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Letter: Area hospitals should hire music therapists

Area hospitals should hire music therapists

As the director of music therapy at SUNY Fredonia, I was pleased to read The News article, “Music used to heal in places across Western New York.”

Good that The News interviewed music therapist Elyse Kochmanski, just one of the music therapists in Buffalo, and quoted the American Music Therapy Association from musictherapy.org, albeit incorrectly. The official short definition of music therapy from AMTA reads: “Music therapy is the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program.”

Music therapists are board-certified eligible after completing at least a bachelor’s degree and 6-month internship. Furthermore, the five music therapy programs in New York State offer graduate programs that lead to state licensure in creative arts therapy. Music therapists are trained to use music and music experiences that best support clients. Music is powerful, and can be harmful when used without a trained professional who has the skills and knowledge to address individuals’ responses.

The News quoted Dr. Victor Filadora of Roswell Park saying, “There’s a growing body of evidence that music therapy is more than just a perk for people.” However, there is no music therapy program at Roswell Park, or any other medical center in Buffalo. Piano teachers, performers, music volunteers, drum circle facilitators, musician medics and individuals from Healing Arts Initiative are not music therapists, nor are they trained to use music toward healing and growth.

Most prestigious hospitals across the country have music therapists. Closest to Buffalo are Golisano Children’s Hospitals (SUNY Upstate and URMC), UPMC, Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals (Cleveland).

I urge local hospital administrators to step up and establish music therapy departments whose benefits far surpass volunteer musicians. Buffalo deserves better.

Joni Milgram-Luterman, MT-BC, LCAT

Orchard Park

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