacological approach to pain management. They created the Case Child Life Program in July 2007 to serve children who lack the full range of social and emotional stimulation due to long hospital stays.

Music therapy is a noninvasive form of therapy and provides individualized outcomes for each patient. These outcomes come from stress reduction, pain management and positive emotional responses. For young people coping with chronic illnesses, music therapy increases the chance of emotional expression, identity building and independence.

Success Story  

Photo posted with permission and with proper HIPPA consent forms.

Thanks to a donation to the Ukulele Kids club, a young patient is happy and thriving after a music therapy session.

While watching her child, her mother’s jaw dropped and she said, “It’s like magic. Music therapy awakened her imagination and creativity. This is the first time that she has smiled – let alone spoke, sang and played – while at the hospital. She’s been afraid of all the hospital staff and the only times she had been calm was when she was playing on her iPad. To see her playing and interacting and processing her experience is the greatest gift.” This music therapy session utilized play and music improvisation techniques along with various music interventions within the therapeutic relationship to build rapport, create opportunities for autonomy and promote emotional expression and processing.

Getting Involved with Music Therapy

Music therapy is an incredible tool and resource that allows children and teenage patients to take back some control of their mind and body. The freedom to express themselves through music contributes to their overall happiness, coping, mood and behavior.

Other Areas of Focus

Although the Foundation’s focus has turned to music therapy, we still support a variety of diabetes programs including the Diabetes Center at UCSF (including Drs. Steve Gitelman and Jeffrey Bluestone), the UCSF Pediatric Diabetes Program, the Stanford University Department of Developmental Biology (Oncology Division) and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF).

The Peterson Foundation initially turned its focus to pediatric diabetes because it’s an illness Eric Peterson, son of Foundation founder Jeff Peterson, struggled with for years. Ten percent of those diagnosed with diabetes each year have Type 1, or juvenile diabetes. The good news is it’s manageable; we aim to be a beacon of hope for families learning how to live with juvenile diabetes by recommending and partnering with organizations making strides in the field

Supporting Our Hospitals

The Benioff Children’s Hospital at UCSF Medical Center and Mattel Children’s Hospital at UCLA are two hospitals doing an incredible job of providing music therapy programs, which is why we continue to support them. We look forward to helping them expand their programs in addition to introducing music therapy to more hospitals across the country and internationally.

If you would like to help children relieve pain and improve their emotional state through music therapy, please consider donating to the Peterson Family Foundation so we can make it a reality for many more patients around the world.

About the Peterson Family Foundation

The Peterson Family Foundation was founded in 2003 to enhance, restore and improve the quality of life for all human beings. Our primary mission is to seek out and support experts and institutions dedicated to enhancing and improving the lives of people dealing with illnesses requiring a stay at a medical institution by bringing music therapy to as many hospitals as possible. Learn more at our website or share your story with us.