Not Just For Patients: The Benefits of Music Therapy Extend to Doctors Coping with Covid-19

The Difficulties of the Covid-19 Pandemic Have Put a Strain on the Well-Being of Doctors, but Professionals are Learning That Music Therapy Could be a Way to Help Doctors Cope.

Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, many aspects of everyday life have become more stressful and complicated, and the pandemic’s impact on people’s mental health and well-being has been significant. While many essential workers have faced new challenges at their jobs, doctors have specifically been witnessing the strains and difficulties of the pandemic. 

Even though doctors are on the front-lines of the pandemic, finding relief isn’t a hopeless endeavor. With music therapy, doctors have been able to manage their stress, improve their mental health, and find solace in creativity. 

the outside of a hospital
As the Covid-19 pandemic has led to hospitals filling to capacity or near capacity, doctors have had to face increasing demands at work. Striving to take care of and help this influx of patients, medical workers have had to make personal sacrifices. 

Doctors and Covid-19: A Constant Fight

In addition to dealing with increased hospital capacity, doctors and healthcare professionals have been working longer hours as a result of the pandemic. Concerned about contracting and spreading the Covid-19 virus to family members, some doctors have also had to limit their contact with loved ones.

As job demands have increased and interactions with loved ones have been limited, doctors have been struggling to find ways to avoid both emotional and physical burnout. Prior to the start of Covid-19, researchers have found that high-stress emergencies have negative long-term impacts on doctors, and with all of the new medical challenges of the pandemic, solutions are more important now than ever. 

a woman playing a violin
To combat overwhelming feelings of stress and frustration, doctors have turned to music therapy programs to alleviate anxiety and improve their mental health. 

Doctor’s and Music Therapy: A Rewarding Experience

At Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, Dr. Lisa Wong saw firsthand the trauma that her co-workers were experiencing as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Confronted with this problem, Dr. Wong came up with the idea to use music lessons as therapy to help her fellow doctors. 

Boston Hope Music Teaching Project

Familiar with the benefits of music therapy, Dr. Wong assisted with the formation and organization of the Boston Hope Music Teaching Project, a program that sets up private music lessons with frontline healthcare workers and distributes musical playlists to inspire and heal patients. 

Through this program, music teachers have been able to connect with caregivers and medical professionals who are dealing with Covid-19 on a day-to-day basis. No matter their level of musical experience or ability, doctors are able to participate in the project and express their stress or frustration through music. 

Notably, the program was only supposed to run this during this past fall for a period of six weeks, but due to the project’s popularity, it has been extended to the spring. 

The Benefits of Music Therapy for Doctors

Taking music lessons can be a very effective way for doctors to distract themselves from the stress of their jobs and from the difficult situations they encounter at hospitals. By focusing on the music during these therapy sessions, doctors can invest their attention in a rewarding, creative experience and take steps towards comfort and healing. 

For Dr. Hemal Sampat, another doctor at Massachusetts General Hospital, music has become a regular activity, even outside of structured music therapy sessions. After long days at work, medical professionals like Sampat engage in musical activities, playing instruments like the piano when they return home at the end of the day. Through this habitual process of practicing an instrument, doctors have been able to manage their stress levels and control their anxiety by diverting their attention to the process of making music. 

By engaging in musical activities, doctors are re-energized and able to give their patients the care that they need.  

a person playing a piano keyboard
In the same way that music therapy has helped doctors combat feelings of isolation, musicians have had rewarding experiences being on the teaching end of music therapy sessions. When musicians engage with healthcare workers in music therapy contexts, they get to make music and make connections. 

Doctors and Music Teachers: A Mutual Relationship

Musical therapy has been helpful for doctors working through the pandemic, but it has also been beneficial for the music teachers that are conducting the therapy sessions. While doctors are improving their stress levels and learning to mentally separate their work life and home life, the music teachers who are guiding these therapy sessions are making positive social connections and feeling rewarded by their patients’ progress. 

Not only are the music teachers benefitting from making these musical connections with doctors, but they’re also able to feel like they are directly helping people who have been impacted by the pandemic. 

Luther Warren, a teacher and musician who has participated in the Boston Hope Music Therapy Project, has especially enjoyed contributing to the program. Because a musician’s life and work can sometimes be isolating, Warren has appreciated making music with those who can benefit the most from it, especially since so many live concerts and shows have been indefinitely delayed. 

In addition to its many other benefits, music therapy has the ability to increase human connection, even in a time of global separation and isolation. Both doctors and music teachers themselves feel rewarded by these relationships. 

a woman wearing headphones and looking out a window
The pandemic has been a challenging time for everyone, but medical professionals have especially felt the burdens of Covid-19. Fortunately, music therapy is an accessible way for doctors to improve their quality of life. 

Although the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted the lives of doctors and healthcare workers in some challenging ways, there are still ways that these essential workers can get help and manage their stress or trauma. Through music therapy, doctors are able to invest their time in enriching musical experiences that shift their focus from forces and stressors that are outside of their control over to their own musical creativity. 

Annabeth Collis
Annabeth Collis is a writer from Buffalo, NY.
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