The Healing Arts Program at Montefiore: A collaboration that heals patients and nurses

The Healing Arts Program at Montefiore employs music therapy for cancer patients.
The Healing Arts Program at Montefiore employs music therapy for cancer patients.

New York's Montefiore Medical Center's Healing Arts Program takes a good thing and makes it better. The program does not restrict the healing arts to patients; it offers the same service to their staff nurses.

The Healing Arts Program was founded in 2012 through collaboration between the hospital's departments of Family and Social Medicine and Human Resources. The program's aim is to enhance the quality of life and the hospital experience of patients, and also nurses. The program does this by integrating music, creative arts therapies, relaxation techniques, and other healing approaches into programs, clinical services, and education across the medical center.


Music therapy is one of the most popular services at Montefiore. Six licensed board-certified music therapists who have clinical training provide the music. The clinical training comes into play when the therapist is working with patients, so he or she can understand the interaction from a more psychotherapeutic perspective, while the instruments, voice, and different musical modalities enhance the person-to-person interaction. This provides a perfect therapeutic combination. At the current time, there are six music therapists who offer their music in different ways.

Environmental music therapy Gentle music playing in open clinical spaces is effective in such situations as dialysis, ambulatory surgery, and surgical recovery, where patients and family members are very anxious. It is a wonderful way to engage everybody together, and provides a positive distraction that gets people talking about something besides why they are in the hospital.

According to Ronit Fallek, MPA, director of the Healing Arts Program, “You'll hear people talking about the surgery, and suddenly the music therapist starts playing, and people are talking about the music … about memories of favorite songs from the past. It's a completely different conversation. It shifts the feeling in the room; it changes the conversation and creates a new point of connection. It's a way for the family members and the patient to feel like themselves, like people again. Someone is playing music for them.”

Music therapy at bedside When the music therapist comes to the unit, the charge nurse or nurse manager selects the patients to be seen. The therapist always talks with the patients a bit before presenting the music to learn what their favorite music is and ask them about their memories of favorite songs. They often sing together, and it becomes an enjoyable and humanizing experience. Palliative care also offers the option of doing legacy work, talking about memories and life review. By using the music, therapists help patients communicate through the lyrics and share their stories.

Writing songs together In a beautiful activity, the therapist and patient can create something to share with the patient's family members: a song. Patients often write about their lives or even about what they are thinking at that time. The therapist and patient create a song, and then write a tune for it. They then sing that song together, and even record it. That recorded song can then be shared with the patient and the family as something precious to keep.

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