Parents as nurturing resources: A family integrated approach to music therapy for neonatal procedural support.


  • Alexandra Ullsten Faculty of Medicine and Health, School of Health Sciences Örebro University, Örebro, Sweden; Centre for Clinical Research, Region Värmland, Karlstad, Sweden
  • Tarja Pölkki Research Unit of Nursing Science and Health Management, Faculty of Medicine, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland; Oulu University Hospital, Department of Children and Women, Oulu, Finland
  • Claire M. Ghetti Grieg Academy Music Therapy Research Centre, The Grieg Academy – Dept. of Music, University of Bergen, Bergen, Norway




Family integrated music therapy approaches may contribute significantly to the prevention and management of procedural pain in infants, and the discipline of music therapy requires more sophistication in understanding how and why. In this perspective article, we advocate for the unique role parents play in neonatal pain management and for the importance of supporting and educating parents to actively engage in music therapy as procedural support. Infant-directed singing can be an apt medium for parents and infants to communicate in affective mutual relationship during painful procedures. Music therapists can collaborate with parents in a way that positions parents as experts and assures they are empowered in their roles. In doing so, music therapy both coordinates with and extends the interdisciplinary team’s initiatives to provide individualized, family integrated developmental care. Neonatal pain research is an interdisciplinary field where music therapy has just started to publish results. Theory development is essential in advancing music therapy research and practice in this field. In our perspective paper, we present the theoretical underpinnings of a family integrated approach to music therapy as neonatal procedural support where parents are the primary (re)sources for nurture and pain alleviation.

Keywords: music therapy, parental infant-directed singing, family integrated care, procedural support.


Author Biographies

Alexandra Ullsten, Faculty of Medicine and Health, School of Health Sciences Örebro University, Örebro, Sweden; Centre for Clinical Research, Region Värmland, Karlstad, Sweden

Alexandra Ullsten, PhD, Post doc, Music & Art Therapist. Affiliated Researcher, School of Health Sciences, Örebro University, Sweden. In 2010, Alexandra Ullsten pioneered the implementation of neonatal music therapy in Swedish healthcare and her research interest is in family-centered neonatal music therapy and pain management. Alexandra is Principal Investigator of the Swedish multi-center randomized controlled trial SWEpap.

Tarja Pölkki, Research Unit of Nursing Science and Health Management, Faculty of Medicine, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland; Oulu University Hospital, Department of Children and Women, Oulu, Finland

Tarja Pölkki, PhD, RN, Professor at the Research Unit of Nursing Science and Health Management at the University of Oulu, Finland. Her research group develops evidence-based consistent practices to promote the well-being of children and families in nursing. Tarja’s research interests include enhancing family-centered care and improving pain assessment and pain alleviation in neonates requiring intensive care.

Claire M. Ghetti, Grieg Academy Music Therapy Research Centre, The Grieg Academy – Dept. of Music, University of Bergen, Bergen, Norway

Claire M. Ghetti, PhD, MT-BC, CCLS, Associate Professor of Music Therapy at The Grieg Academy - Department of Music, University of Bergen, Norway. Claire is Principal Investigator of the multinational randomized controlled trial LongSTEP evaluating impact of music therapy on parent-infant bonding for preterm infants and their caregivers. Her research centers on how music therapy promotes resources and contributes to the prevention of traumatization in intensive medical contexts.



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