Music Therapy in the NICU

In all my years of studying and practicing music therapy, I never had any interest in medical music therapy. The idea of working in a hospital seemed pretty intimidating, and just not for me. Of course, that’s what I said about working with kids — originally I had my heart set on seniors with dementia — and look at me now.

But over the summer during my maternity leave, I started thinking about going through training for music therapy in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit). I’m not sure if it was the postpartum hormones or what, but the desire stuck with me and I registered for the lecture training at AMTA national conference in November.

Medical Music Therapy Books

After spending my first day of conference attending the NICU lecture training, I knew I had made a good decision. The research, techniques, and outcomes were all fascinating, and I couldn’t wait to get some hands-on experience during the clinical fieldwork training component.

This part was a big investment, both financially and time-wise. I had to get caught up on immunizations and have some bloodwork done in order just to register, and then complete quite a bit of paperwork as well as pay a fee. Once I was approved to attend the training, I booked my plane tickets to Orlando and reserved a hotel room across the street from Florida Hospital. The hardest part was waiting until February!

I happily escaped the arctic Midwest (with my baby and his favorite babysitter, aka my mom, in tow) this past week, though the only sun I soaked up was on the walks to and from the hospital.

NICU Music Therapy Training

The training was facilitated by music therapists Brianna Negrete, from Florida State University, and Rich Abante Moats, from Florida Hospital. Antonio Milland, Amy Robertson, Dr. Jayne Standley, and Ellyn Hamm also provided training and tons of valuable information. The two full days consisted of classroom training as well as quite a bit of time in the NICU both observing and working with premature infants.

On the first day, we learned the procedure for multimodal stimulation (MMS), which helps babies tolerate and process different kinds of stimulation through singing, touch, rocking, and encouraging eye contact. Being in the NICU was definitely intimidating at first, but by the second day, I felt much more comfortable there. I had the opportunity to do MMS with two different babies, which was definitely the highlight of the entire experience.

On the second day, we learned more about the PAL (pacifier-activated lullaby) device and got to see it in action. We also learned about relating to staff/parents/family, medical music therapy program proposals, reimbursement, procedural support, and became more familiar with all the research behind medical music therapy.

NICU Music Therapy Certificate

It was an intense two days of learning and experiential training, but I honestly could have stayed for a week! There was so much to learn, and every single one of the trainers was so helpful in making sure we fully understood everything and guiding us through the music therapy techniques.

I would love to have the opportunity to work in the NICU eventually. It’s a different world from what I’ve been doing for the last 7 years since becoming board-certified, but it will be a wonderful challenge professionally, not to mention very rewarding.