Tag Archives: music

Creative Encounters at University of New Mexico Hospital

A recent CNN article (July 5, 2013) publicized the benefits of an arts-in-medicine program at University of New UNewMexicoHospitalMexico Hospital.  The mission of the  arts program is to “facilitate creative encounters that help patients and their families discover new meaning in life and death, or just for fun.”  Patricia Repar, director of the arts-in-medicine program says sometimes, this can be as simple as playing music at a patient’s bedside to help them calm down or sleep.

Patrica Repar knows from experience the value of engaging in the creative process.  After becoming severely ill during a visit to Ecuador, she states she “…was afraid and lonely and frustrated,” and remembers feeling like she was “tapped on the should by death.”



She decided the only way she could deal with it was to create collages, images, short and simple “sound” pieces, poetry and narratives.  “The daily art-making kept my life full of meaning,” says Repar, who has a doctorate in music composition. “And I found myself calm and pain-free until I could get further medical care in my home country of Canada.”

Here are the highlights of the article…


Try this simple Creative Intervention…

music-notes1I’d like to introduce and describe a short and simple Creative Intervention to try on your own.  I developed this CI (Creative Intervention) for use in my Creativity Workshops. 

The goal is to visualize the music you hear and transfer these images onto paper.  It will take about 10 minutes to complete the music-notes1exercise, but may be longer depending on how much time is devoted to your drawing; the musical piece is 5:25 minutes long.

But first, read the short list of instructions and then go for it! 

A few Instructions:

1. The music selected for this particular Creative Intervention is Beethoven’s Pathetique Movement 2 by Freddy Kempf.  I chose Freddy beethovenKempf’s version over other artists for his expressiveness and sensitivity in interpeting this piece.

The link below is to a youtube video.  The goal is to listen with your eyes closed. No peeking to watch Freddy during this exercise; you can watch him later!

Note: It’s important to be in an quiet environment for you to benefit from this exercise.  So, close your office door or wait for better time.

2. Gather your supplies: white paper and drawing/coloring tools in different colors (crayons, colored pencils or markers).  Anything you crayonscan draw with is fine, but make sure you have different colors.

3. Listen to the selected piece by clicking on the link. Remember- keep your eyes closed during the entire musical piece.  The goal is to shut out outside visual images and noises, and focus on you.

While you’re listening, picture how the music would look if you could see it.  What are the colors and shapes you see?  Are there lines?  Is it abstract?  What are the rhythms, the melodies and mood(s) you see?  How does the music make you feel?  Are there words or just colors or images? Don’t worry about drawing anything you may not recognize – that’s not important to this exercise.  Remember, there is no right or wrong way of doing this exercise – just your way.


      Are you ready to begin?

Increase the volume on your computer to mid-way – Beethoven’s Pathetique Movement 2 is very soft in certain sections.

CLOSE YOUR EYES and listen for the entire duration.  Click the youtube link below and listen to Freddy Kempf’s version Beethoven’s of Pathetique Movement 2.   According to music interpretation,  Pathetique in its entirety is not a sad song piece.   Beethoven wrote this when he found out he was losing his hearing. The first movement is depicting the rage and sorrow he felt. The  second movement (the youtube video below) is depicting the comfort he receives.  The third movement is almost a testament of joy.

Now, draw what you ‘saw’ when your eyes were closed.  When you’re finished, look at your drawing for a few minutes.  Don’t be critical about it – it is what it is.  Try this exercise with your favorite musical pieces – rock, alternative, classical, pop, etc.  Compare the 2nd, 3rd drawing with the first.

Creative Interventions are not just for patients…

Creative Interventions should be experienced by all healthcare professionals, not just patients.  Who will benefit?  Nurses, doctors, ancillary nursing personnel, social workers, OT, PT, healthcare managers and executive staff, and academicians.  By experiencing and expanding your own definition of creativity, it will ultimately benefit your patients and your daily interactions with others.

 mhand_stem-cell-garden_sm(stem cell garden, Marti Hand 2008)

Rx:Listen to Music


Rx: Listen to Music

Is listening to music good for us?  Does music help in healing medical ailments?  Is there science supporting the benefical effects of the arts?  These are just a few questions raised  and being studied by scientists across the globe.

In a recent New York Times article (March 29, 2009),  Michael Roizen, MD – chief wellness medical officer of the Wellness Institute at the Clevland Clinic – states listening to classical music on a consistent basis suggests “decreases in all-cause mortality, reflecting slower aging of arteries as well as cancer-related and environmental factors.  Attending sports events like soccer or football offers none of these benefits.” (1)   He states he’s not sure if the decrease in all-cause mortality is due to stress relief or other properties.

Dr. Michael Roizen is also studying the effects of singing to help patients with strokes to relearn language.  Remember the singing1999 movie “Flawless?”  The main character (Robert Deniro) suffers a debilitating stroke and is prescribed to take therapeutic singing lessons for his paralyzed larynx.  His music teacher is his gay next-door neighbor.  The outcome from taking singing lessons is positive, for relearning and regaining speech AND learning tolerance of different lifestyles.

Another researcher in neurocognition of music and language at U of Sussex in England, Stefan Koelsch, is studying the same subject, i.e., music-notes2active music participation by patients suffering from depression.  According to the Mr. Koelsch, “physiologically, it’s perfectly plausible that music would affect not only psychiatric conditions but also endocrine, autonomic and autoimmune disorders.”

The main purposes of the article was to shed light on the collaborative efforts of the music and medical fields to quantify the effects of music on patients diagnosed with certain disease conditions, and highlight several companies creating and marketing propietary music  for ‘medicinal purposes’.   Here are a few interesting points made in the article: unlike prescription medication with known side and adverse effects, listening to music has no side effects; prescribe music as a prescription, just like prescribing a drug or therapeutic modality. And finally, listening to music does affect mood and well-being.

Hippocrates2The therapeutic effects of music  is not new news…the method of delivering music, marketing and money needed for these new elaborate systems are.  WHO is paying for the high-cost of audio systems fit for concert halls in hospitals?  Instead, pay musicians to play in clinical settings.  Music is their passion and their presence will help humanize an environment that can be frightening and dehumanizing.

Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing recognized the beneficial power of music on the sick. (2)  Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, believed that the human body acts as a whole, so that when an organ is ill, the whole body is being afflicted, ie., humans are psychosomatic entities. (3)

Numerous investigations on the effectiveness of music on adult patients in critical care settings in the 1990’s showed reduced anxiety states (4-6),  physiological relaxation as evidenced by reduced vital signs (blood pressure, heart rate and respirations), improved mood in critically ill patients on mechanical ventilation (7-8), and published accounts indicate critically ill patients enjoy and find music helpful in dealing with the environment and in coping with the critical illness itself .(6,9-10)


For healthcare professionals working inpatient and outpatient venues, and families with a loved one going through medical treatment, try music as a creative intervention by gathering the following:

  1.  Headset
  2. iPod or CD player
  3. Playlist of the patients’ favorite music – soft, classical or sounds of nature
  4. Play the music on a consistent basis

Here’s my Rx for you…

‘Time to Say Goodbye’


Andrea Bocelli & Sarah Brightman


Listening to Music: another Creative Intervention for patients

I think music in itself is healing. It’s an explosive expression of humanity. It’s something we are all touched by. No matter what culture we’re from, everyone loves music.” ~billy joel


Like art, many believe music to be a universal language…that there is no need for words.  To the listener, the effects of music is both simultaneously individual and universal, i.e., communing with oneself and the larger commUNITY.

Music can induce both physiological and psychological responses in you.  The use of music to promote health and well-being is referred to by many as music therapy.  However, I prefer the term ‘Creative Intervention or Music Intervention,’ over music therapy.  Why?  Because, the word ‘therapy’ is most often associated with the behavioral music-notes6health field where healthcare professionals have expertise in the art of helping a patient psychologically.   A study of an arts support program concluded the word ‘therapy’ may be threatening to patients because most do not view themselves as needing ‘therapy.’ (1)   But, I’m not going to quibble about choosing a couple words; the most important thing is implementing music as a creative modality in healthcare so patients, families, healthcare professionals, management team and local communities all benefit.

Benefits of Listening to Music

Several studies conducted by nursing academicans present the use of music as an effective, noninvasive intervention in creating a healing environment to promote health and well-being.  Below are the main points on the physiological and psychological responses in listening to music (2-4):

  • Themes identified in art literature are similar with the values in nursing theory, i.e., beauty, personal sensitivity, celebration of life, compassion, consciousness, patience, dignity, spiritual healing, and expression of human experience
  • The arts (music) have a liberalizing effect…stimulating artistic creativity and creativity of the body in wellness and healingmusic-notes41
  • Music relieves anxiety, pain, increases feelings of relaxation, heightens the immune system, decreases blood pressure, pulse and breathing
  • Music affects emotions via the limbic system where memories are evoked in response to sensory stimuli
  • Reduces stress levels and feelings of isolation
  • Music may stimulate the release of endorphins – the body’s natural opiates and associated with pain relief and pleasurable emotions
  • Improves motivation and elevates mood.
  • Fosters comfort in uncomfortable situations
  • Listening to music increased salivary immunoglobulin A, serum melatonin levels, and decreased muscle rigidty.
  • Allows patients a sense of control in an environment that often controls them


Another qualitative study confirms the benefits of music with patients with advanced or end stage cancer at a cancer center in Australia.  Patients’ and family comments included “aliveness,” “expanded consciousness in a context where life’s vulnerability is constatnly apparent.” (5)

Music offers the nursing profession the chance to explore new strategies to enhance their care, and can be part of nursing’s healing modalities in meeting patient outcomes. Nursing interventions have always been to support, facilitate, and validate; the use of music and other creative activities in healthcare settings is no different.

To heal means not only to become well, but whole…bringing the person back in harmony with oneself, including physically, cognitively, spiritually and emotionally.

Author, Daniel Pink, concludes in his book A Whole New Mind: why right-brainers will rule the future that “the detached scientific method is no longer sufficient in medical treatment and care…approach to patient care is changing from detached concern to empathy…nursing is an empathic profession and will be one of the key professions in an age where many technical services are being outsourced, e.g. x-rays outsourced to Bangalore radiologists, etc.  Empathy – touch, presence, and comfort cannot be outsourced; it requires emotional intelligence and compassion.”

Note: if you want the bibliography – email me.


Creativity for Patients – using creative interventions…


Remember seeing the presidental finger puppets a few posts ago?  Well, this is whobamao won, and what he represents is CHANGE.  Change from bi-partianship to partisanship, change from doing the same ‘ol same ‘ol, change from the old way of governing to a new way, change from stagnation to hopeful, change from old and outdated attitudes to new, open and inspiring viewpoints and ideas.

I HOPE this mantra of CHANGE ripples into healthcare.  In particular, about implementing creative interventions directly into patient care, so that, it becomes part of standardized nursing care.  Creative nursing interventions addresses the multi-dimensionality of being human, i.e., body-mind-spirit-emotion levels.  Each level or system are interrelated and communicate simultaneouly, so that, what affects one system has an effect on the other three. 

Engaging in the creative process (art-making, music, dance, handcrafted items, and so on) is an effective, non-invasive intervention that can assist nurses in creating a healing environment to promote health and well-being.  Caring for and about patients goes well beyond the physical, and encompasses emotional and spiritual health as well. 

Please read again ‘The Science Supporting Creativity’ listed under TOPICS located in the left sidebar.

Creativity for Patients – Using Creative Interventions in Patient Care

Rosalie Pratt studied the use of three arts/creative interventions (art, dance, music) on patients with brain injury, cognitive dysfunction, pain, and musculoskeletal injuries. The findings indicate that creative interventions are benefical to all patients, no matter what the diagnosis. (1) 

Note: Pratt uses ‘arts’ interventions, but I have taken the liberty to change  ‘arts’ to creative interventions.  Why?  Because I believe that everyone is creative, but not everyone is artistic.  One of my favorite definitions on creativity is by David Bohm, and he states, “Creativity is fundamental to human experience…the creative impulse is instinctive to everyone.” (2)

Below are the findings of the study:

On Art-Makinng: 

  • Brain injury: creative interventions improves attention, concentration, memory and organization.  This translates into using art, dance and music in clinical practice for evaluating and treatment physical and cognitive deficits. 
  • Dementia: art-making may indicate the presence of psychosis or organic brainsuzanne damage.  It (art-making) provides structured activities for patients to cope and express themselves when language is difficult or diminished.
  • Cardiovascular accident (CVA), aka, stroke: art-making helps exercise the visual and motor functioning for these patients.  Clay was found especially helpful  with CVA and neck fractures in combining sensorimotor activities of the upper limbs with social interaction.
  • Depression: pre-evaluations questionaires showed depressive symptoms improved significantly on post-evaluations.
  • Pain management: art-making was found to be effective in hospice, burn, and chronic pain patients.
  • Pediatrics: making art is helpful for small people who are unable or unwilling to talk about themselves in discussion groups (applicable to adults too!)
  • Immunosuppressed disorders: participating in creative activities was found to alter suffering from the illness by a change in imagery and style used in paintings and other creative work.
  • AIDS: engaging in the creative process revealed each patients’ stage of illness, personality style, previous life experiences.  The artwork produced by these patients showed the anger, confusion, depression and stigmatization that often accompanies HIV.

On Music:

Note: the above painting is a first-time painting by a Creativity participant.


music-notes1Musical interventions was found to be particularly helpful in severe brain injuried patients emerge from comas. (1)  Music slowed heart rate, helped with orienting to sounds, and singing songs helped the voice to recover.  It (music) improved mood and social interaction among patients with brain injury and stroke.

In patients diagnosed with ADD (attention deficit disorder), Instrumental music (absence of voices) was found to significantly decrease target behaviors, such as inattention, impulsivity and improve social skills.

Another article on the effectiveness of listening to music showed pain and anxiety levels diminished, vital signs (blood pressure, heart rate and respirations) decreased, and patients experienced greater relaxationmusic-notes1 and enhanced overall well-being. (3)

Although, I am using only two studies on the effects of music on patients in this post, there is plenty of research on the benefits of music available to those interested in studying it further.

If you’d like the references, please email me at marti@martihand.com

Now, I leave you with a quote by Einstein..

“The intellect has little to do on the road to discovery.  There comes a leap in consciousness, call it intuition or what you will, and the solution comes to you and don’t know how or when.”


 Note: Post your comments by selecting the itsy bitsy ‘No Comments’ or ‘Comments’ option (whichever may be the case) located in the tiny menu bar below this post.