Music Therapists

Music therapy in palliative care aims to provide opportunities for patients of all ages, and people close to them, in enriching and supportive music-based experiences as they deal with the patients’ life threatening, often deteriorating conditions. Music therapists can invite patients, sometimes with families and friends, to listen to live or recorded music, compose songs, share improvised music, reflect on musically inspired memories, perform music, have therapeutic music education or appreciation sessions, and become involved in personalised music programs aimed to promote relaxation and symptom relief. Children may also become involved in playsongs and made up musical stories, playing instruments, and singing, which can be fun, reduce discomfort, and enable symbolic expression. Music therapy sessions can be held in palliative care units and other hospital settings, and in homes through community based palliative care. The principals of palliative care also inform music therapists’ work in any health area focussed on quality of life improvement, including day hospice and nursing home settings.

People tend to choose music that reflects feelings, memories, people, and images that they want to connect with. Time in music therapy might be used to: increase self-awareness through discussing elicited reflections with the therapist (who uses counselling skills as necessary); have enjoyable aesthetic, possibly transcendent experiences; engage in music-based life review; create CD legacies with personalised messages; ventilate feelings; or experience satisfaction and pride in creative accomplishments. Music therapists focus on the therapeutic process rather than the musical products and constantly try to offer music-based opportunities for patients to be touched in meaningful ways, and to share enjoyable, affirmative, uplifting, and memorable times with families / friends, and caring staff.

Related Evidence

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Dr Claire O'Callaghan talks about the important role of music therapy in palliative care

Dr Claire O'Callaghan talks about the important role of music therapy in palliative care

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Abstracts of Interest


  • The Peak Body for Australian music therapists is the Australian Music Therapy Association (AustMTA). They have information on: What is Music Therapy?
  • An example of a 61 year old palliative care client’s song which she composed with a music therapist’s support to say, 'Thank you and goodbye' to her husband is available on the World Federation of Music Therapy website (North America, Amy Clement-Cortes)



Last updated 15 March 2019