How can Music Therapy help?
Sensitive interventions for a difficult life stage
Research has shown that, as the Central Nervous System can only process limited amounts of information at any given time, music, as a strong, positive stimulus, can help to direct the person’s attention away from their pain
Palliative care is a very sensitive stage of a person’s life. Most people faced with an end-of-life prognosis will find it hard enough to cope, let alone the words to communicate their true inner feelings about their situation. It is a time filled with anxiety and intense pain, where sleep patterns are often disrupted and hours of pensiveness prevail.
Music Therapy offers a space for communication, emotional expression and psychological support and introduces a sense of ease and comfort. It can help to promote expression of feelings and reduce levels of anxiety and feelings of isolation that occur during the final stages of life.
Music Therapy has the capacity to comfort and support those affected by a terminal illness; it helps to reduce their anxiety and stress and improve their quality of life. Person-centred programmes are designed specifically to address the unique needs of each client.
Group Music Therapy allows participants to share common experiences, gain mutual support and reduce feelings of isolation.
Research has shown that music is sufficiently distracting so as to give a welcome relief from both psychological distress and physical pain.
Overall, Music Therapy in palliative care is used to:
• Provide psychological support and a means to cope with feelings
• Help decrease symptoms of depression
• Facilitate self-expression
• Decrease anxiety and fear
• Aid relaxation and sleep
• Reduce physical discomfort and pain perception
• Stimulate communication
• Promote group cohesion and mutual support
• Enhance family support
• Stimulate the senses
• Provide comfort in difficult times (e.g. listening to/singing familiar songs in an unfamiliar environment or uncertain situation).
Familiar songs/lyrics often have a particular personal significance linked to times past or personal acquaintances. Discussing songs and their significant is used to promote communication and aids reminiscence and life review.
Musical life review
Enables the person to reflect on themselves, capturing their life in a musical life story and helps people to work through issues, such as unresolved pain, grief, failures etc.
Listening to live or recorded music
Choosing a piece of music that communicates something of relevance or conjures up a strong identification or connection to people, can facilitate reminiscence and self-reflection, can give comfort and can provide a distraction from physical pain.
This provides an additional medium for non-verbal communication, encourages creative self-expression and stimulates the senses.
Singing has the capacity to lift moods and decrease levels of stress, agitation and depression.
Movement to music
Movement occupies the mind, enhances a sense of calm and reduces stress and muscle tension.
Putting self-scripted words to music encourages the expression of feelings, enables the person to leave messages for families/friends and gain a sense of achievement and pride. When undertaken in conjunction with family, it can unite in a very meaningful and lasting way. Song writing for self expression may also help meet a person’s bio-psycho-social and spiritual needs, as they approach the end of their life.