Patients Are People, Too (And So Are Professionals)

Photo credit:
Photo credit:

I can’t shake the memory of the feeling of being utterly out of place.

I felt it in my stomach, in my tongue-tied mouth, and my anxious mind as I vigilantly scanned the room looking for some haven where I could wait inconspicuously for the service to begin.  Trying to appear casual, and just to blend in, I gazed at the photos—all of them, one by one, for as long as possible without giving anyone else reason to take notice of me.  Not that it was difficult to give attention to the display, or that I was only pretending to be interested.  Each photo told of the healthier parts of a life of which I had only known the premature end.  I found it hard to look away.  It can be a comforting thing to continue getting to know a person after they have died.

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The allure of fantasy


Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about fantasy and its role in the therapeutic process. Fantasy, among its other benefits as a force in therapy, is uniquely situated to challenge entrenched cognitive structures, bound emotional energy, and divisive power structures. Comprised of fundamental human features (e.g., imagination, creativity, etc.) essential to personal foundations of wellness, fantasy is a necessary ingredient in a person-centered practice. Fantasy plays a significant component in my current work, exploring such questions as “Who would I be without this illness?” and “How can I be a health, integrated person in the future even if this illness persists?” in order to foster an imaginative process that creates possibilities and activates potentialities. Continue reading “The allure of fantasy”


Intersections of Yoga and Music Therapy

We’re excited to have Molly Hicks, MMT, MT-BC write this guest post about her experiences as a music therapist, and practitioner and teacher of yoga. For her bio, please refer to the Contributors tab at the top of the page. Please feel free to leave comments here to continue this discussion. It is our intent that this will initiate a new series of posts exploring the integration of music therapy with other healthcare practices and disciplines at the end-of-life. If you feel this speaks to your current practice, please feel free to reach out to us about contributing.
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Introducing: Palliative Care

In November, my hospital sent me to attend the National Seminar given by CAPC, the Center to Advance Palliative Care.  My experience at the conference ended up being personally impactful.  I have always felt,  on an intuitive level, the profound differences between working for a hospice agency and a palliative medicine team in a hospital, since I changed treatment settings in 2008.  However, attending the conference stimulated a lot of thoughts for me about the uniqueness of palliative medicine in a medical hospital and a music therapist’s role there.  My impression of the music therapy end-of-life care scene is that we tend to focus on the hospice part of the greater palliative care umbrella, but there is so much more for us to know about, and so much more for us to offer. Continue reading “Introducing: Palliative Care”


Finding meaning in the journey, not the destination

One of the unintended benefits of having a child has been learning to cook and, for the first time, finding meaning in it. Cooking for my daughter has helped me come to respect its art and craft. Whereas I once valued the tasks of cooking only by the isolated products those tasks produced (e.g. a chopped carrot, simmering sauce, etc.), I came to understand these purposeful actions as choreographed movements in a much larger dance that function as an act of service representing love and nurturance.

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This year’s Social Media Advocacy month is focused on VISION: We Value this endeavor, we Imagine Success in our advocacy efforts, we Invest in advocacy Opportunities Now and whenever possible. For participation in this effort, we decided to engage with each other in a discussion about our vision for music therapy and end-of-life care. Please share with us any responses you might have, and what your vision for the field may be. As always, thank you for being a part of this community

Continue reading “re: VISION”


Origin Story

Note: This is a guest post by Jennifer Swanson, taking part in our Origins series about how music therapists working in end-of-life care trace their connection to this work. For more information about Jennifer, please refer to the “Contributors” tab. If you are interested in contributing a piece to the Origins series, please read more from our Call for Submissions.

How did I, the woman with initial aspirations to use music therapy to change the world by bringing together people in battling nations, or empowering women in Middle Eastern countries, or using music as joining language between different cultures, end up working with people at the very end of life? Continue reading “Origin Story”


Mothering Our Clients–Mothering Ourselves

Note: In true “new mom” fashion, I drafted this post in August. It has taken until now for me to complete it!

Sometime last year, Noah and I were chatting about parenthood, our work, birth stories and death stories…you know—the usual light-hearted conversation topics! He wondered how it was for me to be a mom while simultaneously working in pediatric palliative care. I have long since wanted to blog about this topic, but struggled with what exactly I wanted to say. What follows are some thoughts that came to me during a long stroll with my infant daughter. Continue reading “Mothering Our Clients–Mothering Ourselves”


Grateful: The AMTA Conference in Review

The holiday we just celebrated here in America reminds us that being grateful is a pretty important thing. Work in end of life care reminds us to be grateful on a daily basis. Life’s fleeting nature and unpredictability are impossible to ignore while interacting daily with people who are dying. Taking for granted anything that gives meaning to our lives becomes much less of a habit.

One thing my patients have taught me not to take for granted is time well spent. This year in particular, I’m grateful for having been able to attend the annual conference of the American Music Therapy Association. The conference was held in Louisville, Kentucky just a few weeks ago, and was definitely a time well spent.

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A Reflection on Robin

The role of music

It’s taken me some time to process Robin Williams’ death and its impact on me. Whether he was an alien or genie, professor or therapist, grieving husband or cross-dressing father, Williams provided opportunities to share in communal laughter and absorb moments of authentic human experiences that resonated with me as a child and have, in many ways, continued to resonate into adulthood. Reflecting on this I have found is that, in contrast to other celebrity losses (e.g., Heath Ledger and Phillip Seymour Hoffman) wherein I had immediate and relatively brief emotional responses ranging from shock to sadness, I’ve actually been grieving.

Continue reading “A Reflection on Robin”