Music therapy growing in popularity

Music therapy growing in popularity
A young patient responds enthusiastically to music therapy.
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Advances in technology are helping patients recover from injuries and illnesses, but doctors are finding that a simple technique can also have a powerful impact on a person's health. Music therapy is becoming a popular prescription.

Mary Malloy doesn't carry a stethoscope or a thermometer. Instead, she walks the halls of a hospital with a guitar, a drum and some maracas.

"I can remember watching my dad play the piano, and listening to him play and sing, and I just thought it was the most magical and amazing thing in the world," she said.

Malloy is a licensed music therapist, one of about 5,000 nationwide. She works with patients of all ages with both physical and mental health problems.

"Medicine is starting, as a whole, to really look at the bigger picture, as well. What's going on with their mood? What's going on with their thought processes? What's going on with their family support systems? Because that all affects how they're going to heal," she said.

On this day, she's working with a young girl who lights up at the chance to play and have fun. But music therapy isn't for everyone.

"Occasionally, I do have people tell me, 'No, I really, I'm not up for that today.' And it's like, 'That's okay. This is your choice, you don't have to do this,'" said Malloy.

Music helps connect us to our past. Certain songs remind us of our parents, our childhood, or that road trip with old friends. Malloy tries to use those emotions to help patients understand and overcome the challenges they'll face in their treatment.

"So we can use that as a tool to help people relax, to help people express their thoughts, express their feelings, and to kind of come at it in a different way," said Malloy.

Studies show that pain is both physical and mental. So if playing music for a little while helps a young girl smile, it might help her feel better all over.

"The more we can do to get them out faster, the better. And if music helps decrease their pain, then that may lead to less pain medicine. That leads to less time in the hospital. That's a win-win for everybody," said Malloy.