Sing Play Move & Soothe: Music Therapy for Families of Preterm Infants in the First 12 Months After Hospital Discharge

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Neonatal music therapy is a well-established therapeutic intervention worldwide, with multiple studies demonstrating benefits for preterm infants’ neurodevelopment, parent-infant bonding, and reduction of parental stress and anxiety (Bieleninik et al., 2016; Haslbeck et al., 2020). Research also indicates the necessity for continuing health care-related programs with families of preterm babies after hospital discharge for both infant and adult wellbeing (McGowan & Vohr, 2019). However, there is limited information about the implementation of music therapy as a therapeutic tool for former preterm infants and their parents (Ghetti et al., 2019).

Likewise, there is a paucity of scholarly publications focusing on the experiences of so-called ‘non-traditional’ families, e.g., adoptive, foster, intended (via surrogacy), same-sex, single, trans or gender diverse parents and/or extended families both in a neonatal intensive care environment (R. Logan, 2020) and post hospital discharge – with purportedly minimal published literature in the music therapy domain. The presenter will briefly discuss the impact of: (a) global advances in reproductive health, (b) increasing legal rights accorded to non-traditional families in many countries, and (c) cultural customs related to family structures, prior to considering the necessity for inclusive practices in neonatal and early intervention music therapy service provision.

Following this, the PhD candidate will present results of an integrative literature review on music therapy with families of preterm babies after hospital discharge, before outlining the proposed research study – designed to address the abovementioned knowledge gap by evaluating/exploring family-centred, early intervention music therapy for families of preterm infants from diverse kinship structures. Finally, the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, and its impact on this area of research and clinical practice, will also be highlighted.

This presentation will be of interest to music therapists worldwide who work in both neonatal hospital environments and with former preterm infants and their families after hospital discharge. It will also be applicable for music therapy students internationally who are considering working with families in a hospital or community setting. Moreover, some aspects of the subject matter may be applicable to more general music therapy workplace environments and provide music therapists with opportunities for reflection and consideration related to individual assumptions, values and biases.

Learner Objectives:

  1. Treatment Planning – Learn how to “collaborate with other professionals and/or family, caregivers, and personal network to design interdisciplinary treatment programs.”
  2. Treatment Planning – “Determine a data collection system appropriate for the treatment goals and objectives.”
  3. Professional Responsibilities – Learn how to “conduct oneself in an authentic, ethical, accountable, and culturally sensitive manner that respects privacy, dignity, and human rights in all settings including social media, marketing, and advertising.”
  4. Professional Responsibilities – Learn how to “examine one’s own assumptions, values, and biases.”

Presenter Biography:

Verena Clemencic-Jones, RMT works with babies, children and young people. She is a PhD candidate at Western Sydney University, Australia – researching music therapy’s effects on preterm infants and their caregivers.