Harping In Palliative Care

Music Therapy in Palliative CareHealthcare facilities today, more than ever, are focusing on quality patient care.  Demand keeps growing for innovative methods of creating positive therapeutic environments.

Facilities worldwide (hospitals/hospice) are beginning to use music for therapeutic benefits.

Music Therapy in Palliative Care has gained considerable recognition as a practical application and solution for positive patient experience.

The growing field of health care, known as music therapy, uses music to support the healing process. Those of us practicing music therapy or providing therapeutic harp music are seeing first hand the benefits from our clients.

As part of my training (much like yours) I had to write books reports to demonstrate my understanding of the subject. Here is an excerpt from one of the book reports:

Music Therapy in Palliative Care, by David Aldridge.

In the book Music Therapy in Palliative Care, author David Aldridge features “New Voices”, a compilation of various practitioner modalities and information regarding case studies and findings from their therapeutic music treatments.

In each “New Voice”, the author’s shares their experience working with therapeutic music and terminally ill clients in different countries. From a variety of settings, Hospice to the Oncology ward, rarely do we find such a broad perspective of patient cases based on the practical application of music therapy. “Neglected tradition of clinical writing” is what encouraged author David Aldridge to add “New Voices” to his latest book.

Bridgit Hogan’s “New Voice” explains music therapy at end of life requires a great deal of thought before playing for patients. If your providing a “sense of security, predictability and structure (for example, ‘Bach’s Prelude 1’) she says stimulating music helps patients “explore emotional or spiritual dimensions, play complex melodic patterns or rich harmonies less predictable” like Debussy’s Clair de Lune, she says “This complex combination of harmony and tempo creates a variety of colours and expectations therefore stimulating different emotions to experience and explore.” After reading chapter five I’m left pondering the idea “music therapy creates a bridge that leads to a vantage point from which people can experience the true meaning of strength, the key to their rite of passage.” Bridgit Hogan clarifies how the experience of therapeutic music allows terminally ill patients to let go peacefully “as no other within the palliative care team can.” What better way to leave this worldly experience for the next.

The numerous case studies shared within the book sheds light on many situations a therapeutic musician may encounter. Most interesting was the case study of patient K and L who ultimately prepare “a path for existential transition and transformation; their rite of passage.” Interesting to note the focus of palliative care teams is to “enhance quality of life” approaching death and dying to integrate physical, psychological, social and spiritual dimensions of ‘self’.

What I learned is that palliative care givers feel “…music is capable of connecting with patients at a profound level. It shifts and balances the dimensions of their human compositions so as to creatively relieve discomfort and achieve a heightened awareness of self.”

Psychologist Susan Weber’s “New Voice” in chapter seven specifies what she found to be most helpful and meaningful in hospice. Her findings highlight music as a tool for communication that assists patients with a sense of belonging to fill their abundance of time through the day. Susan states “…music is a reflection of our period of time, personal and global and is symbolic of our experiences, ideas, behaviors and philosophies of life. It is a mirror of our worlds – past, present and future – our personal life story.” In essence, music like colour, is a universal language, a reflection of the soul.

Chapter eight “New Voice” Nigel Alan Hartley discusses patients living with AIDS and HIV. He says, “Therapists and patient move together on a journey through the unknown – discovery, encounter and adventure providing a heart to the work.” We must remember not to want to change our patients through music rather “…the experience of music making should be paramount to human existence.”

Finally, chapter 10 “New Voice” Gudrun Aldridge speaks about melodic expression for music therapy with Breast Cancer patients. When it comes to dealing with Breast Cancer cases, the author identifies various treatments a patient must go through including how to deal with body image after amputation. The author says “music therapy provides possibilities to promote an intimacy for the woman with her own body, and create an artistic dialogue to reinforce and activate interpersonal communication.” This chapter explores the personal ups and downs women of Breast Cancer endure and how introducing the exploration of therapeutic music can assist in their healing and acceptance of a new self-image. This chapter really speaks to the heart of the matter, giving a feeing of raw emotion, very touching indeed.

In conclusion this is definitely an essential read for anyone wishing to work closely in the Palliative Care field sharing the benefits of therapeutic harp music. Palliative care is the area I wish to focus upon completion of my training with the IHTP and this book provides a great deal of positive support for us. What I take from this book is how each author’s comprehensive insight invite’s all therapeutic musicians to improve their skills in listening, performance, and composition to assist in any and all environments.

  • Remember, as a subscriber and part of the mentoring program, we can discuss your book reports or other assignments during our scheduled time together.