Music Therapy Technique: Entrainment

Music therapists use many specific techniques to improve the lives of their patients.  We are trained to design and implement interventions that use elements of music to stabilize, improve, or enhance functioning.  One of the techniques I use daily in my individual clinical work is called entrainment, which means matching.

I use this most often with babies, patients in low awareness states, and patients needing non-pharmacological pain relief.  I first assess the patient and choose a tempo from their body – it could be a baby’s rhythmic screaming, a teenager’s breathing rate, or a heart rate from a monitor.  Then, I create music with my voice and/or an accompanying instrument that matches that tempo.

Matching a patient’s body rhythms often produces a relaxation response.

We get in sync and then slow down together.  In the hospital setting, I can watch their monitors and see their heart rates decreasing and oxygen saturation increasing.  This means they are calming and their breathing is becoming more effective.

You can use this at home to calm your own children!

It takes a lot of practice to match someone else’s body rhythms, but you can try something simpler first.  Practice this example by yourself. Just pat your leg to the beat, as indicated, while you sing Twinkle Twinkle:

(pat)         (pat)         (pat)  (pat)
Twinkle,   twinkle   little   star,

(pat)      (pat)         (pat)              (pat)
how   I   wonder   what   you   are.

(pat)   (pat)           (pat)             (pat)
Up   above   the   world   so   high,

(pat)      (pat)            (pat)      (pat)
like   a   diamond   in   the   sky.

(pat)          (pat)        (pat)  (pat)
Twinkle,   twinkle   little   star,

(pat)      (pat)         (pat)              (pat)
how   I   wonder   what   you   are.

Nice job!  I bet you did great.  Next time you’re trying to soothe your child, sing this and pat, bounce, or rock your baby to the beat.  When you get used to patting or swaying to the beat of your music, then you can try to up the difficulty level and effectiveness by trying to match your tempo to the breathing (or screaming) rate of your child.

Let me know how it goes in the comments!

With joy,


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