Every day brings a new opportunity for Ashley Warmbrodt, M.A., M.T.-B.C., a board-certified music therapist who started our music therapy program within Child Life and Integrative Care Services.  

She uses the piano or her favorite string instruments and strong therapeutic instincts to improve children’s mental and physical outcomes. Playing the guitar soothes a struggling teenage psychiatric patient. Music-assisted relaxation helps a young burn patient endure painful whole-body dressing changes. In our NICU, Ashley leads parents in singing quiet songs to help them bond with tiny babies who seem too fragile to touch. 

“The human brain reacts to music like a drug. It also helps validate emotions and feelings,” says Ashley. It helps de-escalate stressful situations. Sometimes, patients need less pain medication because of it. 

“Music therapy helps children and families through some of their toughest times,” she says. “Whether it’s singing, playing a particular chord progression on a ukulele or creating a ‘heartbeat song’ at the end of a child’s life, this is where the beautiful moments and healing happen.” 

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A young patient at Children's National Hospital.

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A young patient at Children's National Hospital.