About Music Therapy

As you know, music therapy provides our young patients with a unique source of comfort and strength. Your 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


Jeff Peterson with Oliver Jacobson, Music Therapist, and Michael Towne, UCSF Child Life Services Manager.


What is Music Therapy?

Music therapy is the applied use of music by a certified music therapist to target clinical goal areas with music based strategies to promote positive health outcomes.

A popular and longstanding health psychology practice, music therapy addresses pain management, anxiety reduction, emotional health, social interaction, communication goals, cognitive rehab goals, physical rehab goals, palliative care, and normalization of the medical experience.


How Does Music Therapy Work?

Watching children sing and play instruments in our creative arts studio, you almost wouldn't know they were in the hospital. This is why music therapy is so important to their well-being while they are in our care: it makes each child feel like a person, not a patient.
Mark Laret, CEO, Peterson Family Foundation Music Therapy Program at UCSF Medical Center & UCSF Benioff Children's Hospitals


Oliver Jacobson helps a young patient make music at the Benioff Children’s Hospital.

Music therapy varies from person to person based on their preferences and abilities; it can range from listening to or playing an instrument to actually composing and recording a personal song with a music therapist.

This type of therapy is especially effective for children because it provides an opportunity for self-discovery and an opportunity for him or her to release difficult emotions that accompany a long hospital stay.

Why is Music Therapy Effective?

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


Research shows music therapy can positively affect a patient’s heart rate and breathing, especially when a strong rhythm is involved. It can also help release neurotransmitters (called endorphins) that trigger a positive feeling in the body and act as natural painkillers, reduce muscle tension and promote relaxation.

Evidence also suggests music helps release memories, negative emotions or repressed feelings. This is important in a patient’s healing process because it can bring about a positive change in their thoughts, behavior and attitude. You can read more about ways this type of therapy can help, including research into how the field benefits patients, in this blog post about music therapy.

Want to Help Bring Music Therapy to a Hospital Near You?

We would love you to consider partnering with us!
If you’d like to help provide for patients through music, please make a contribution here. Feel free to read our blog, follow us on Facebook and Twitter, or contact us to learn more, too!