Posted on May 15, 2018

The potential for music therapy approaches to improve patient health and wellbeing were explored at a continuing medical education workshop held at Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar (WCM-Q).

The event featured lectures by expert speakers who gave a brief history of music therapy, discussed the effect of music on the brain, and described the application of music therapy interventions in clinical practice. Attendees also took part in an interactive workshop to learn how music therapy can be an effective treatment intervention to help clients deal with trauma and chronic illness, and how playing music or musical instruments can provide psychological relief and an inner resource for people to positively confront their ongoing illness.

Expert speakers at the event included Dr. Aicha Hind Rifai, assistant professor of clinical psychiatry, who discussed music therapy in clinical practice. Dr. Rifai said: “Music therapy is currently a scientifically approved treatment for the following conditions: depression with anxiety; Parkinson’s disease to treat gait, speech and swallowing problems; schizophrenia to decrease hallucinations, delusions and apathy, and to improve mood, cognition and quality of life; and finally for sleep problems. Patients suffering from any of the above conditions should be routinely referred for music therapy either as a main treatment or in addition to the standard medical treatment they are receiving.” She added: “Although music therapy is of benefit in cases of autism and in end of life care, more systematic studies are needed to confirm the efficacy of the treatment in these and other conditions and to clarify which type of music therapy intervention works for each disease.”

The symposium, entitled Music Therapy and Healing, was part of WCM-Q’s ongoing Lives in Medicine series, which explores interactions between art, medicine and healing. Previous events have examined medicine and the visual arts, the medical humanities, and narrative medicine. The event also featured Dr. Waseem Kotoub, a professional concert pianist, composer and medical doctor. Dr. Kotoub, who trained at the Royal Academy of Music in London, has used music therapy with autistic children to aid the development of communication skills. He also established what is believed to be the first music therapy center in the MENA region. Dr. Khotoub gave a joint presentation about the history of music therapy alongside Dr. Alan Weber, WCM-Q’s visiting professor of English.

Dr. Weber said: “Research from history and ethnomusicology shows how many different ancient and contemporary cultures, especially the Greeks and Muslim physicians, recognized the healing power of music and used its effects therapeutically in similar ways to modern music therapy.” Dr. Khotoub and Dr. Mohamud Verjee, associate professor of family medicine in clinical medicine and assistant dean for medical student affairs at WCM-Q, then delivered a workshop on the use of music therapy for treating trauma and chronic illness. Dr. Khotoub demonstrated basic concepts of music therapy on the piano for the audience who participated with singing and humming. Dr. Rifai then concluded the event by summarizing the benefits of music therapy in patient care.

The event was accredited locally by the Qatar Council for Healthcare Practitioners-Accreditation Department (QCHP-AD) and internationally by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME).