Harp Therapy

Ryan playing the harp for his mother who was a Stage 4 Ovarian Cancer patient in 2016.

Harp therapy is not entertainment or atmospheric music.

A certified therapeutic harp practitioner is trained to give full attention and presence to each patient in assessing breathing patterns, looking for signs of tension in the body and on the face.

Music is tailored to help support the individual in times of physical, emotional and spiritual distress by matching the resonant tone, mood, musical taste and providing their own personal musical or journey or their own “cradle of sound”.

Therapeutic harp music addresses the five main areas; breathing, anxiety, fear, pain and depression. Harp therapy is an ancient art. With its soothing timbre and spiritual associations, has been revered as a healing instrument by many cultures for thousands of years.

Harp therapy is a general term used to describe the continuum of types of therapies in which the harp is used.

“The purpose of music is not to entertain us, there are regions in the soul where only music can penetrate.”

ZoltÁn kodAly
IHTP – International Harp Therapy Program

A Certified Therapeutic Harp Practitioner of The International Harp Therapy Program use the small harp as a bedside instrument with the intention of supporting the recipient’s goal of healing. This goal may be emotional, physical, mental or spiritual in nature.

The soothing sounds of the harp not only can enhance the quality of life, but create the possibility of interactive work in which the recipient might play the harp. Working with the therapeutic harp is as varied as our clients.

Benefits of the Harp

When therapeutic harp music is played, recipients may receive beneficial effects such as increased relaxation, improvement in sleep, decreased pain and anxiety, stabilization of vital signs, and improvement in mood. An end-of-life music vigil can also help a patient to achieve a peaceful transition.

•   Releases emotional pain

•   Improves short-term memory and attention span

•   Increases social interaction

•   Builds self-esteem

•   Relieves stress

Frequently Asked Questions about Therapeutic Music

1. What does a therapeutic musician do? 

A therapeutic musician uses the inherent healing elements of live music and sound to enhance the environment for patients in healthcare settings, making it more conducive to the human healing process.

2. What is the difference between a music therapist and a therapeutic musician?

The music therapist uses musical instruments and music making as therapeutic tools primarily to rehabilitate the normal functions of living and improve quality of life through studying and promoting measurable changes in behavior. A therapeutic musician uses the artistic application of the intrinsic elements of live music and sound to provide an environment conducive to the human healing process.

Playing harp for a patient recovering from an eye injury

3. What is therapeutic music?

Therapeutic music is an art based on the science of sound. It is live acoustic music, played or sung, specifically tailored to the patient’s immediate need, which brings music’s intrinsic healing value to the bedside of the ailing.

4. What does healing mean?

We define healing as movement toward mental, physical, emotional and spiritual wholeness.

“Seek out a wise player on a harp and it shall come to pass… that he shall play with his hand and thou shalt be well.”

1 Samuel 16:16

5. Who benefits from therapeutic music?

Those who commonly benefit are persons experiencing life’s transitions such as birthing and dying, and those experiencing terminal illness, injury, chronic illness and/or disease. Music may affect the listener physiologically, emotionally, mentally, and/or spiritually. 

6. Where do therapeutic musicians work?

Therapeutic musicians work in a wide variety of healthcare settings. They work primarily at the bedside of patients in clinical environments including hospice, hospitals, high skilled nursing facilities, treatment centers and nursing homes. In the hospital they may work in areas that include pre-op, recovery, ambulatory care, ER, SICU, ICU, NICU, pediatric and psychiatric units. 

Ryan playing the harp for a group of patients in a General Ward at the Adventist Medical Center

 7. Who is qualified to practice therapeutic music?

Persons who complete the approved therapeutic musician curricula and independent study from an accredited training program are qualified to practice as therapeutic musicians.

8. What is the National Standards Board for Therapeutic Musicians?

The National Standards Board for Therapeutic Musicians is a governing body for accredited programs that graduate therapeutic musicians. Its purpose is the development and advancement of the profession of bedside therapeutic music.

9. What are some misconceptions about therapeutic music?

A common misconception is that there is only one type, or style, of music that is beneficial for all patients. This is false. Each patient has unique needs, and the patient circumstances determine the type of music used. Other misconceptions are that therapeutic musicians are para-music therapists, merely entertainers, or have not received sufficient training. These are all false. Therapeutic musicians are certified through extensive training programs, which provide high-quality training and hold high standards for each graduate.

Playing the harp for Cheska, a Stage 4 Osteosarcoma patient

10. Is there research to support therapeutic music?

Although the documented effects of music on mood and physiology date back to the ancient Greeks and more recently to the Renaissance, today the effectiveness of music as a healing modality has been well documented in music therapy, music-medicine, nursing, psychology, and scientific literature. Recently several controlled studies have been published which demonstrate the efficacy of live, therapeutic music in decreasing pain and anxiety and regulating heart rhythms.

11. How are therapeutic musicians paid? 

Each healthcare facility funds therapeutic music differently. Funds may come out of a particular department’s budget, or from the facility’s foundation, auxiliary, special fund, or through a grant. Many therapeutic musicians work as employees and in private practice.

12. How is therapeutic music practiced in hospice?

Therapeutic music is used in hospice to provide support for the physical, emotional, spiritual and mental conditions of the dying and their loved ones.

Ryan with Mr. Joey Valenciano, his very first harp therapy patient.
He plays the harp for Mr. Valenciano during his routine plasmapheresis to alleviate his discomfort during said procedure

13. What is a typical therapeutic music session like?

The therapeutic musician is trained to assess the patient’s behavior, condition and communication in order to meet the patient’s immediate need with appropriate therapeutic music.

14. What is the future of therapeutic music?

Since the inception of the therapeutic music field in the early 1990s, hundreds of well-trained and certified graduates are serving humanity and making a difference in the “comfort care” of the patients. An increasing number of healthcare facility administrators recognize the benefits that therapeutic music brings to their patients.


1.      http://harptherapycampus.com/

2.      http://www.harptherapyinternational.com/

3.      http://www.therapeuticmusician.com/styled/index.html

4.      http://www.harptherapyjournal.com/what-is-harp-therapy.html

5.      https://www.nsbtm.org/faq/

“When the human being hears music, he has a sense of wellbeing, because these tones harmonize with what he has experienced in the world of his spiritual home.”

Rudolf Steiner

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