UH Portage Medical Center

Music Therapy Builds a Bridge over Troubled Water for Patients at UH Geauga and Portage Medical Centers

Most people know that listening to music or playing an instrument can make them feel calm, happy or even inspired. At University Hospitals Connor Integrative Health Network, board-certified music therapist Forrest Paquin taps into that power to make a difference in patients’ emotional and physical wellbeing.

(Left) Oncologist, Dr. Judah Friedman and (Right) Music Therapist, Forrest Paquin
(Left) Oncologist, Dr. Judah Friedman and (Right) Music Therapist, Forrest Paquin.

Paquin, who holds a bachelor’s degree in music therapy from Boston’s renowned Berklee College of Music, brings music to some 150 patients a month at UH Geauga and Portage medical centers. She works with a diverse range of patients, using music as a therapeutic tool to decrease their perception of pain and stress.

“Music therapy is an evidence-based practice,” Paquin explained. “Numerous studies have proven music therapy to be an effective tool in managing pain and stress for patients with various medical problems and conditions in the acute-care setting.” Some of the types of patients with whom she has worked include patients with cancer or behavioral health problems and those going through respiratory therapy, heart or orthopedic surgery and those in hospice.

Although Paquin is an accomplished musician who sings and plays guitar, violin and percussion, the beauty of music therapy is that patients don’t need to have music skills or talent, she said. “Using music in medicine is not about performance. There is no judgement,” she said. “It’s a therapeutic tool for patients to express themselves in a positive way, verbally and nonverbally, while enhancing their quality of life.”

Music therapy interventions can be designed to promote wellness, improve communication, manage stress, alleviate pain or enhance memory and self-expression, she said. She usually starts a session by talking with the patient about the kinds of music he or she likes, essential information for meeting each patient’s needs. She develops an assessment for each patient and measures his or her stress and pain levels and physical and emotional conditions before and after each music therapy session.

Paquin makes her rounds at the hospitals with a custom music therapy cart that includes an assortment of instruments, a keyboard and a mini-recording studio. “Singing, playing an instrument and listening to music can engage the patient socially and be a positive outlet for coping with stress related to a diagnosis or hospitalization,” she noted. “For others, music diverts their pain perception by giving them something else to focus on.”

Paquin joined UH Connor Integrative Health Network in 2017 and developed the music therapy programs at UH Geauga and Portage medical centers. She and ten other board-certified UH music therapists are part of the UH Connor Integrative Health Network, which provides alternative, non-pharmacologic therapies such as music therapy, art therapy, acupuncture and guided imagery. Seidman Cancer Center at UH Geauga Medical Center currently is seeking donations from the community that will support expansion of these therapies for cancer patients.