music therapy launch robert and
emma julia megan

Music Therapy programme

The Music Therapy programme at the Chris O’Brien Lifehouse uses research and evidence-based practice to assist patients’ relaxation, reduce stress, relieve pain and discomfort, and improve mood. It can also provide patients with an outlet for expression and to explore difficult feelings through a supportive and creative framework.

The Lifehouse Music Therapy Programme consists of sessions for inpatients, outpatients, family members and carers and includes listening to and participating in live music and original song writing. This service is available to all patients of Lifehouse and does not require any prior skills or experience in music.

Patients can take part in:

  • bedside music therapy and song writing;
  • weekly rock/pop group for young adult cancer patients, focusing on musical skill building, recording and multi tracking (to be confirmed)
  • CD projects and performances; and
  • weekly Lifehouse choir.

The Music in Cancer Care project explores the impact of creative participation on the mood of patients and their hospital experience at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse cancer hospital. The project is of wider value to cancer patients across Australia, as a pilot project on which other projects could be modelled. This pilot will inform the development of a framework for the use of arts and health programs within cancer wards nationally.


To make a booking please contact Vanessa Couper, Music Therapist, on 02 8514 0121 or email

If you feel there are patients who would benefit from music therapy, please contact the Music Therapist Vanessa Couper. Currently music therapy days at Lifehouse are Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. 

Vanessa Couper

  • Music Therapist
  • Music in Health Pilot with The Institute for Creative Health
  • Phone: +61 02 8514 0121
  • Email:

Vanessa Couper (RMT) studied at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music where she completed a Bachelor of Music and a Masters of Music (performance) before completing a Masters of Music Therapy at The University of Melbourne. Prior to embarking on a career in music therapy, Vanessa toured and performed nationally as a flautist with various chamber ensembles and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, and has also toured internationally to China, Germany, Czech Republic, Italy and The Netherlands. Vanessa’s music therapy experiences include working in adult cancer care, paediatric palliative care, adolescent mental health and children with disabilities.

Vanessa feels very strongly about working at Lifehouse where integrated and patient-focused care is at the core of the hospital’s mission and values. Vanessa believes music to be a powerful tool in providing positive experiences and opportunities for people to explore emotions and express themselves and uses music to support patients whilst they are at Lifehouse. Musical interventions include song writing, familiar song singing, musical discussion, music for relaxation and instrumental playing.

Vanessa’s favourite all-time composer is Tchaikovsky, though she also enjoys singing along to almost anything on the radio and is always keen to learn a new song.

Sarah is the Research Assistant for the Music in Health Pilot with the Institute for Creative Health, proudly supported by the Susan and Isaac Wakil Foundation. She has recently completed her Master in Art Therapy, and has always had a keen interest in research. In 2013 Sarah worked with the Black Dog Institute, focusing on the Positive Psychology Youth Online Intervention Program, BITE BACK. Sarah currently works as a Registered Art Therapist at KidsXpress, combining music, drama and art therapies to help children process emotional trauma. She also had the opportunity to contribute to the research conducted at KidsXpress which was presented at the 2016 International Childhood Trauma Conference in Melbourne.

Sarah is passionate about evidence-based practice in the field of expressive therapies and arts in health, and is extremely excited to be working on the Music in Health Pilot Program with Chris O’Brien Lifehouse. She has a genuine love of all the arts

Sarah’s current favourite album is About Face by #1 Dads.

Robert’s love for music was deeply influenced by his father, David Teicher, who was a leading professional opera soloist across Eastern Europe and Russia in the 1940s and 1950s. From accompanying professional singers on the piano to singing at the Sydney Opera House in full costume and make-up in five Opera Australia Productions, Robert has been composing and arranging music for many years and conducting choirs since 1994, including the Waverly-Randwick Philharmonia, The Daydream Believers and The Great Synagogue Choir.

Robert studied classical singing with Australian opera legends Raymond Myers, Donald Shanks and Florence Taylor as well as piano and conducting with Werner Baer and Tommy Tycho. Robert is leading the Lifehouse Staff and Patient Choir and providing music as a milieu in outpatients.

Robert feels it is a privilege to be part of a team whose trusted role is one of adding joy and light through music in the hospital setting. Robert’s favorite songs are ‘Daydream Believer’ and Beethoven’s ‘Ode to joy’!

Dr Emma O’Brien has extensive experience in Arts and Health projects as a music therapist, health manager, composer, researcher and an internationally renowned innovator in the role of music in wellbeing, specialising in acute health care. She has 18 years’ clinical experience working in music therapy in cancer care. She is the the founder of the music therapy program at the Royal Melbourne Hospital (RMH) and she has pioneered methods in guided facilitated songwriting across music genres. Her work was the subject of the multi award winning SBS/f-reel documentary ‘Opera Therapy’ (2005).

Emma was awarded the Victorian Public Health Care Award in 2011 for her leading methods of songwriting in enabling person- and family-centered care in music therapy by giving patients a voice. Emma was named in The Age Melbourne Magazine as one of Melbourne’s Top 100 provocative, passionate and powerful people of 2012 for her music therapy program. She was awarded her PhD from The University of Melbourne in 2014. Her PhD was centered on the effect of her specialised method of guided songwriting on cancer patients’ quality of life, mood states, distress levels and satisfaction with hospital stay.

Emma has published widely on her research and programs and has presented at national and international conferences. She was most recently appointed to the NSW Ministerial Taskforce on Health and The Arts. In November 2015 her music therapy program at RMH was a special feature on ABC television’s Compass program.

Emma is very proud of the diverse and passionate Music in Health team at Lifehouse. Emma’s favourite song, if she has to pick just one, is ‘What a Wonderful World’.

Julia Cannell was 28 weeks pregnant with her third child when she was diagnosed with leukaemia. Music therapy helped turn the story of her illness and recovery into a powerful song and her story was recently featured in “Musical Healing”, an episode of ABC TV’s Compass program in 2015.

“Music therapy took me out of myself, out of my body, the room, out of the ward. It allowed me to soar out beyond the hospital walls and towards life.”

Julia is a passionate advocate for Music in Health and has co-designed the project with Dr Emma O’Brien, based on her personal experiences of music therapy during her treatment at the Royal Melbourne Hospital. Julia is a qualified Occupational Therapist, a professional OT mentor and is currently working in social modelling media in special education.

Julia is proud that her advocacy and personal story has contributed to increasing access of music therapy and music in health for more cancer patients and their families at Lifehouse.

What is Julia’s favourite song? She can’t decide but is happy to say for today that it is “Dream a little dream of me”.

The Lifehouse Choir

There are many benefits from singing: physically, emotionally and socially.

Singing can:

  • lower stress and recharge your immune system.
  • benefit our hearts and circulation by improving our aerobic capacity
  • help to reduce anxiety
  • enhance mood
  • increase feelings of wellbeing
  • provide opportunities to meet and join in a fun activity with others

Singing is an ageless enjoyment – you are never too young or old. No auditions or prior training are needed to join the Lifehouse Choir – all are welcome!

So go on, come and have fun with us, get singing and join the Lifehouse choir, run by Health Musician and pianist extraordinaire Robert Teicher and music therapist Vanessa Couper.

Repertoire will include popular songs from all ages.

Drop in anytime. Free for all. All patients, carers and staff welcome.

Every Thursday 12.15pm till 1.15pm
Radiation Oncology Main Meeting Room

music therapy launch choir w vanessa close
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