Music In Health | How Music Therapy Helps | Chris O'Brien Lifehouse

Music In Health –

How Music Therapy


Music therapy offers choice and control, in a situation where much of it has been removed. It disturbs the routine of sitting, waiting, thinking and getting treatment with moments of deep engagement and generous encouragement.

The Music in Health program is entirely philanthropically funded, and sarcoma unit medical oncologist, Dr Vivek Bhadri, sees it as an important part of Lifehouse’s patient centred approach to cancer:

“I treat a lot of younger patients and music has shown to be a great way for them to express and convey how they’re feeling about their diagnosis and treatment, in some instances more than they’re willing to directly speak about.

“Music therapy can be an outlet for concerns and anxieties, or simply provide a great distraction for a patient undergoing treatment – it fills a gap where medicine can’t.”

Rhythm & Flow

At Lifehouse, we use the Guided Original Lyrics and Music (GOLM) therapeutic songwriting method, developed by Music Therapy Fellow, Dr. Emma O’Brien OAM. Sessions begin with an open conversation and move toward lyric composition, guiding patients through the creative process of writing a song.

Senior music therapist, Jack Thomas says the songwriting process “begins with a normal conversation,” with Rapunzel, a patient at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse.

“She was talking about her body: her fingertips, the colour of her fingernails changing, hair falling out, feeling frail… but she wanted it to be relatable for anyone,” he says. “So, the metaphor idea came up. Her body became a house, feeling the strain of two unwelcome tenants — cancer and chemotherapy.”

Hundreds of patient’s own songs have been written with this method at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse.

Why Use Music In Healthcare?

At Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, we offer patients a patient-centred approach to their healthcare all under one roof: from research and clinical trials for new treatments, to innovative approaches to reduce side effects.

Music therapy aims to improve quality of life by reducing stress and anxiety, providing peace and comfort, and boosting confidence and self-esteem. The sessions use therapeutic live music, guided songwriting techniques, improvisation, music skill building, and music and relaxation.

“The looks on people’s faces, when their words turn into a song, when they hear it back for the first time, that’s an incredible moment,” says Jack. “A song allows people to say things they don’t know how to say, in a really safe, supportive environment.”

“It creates the opportunity for achievement, which plays a big role in wellbeing. And, it creates something real that will last – a legacy.”

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