Learn How You Can Be an Advocate for Music Therapy

Discover four ways you can become an advocate for music therapy.

Discover four ways you can become an advocate for music therapy.

Over the last couple months we have supplied you with information about music therapy, including how it works, the history of it and some of the best books to read relating to it. Music therapy is an important tool to allowing children and teens to cope and heal from a number of medical illnesses and traumas. You can help ensure that this service is provided to them by becoming an advocate for this amazing therapy treatment option. In this post you will learn about all the different ways you can support music therapy, no matter where you live.

As a Parent of a Child in Music Therapy:

Parents have reported that music was the only thing to bring a smile to their child’s lips during their hospital admission.”
Julie Pollman, Child Life Services teacher/supervisor, Peterson Family Foundation Music Therapy Program at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital San Francisco

One of the best things a parent of a child in music therapy can do is get involved! There are many ways that a parent can do this. Here are four ways you can get involved and support your child as they go through music therapy.

  1. Participate in Music Therapy:

As the Music Therapy Association explains, “Music therapy can provide enjoyable yet purposeful activities and resources for families to share with their children. Families can learn to use music through meaningful play and nurturing experiences. Music therapy may serve as a positive outlet for interaction, providing fun activities that can include parents, siblings and extended family. Often music therapy allows a family to see a child in a new light as the child’s strengths are manifested in the music therapy environment.”

Along with providing services within the walls of a hospital, music therapists can go to a patient’s home if they are unable to travel. Not only does this provide a more comfortable environment for the child, but this offers parents a chance to get involved and share the experience.

  1. Buy Songs:

Studies have shown that listening to music has been proven to reduce pain and lower stress levels in children and teens going through an illness. One use of music therapy is to help children post-surgery. A research study from Northwestern University and Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago found that listening to music and audiobooks is a viable alternative to medication for reducing post-surgery pain in children.

Listening to music is inexpensive, non-invasive and has no negative side effects. Purchasing an iPod and iTunes card for your child is one easy way to give them uninhibited access to music they can control. By allowing them a chance to buy music that makes them feel a little better that they can play anytime, you are acknowledging the power of music and its therapeutic abilities.

  1. Play Music Together:
Being present and playing music as a family are just a couple ways parents can support their child and music therapy.

Being present and playing music as a family are just a couple ways parents can support their child and music therapy.

This fun, hands-on interaction engages with your child as they participate in music therapy. Whether you play an instrument or sing along, filling a room with the sounds you create together is a positive reinforcement of your support of their progress in music therapy.

If you think you’re too old to learn to play an instrument, think again! The Huffington Post spoke with Dr. Jessica Grahn, a cognitive neuroscientist and professor at the Brain and Mind Institute and Psychology Department at Western University in Canada, who researches music, and James Lenger, the Founder and President of Guitar Cities; they shared six reasons learning an instrument as an adult is easier than you think:

  1. You already understand music from listening to it.
  2. You have the discipline and focus to make yourself practice.
  3. You are much better equipped to tackle complicated, abstract concepts.
  4. You actually want to learn the instrument.
  5. Playing an instrument relieves stress.
  6. It’s exercise for the brain.


  1. Be Present:

Listening, encouraging and allowing your child to express themselves is one of the best ways you can help them cope with what they are going through. This is one of the easiest things you can do to support your child during this time, while also supporting their music therapy program.

As a Patient of Music Therapy

Without patients, music therapists would not have a job. The support of patients is critical to the success and growth of music therapy around the country and world. There are a couple ways patients can actively advocate for this powerful therapy option.

While undergoing medical treatment at a specific hospital, don’t be afraid to ask what music therapy services they offer to their patients. By voicing your desire to learn about a music therapy program at their hospital it can do two things:

  1. If there is no music therapy program currently, it can validate the need for one. This validation, while may not be of benefit to you immediately, is helping to pave the way for future patients who can use the program as part of their treatment plans.
  2. If there is a program for music therapy, asking about it may open the door for you to participate when they may not have offered the service to you otherwise.

Become a Certified Music Therapist

If you’re not a parent or patient going through treatment with music therapy, but still want to make a difference and support children who need this amazing form of healing, consider becoming a certified music therapist. As this wonderful therapy continues to grow and become more accepted in the medical field, so will the need for passionate and certified therapists you have a desire to help children through music. By becoming a music therapist, you’re supporting the advancement of the therapy you go to work.

In the U.S. there are 72 accredited colleges that offer degrees in music therapy, from bachelor’s degrees to doctorates. The journey of becoming a music therapist includes a wide variety of college courses focusing on topics such as:

  • Music
  • Music therapy
  • Psychology
  • Biology
  • Social and behavioral sciences
  • Disabilities

After completing the required course work and internships you are eligible to take a national examination administered by the Certification Board for Music Therapists (CBMT). After successful completion of the CBMT examination, graduates are issued the credential necessary for professional practice, Music Therapist-Board Certified (MT-BC). In addition to the MT-BC credential, other recognized professional designations listed with the National Music Therapy Registry are Registered Music Therapists (RMT), Certified Music Therapists (CMT) and Advanced Certified Music Therapist (ACMT).

Once you become an official, registered music therapist, you will be able to work closely with patients to figure out objectives and goals and with the hospital’s doctors to focus on pain, stress relief and whatever else the patient needs.

Other Ways to Support Music Therapy

Consider making a donation or working with the Peterson Family Foundation to bring music therapy to children around the country. Every person’s support matters.

Consider making a donation or working with the Peterson Family Foundation to bring music therapy to children around the country. Every person’s support matters.

If you don’t fit into any of the above categories, but still want to support music therapy, you can! You don’t need to be a parent of a patient, a patient, or even want to change careers to become a music therapist. Supporting the growth of music therapy can be as easy as making a donation to organizations like ours, which is dedicated to bringing therapy to hospitals around the country. Contributions from donors have helped us expand and even double the music therapy programs for some of our partner hospitals!

Want to contribute to a hospital you know has a music therapy program, but it’s not listed on our contributions page? No problem! Just let us know and we can help evaluate their program. You can rest assured knowing that we don’t take the decision to support a program or institutions lightly. We carefully research, interview and vet each organization, physician and scientist before endorsing them. This careful evaluation ensures that the time, effort and money going into the program is being use as effectively as possible.

If you would like to get more hands-on than donating funds, consider helping start a music therapy program at a hospital near you. The foundation would love to learn about a hospital you are passionate about and how we can help make music therapy a treatment option for their patients. With our proven background, dedication and involvement in the music therapy industry, we can help you build relationships and lay the groundwork for creating a new program in your hospital.

From engaging with your child to helping start a new therapy program, your support matters and gets the Peterson Family Foundation closer to reaching our goals. If these options don’t suite your needs but you still want to make a difference, feel free to contact us! We would love the opportunity to help you discover more ways you can help support the cause.

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.