Where is the darkness?

We, the music therapy community, have a certain way of talking about our work in end-of-life care, and a certain way that we generally do not talk about our work in end-of-life care.  End-of-life music therapy clinical work is often described as “so beautiful” and “so spiritual,” I think more so than music therapy in its other clinical iterations.  We like to talk about the lightness, the tears of much-needed release, the uplifting, transcendent beauty of music in the moments leading toward someone’s death.

But that’s only a portion of the work, isn’t it?   Continue reading “Where is the darkness?”


Origin Story

Here is the second post in our new ongoing series (to be posted on the 15th of each month) about how music therapists began work in end-of-life and palliative care settings. It is our hope that the telling of these stories will promote new perspectives from the storyteller, new introspection for the listeners, and a shared understanding of the privilege that it is to be working in EOL and palliative care.  If you work in end-of-life care, please consider submitting your story.

My origin story, the one about how I ended up working in end-of-life care, has two components.  Continue reading “Origin Story”


Hospice from the Inside

Every interdisciplinary team of which I have been a member has had a particular and consistent reaction to the case description of very sick patients under 60 years old. Sort of a collective “ooph,” like everyone in the room has just been sucker-punched. I’ve seen this over and over again. Even the most experienced nurses and physicians do it. And I’ve been a part of it too, emitting a soft groan along with everyone else (less and less soft the younger the patient might be) at the moment of recognition. So I couldn’t stop myself from imagining what happened at the hospice team meeting, my old team from before I moved away, when my mother’s case was announced. Continue reading “Hospice from the Inside”


On Boundaries

Boundaries can be difficult in any therapeutic context – some would argue they are troublesome in any context period – but there is a particular quality to boundaries in this work.  Where do the boundaries fall in music therapy end-of-life care, and what does it mean when we cross them?  I think of two main places where they feel tricky to me in end-of-life work.  One is in answering questions regarding my personal biographical information, and the other is in the context of stepping outside my “role” as the person who talks about feelings and plays music for and with patients. Continue reading “On Boundaries”


Our First Call for Submissions

Jillian, Kristen, Noah, and I are seeking guest bloggers to contribute to our ongoing series of posts on a central theme. The four of us will contribute to this theme and over time we hope to have many submissions from guest bloggers as well.  We would like to have representation of music therapists with diverse experiences and perspectives, so please consider participating! Continue reading “Our First Call for Submissions”

Foundational concepts


What does it mean to do “deep” work in end-of-life care?  Does deep just mean that we feel deeply?  Does it mean that we feel like we deeply understand the patient or family member that we are working with?  I’m considering this post to be a sort of primer to depth work in end-of-life care, as I conceive of it, and a place to introduce some concepts that all the editors will probably be writing about at some point or another. Continue reading “Depth”


The warm-up

I’m in the warm-up right now, right here, behind my computer as I type.  I’m like a new patient who has always wanted to try music therapy, and I’m super excited and ready to go, even though I don’t know much about what I’m about to jump into.  I don’t need a hello song, at least I don’t think I do — but I am standing here at the precipice of something new and I am getting ready to jump into the exciting unknown. Continue reading “The warm-up”