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Building Relationships through Peer Support & Group Music Therapy

This article highlights the 12-week programme for Kilbryde Hospice Day Service Patients and how collaborative working, planning and flexibility help to build peer support and increase the confidence of patients. In particular, it reflects on a group music therapy session held recently for our patients attending on a Thursday by our Music Therapist, Anna Ludwig.

As part of the Thursday programme, one session is set aside for group music therapy (on a Wednesday, patients can attend the Kilbryde Community Choir).  The particular music therapy session in question followed a discussion around Advanced Care Plans and Power of Attorney; the music therapist felt that she could perhaps use music to lighten the mood following such a serious and difficult discussion, whilst acknowledging the fact it had been difficult for patients and staff/volunteers alike.

Previous music therapy sessions with this particular Thursday group had included:

  • Using music to explore emotions
  • Music quizzes (e.g. Name that tune)
  • Relaxation & visualisation
  • Christmas sing-a-longs
  • Breathing exercises

The group were keen to come to the music room in the hospice following the emotionally charged session (previous music therapy groups had been held in the day service area) and there was an overall buzz to the atmosphere and a great deal of anticipation as to what was going to happen.

Anna began by settling the group into the space by encouraging guided relaxation and focus then moved into some simple breathing exercises. In order to lighten the mood and to aid with these exercises, she offered each group member their choice of kazoo, spending time explaining how to produce a sound then giving everyone a chance to have a practice. This produced a great deal of laughter, which was only added to when each group member introduced themselves using the kazoo. This produced much hilarity and laughter and it was good to hear those with a weaker “speaking! voice have an equal voice during this activity. There was a feeling of great joy and playfulness in the room (and everyone’s cheeks were aching from laughing so much). Anna then accompanied everyone on the piano while they used their kazoos to “sing” a few songs including, She’ll be coming round the mountain and Bring me sunshine.

Following the kazoo fun, the group then chose some other instruments in the room to play. Anna then asked for suggestions of tempo and volume and she supported the group on the piano as they played together a very creative, free improvisation which lasted several minutes and involved everyone. The group felt energised and cohesive during and after this creative experience. They were able to play their chosen instrument without fear of judgement and without embarrassment and came together to improvise music, an experience that most would never have had. Each member of the group was alert and attentive to those making music with them. At the end of the session, there was much camaraderie amongst the patients and the atmosphere felt relaxed and refreshed.

Anna believed this group was so successful due to the relationships built with patients and staff through goal setting and collaborative working. Day service staff and volunteers should be heartily praised for their work on the programme which has resulted in the group interacting so well with each other and providing valuable peer support. The new 12-week programme is a credit to Kilbryde Hospice as it is obvious that the group have become a great source of peer support to each other.

As a music therapist, Anna is grateful to be given the opportunity to work in such a flexible manner with the day service patients, thanks to the understanding and collaboration of the day service staff and volunteers.

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