Music as adjunctive therapy
The idea that music can be used as a form of therapy is certainly nothing new. In the US, the profession of music therapy found its roots in serving wounded veterans in World War II. It was, in fact, the US Army that conducted one of the initial studies on the use of music in rehabilitation in 1945. It was around that time that music therapy was first offered as a degree program—now more than 80 approved college and university programs in the US offer degrees in music therapy.
In an era in which medical professionals are increasingly focused on developing creative multimodal approaches to patient care, there has been great interest in harnessing the power that music has to heal those in need. In the past few years, the Cochrane Review has published numerous reviews highlighting the effects of music therapy on patients with depression, stress, anxiety, dementia, autism, schizophrenia, and other conditions.
While music therapy has never been a more popular field, resources such as UpToDate currently list the dearth of adequately trained therapists as the limiting factor in the efficacy of music therapy. We aim to work through the WFSOM Musical Outreach Committee to increase appreciation for music as adjunctive therapy, and to encourage greater incorporation of formally trained music therapists into medical centers throughout the nation.
As we move forward in our careers as physicians, we hope to apply our experience using music as therapy to enrich our ability to care for patients. Formalized music therapy sits at the intersection of art and science, and we hope to influence others who have previously dedicated their lives to the arts to explore ways in which they can lend their unique skills to the world of medicine.
As the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once stated, “Music is the universal language of mankind,” and we certainly could not agree more. We hope to be part of a new generation of physicians who can unite the arts and sciences and thereby create better outcomes for all patients.
About the authors
Esther Kim has obtained diplomas and degrees in violin performance from the Juilliard School of Music, University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna, Austria, and the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. She is an MD candidate at the Wake Forest School of Medicine in NC, hoping to specialize in psychiatry.
Joseph Kaizer, DMA, has obtained degrees in cello performance from the University of Illinois and Northwestern University and completed his doctoral degree in cello performance and music history at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. He is an MD candidate at the Wake Forest School of Medicine in NC, hoping to specialize in psychiatry.