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About Sickkids
About SickKids

March 18, 2014

The power of music

By Rebecca Milec

Patients, families and staff at SickKids clapped along to Celtic music as a violinist circled the room, and they sat in awe as musicians serenaded them with classical medleys. The occasion was a lunch-time concert on March 14 to celebrate Music Therapy Month.

Music therapists entertaining patients and families during a concert marking Music Therapy Month.

The concert, along with other events during Music Therapy Month, aims to illustrate the power of music and the value of the music therapy program to staff and families. The program began at SickKids in 1999 and recently became part of the newly formed Creative Arts Therapies Department.

SickKids music therapists Ruth Roberts and Carolyn Williams engage with patients primarily through individual therapy sessions as well as in group settings. Sessions can involve singing, improvising, songwriting or playing various rhythm instruments, such as bells, shakers and hand drums. Listening to music and playing the guitar or keyboard can also be involved in a session. Therapists take a patient-centred approach and adjust the session to the patient’s individual wants and needs.

“Music therapy can be active and engaging, or calm and relaxing. It is really whatever the patient needs and is up to for that day,” says Williams. “Music can support families through challenging times and give them times of hope and laughter.”

Music Therapist Carolyn Williams with patient.

While music therapy can be fun, Williams stresses that it is far more than entertaining; it is a therapeutic session and requires training, quality and focus. Music therapists must go through extensive education with course work in music, psychology and counselling. Music therapy is used to promote, maintain and restore physical and mental health. The therapeutic relationship is used to facilitate interaction, self-awareness and expression, learning, communication and personal development.

The team has received positive feedback from families, nurses and other members of the health-care team, emphasizing its importance in supporting medical care.

“Music is very adaptable. Some children are very sick and can’t engage in any kind of activity or even open their eyes. They can still take in their surroundings, and music can be with them in that place; very peacefully so they are not alone,” says Roberts.

Learn more about music therapy in this video.