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Meet Angela - Music therapist

Why use music in health?

Music is the only sensory experience that can activate all areas of our brain simultaneously. The elements of music (e.g. rhythm and melody) address our basic sensory needs.

Music therapy is an allied health research-based profession practised worldwide and defined as a research-based practice and profession in which music is used to actively support people's health, functioning and wellbeing.

As a music therapist, I am privileged to work with children and young people with life-limiting conditions and their families to explore music-facilitated experiences in meaningful ways where often we can't find the words.

I love working as a music therapist. I get to witness how music can be pivotal in supporting symptom management and enhancing quality of life.

Music therapy in paediatric palliative care

I use all the elements of music to achieve the child’s individual goals, often in an enjoyable way in which the whole family can interact and further replicate independently in their own time.

I use music activities such as improvisational instrument playing, rhythm-based activity, song singing and song/lyric discussion, creating playlists for various purposes (e.g. pain management, relaxation), and support the family to be confident in trying these activities themselves, making music for health accessible.

Through active music-making and singing, we can explore and understand a child’s and their family’s individual and collective experiences, using music to ‘therapeutically’ meet the needs of the child or young person and their family. This might look like the music therapist and child and or family all playing instruments together in various ways.

As a music therapist, I am often referred to for common and distressing symptoms such as pain and anxiety. For pain management, we might create playlists that support gentle breathing and or meditation around body awareness. I might also use music with a ‘lullaby’ feeling, gentle guitar playing and humming of familiar or child selected songs. This type of music is associated with a relaxation response and pain reduction.

As the typical activities for children become harder to access for various reasons associated with living with a life-limiting condition, such as sport, music therapy can offer experiences of pleasure, “normalcy”, creativity, and community.

Singing or discussing lyrics of favourite songs, creating playlists and songwriting can support accessing these feelings and facilitate a more meaningful connection to self and identity. Creating recordings of songs also becomes a legacy.

Through instrument playing, a child can experience choice and control, enhance communication, and foster positive experiences for the child and their family.

When I am working with families and music, families will often openly share their grief, disappointment, love, treasured memories, spiritual beliefs and wishes with one another.

Music therapy has the capacity to offer joy and meaning to the child and family and potentially help to alleviate suffering, a major goal of paediatric palliative care.

Music Therapist & National Allied Health Clinical Education Coordinator in Paediatric Palliative Care, Children’s Health Queensland Hospital and Health Service