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Music therapy

Non-urgent advice: Covid-19 update

We are currently providing music therapy sessions on the paediatric wards in person. Our outpatient work remains online at the current time.

We have provided some ideas that you might like to do at home during the lockdown.

We've created a tip sheet of ideas you can try out at home.

We have also shared some videos of us singing some songs that you might like to join in with.

What is music therapy?

"Music therapy is an established psychological clinical intervention, which is delivered by Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) registered music therapists, to help people of all ages, whose lives have been affected by injury, illness or disability through supporting their psychological, emotional, cognitive, physical, communicative and social needs." - British Association of Music therapy (BAMT)

Music therapy provides opportunities for self-expression and communication through shared interactions using a variety of musical instruments and spontaneous vocal sounds.  

Music therapy is founded on the understanding that the ability to respond and experience oneself through music is an inborn quality that usually remains unimpaired by disability, injury or illness and is not dependant on musical training. 

Music has the ability to express a variety of different emotions and many children find it easier to express themselves through the non-verbal medium of music.  

Paediatric music therapy at our hospitals

At our hospitals, we have two paediatric music therapists – Clare Rosscornes is based on the children’s wards and Dawn Loombe provides sessions with out-patients at the Child Development Centre (CDC)

We are fortunate that our music therapy service is currently supported by charitable donations through Addenbrooke’s Charitable Trust (ACT)

Music therapy on the wards

Individual and group sessions are provided on the wards and the children’s families are involved in the therapy

Children are encouraged to find their own way of communicating and relating to others through music by taking an active part in the sessions. This may involve playing an instrument, listening to music, singing or song writing. 

Clare does not necessarily teach the child to sing or play an instrument but rather the children are encouraged to use a range of instruments (mainly percussion) and their own voices to explore the world of sound and to create a musical language of their own. By responding musically, Clare is able to support and encourage this process.

Music therapy provides a positive way to channel feelings such as anger, frustration or sadness which may result from long stays in hospital. This can be very beneficial for children, especially those who find it difficult to talk about their feelings. In the often restricted world of a seriously ill child, music therapy focuses on what s/he can do, it gives choices and control and raises self-esteem.

“[Music therapy] offers children a uniquely valuable form of self-expression and enjoyment… [it offers] a place for children to be themselves, to reinforce their identities, to regain an element of control in their lives, to be heard and to be creative.” (Schatzberger, 2005).

Playing or listening to music can help to reduce anxiety and stress and promote relaxation. It can also provide a sense of normality and fun within what can often be a stressful and difficult time for the families. 

Feedback from families

“Music sessions have been a real highlight of any stay”
Parent of a young child on the oncology ward

“Your sessions have been rewarding for all of us”
Parent of a 14 year old girl with an acquired brain injury 

“Music therapy is the only group activity Isabel accepted in hospital ... It was a guaranteed smile, a break from cancer focused talks”
Parent of a 3 year old long term oncology patient

Music therapy at the child development centre

Dawn Loombe is a qualified music therapist and has worked at the Child Development Centre (CDC) since 2008. Music therapy sessions at the CDC are with pre-school children with additional needs and their parents/carers, who attend for regular weekly sessions.

The children are usually referred for music therapy by the paediatricians or other health professionals working with the family, normally around the time of their diagnosis.  

Sessions are usually individual to begin with, but duo sessions are also provided, or sometimes in a small group. Music therapy sessions are with the parent/carer(s) in the room, and we all play together and use our voices.

Sessions are regular, weekly and we work towards specific non-musical aims, which are agreed with the parent.  Aims might be, for example, to encourage communication and social interaction skills, or to develop non-verbal expression, or there might be particular physical, emotional or behavioural goals. Often, it is just to meet the child and family wherever they are on their journey, and to work with them in music, in whatever ways are beneficial for them.  

Sometimes sessions continue weekly for a term or two, sometimes longer – but this is regularly reviewed with the family and the process is collaborative; the parents are continually consulted and their views and ideas are very much part of this work. The music therapist writes progress reports and contributes to any EHCP and pre-school/school work, participating in Team Around the Family (TAF) meetings and liaising with other professionals, supporting the family wherever possible. 

Music therapy sessions

  • Focus on what the child ‘can do’ and use their musical likes and developing skills as building blocks to promote positive change
  • Provide a space for parent(s) and child to play together in a different way; removing pressure to ‘perform’ and to enjoy just being together
  • Music is the motivator and sessions can support a child’s development and help parents with new ideas for interacting with their child, working at the child’s pace and reinforcing their relationship.

Parents feedback:

“I knew a little about music therapy but found  it hard to picture what a session would be like and I have been delighted to find it so  well-tailored to my son’s needs... his attention and concentration are heightened when music is used, and the positive social feedback he  receives in the sessions aids his interest in  others outside of the session”  - PK, mother.

“It has been lovely to see L come out of his shell and organise himself better each week..." - JC, mother.

“I learned a lot about…how to encourage his development through music” - GB, mother.

“Overall, I feel music therapy has been the one thing that has made the biggest single difference for [him] and for me. It has helped him to develop skills he will need for life, and also helped me to understand and accept [him] for the way he is and how he learns” - MC, mother of I.

Online resources