Family | Patient hub

Music therapy

Music reaches us on an emotional level and has the power to change moods, refocus attention and improve quality of life through a combination of appealing sounds. Music therapy is the planned and creative use of music, by a trained professional, to achieve theraputic goals based on a patient's emotional responses to music.

Music therapy activities that children in Oncology participate in include:

  • Singing songs
  • Playing instruments
  • Writing songs or composing music
  • Improvising music
  • Listening to music
  • Music technology 

How music helps

The many benefits of music therapy include improving children’s confidence, self-esteem and wellbeing. Music forms a natural part of children's everyday lives and they respond well to music. They often associate music with positive experiences and find it highly motivating and enjoyable. It can be shared with family and friends when they are visiting, and patients of any age and ability can engage with it.

Music can offer distraction during painful or invasive procedures.  It can help with pain management as a child’s perception of pain may be reduced through their engagement with music. If they are focused on a favourite song, or a tempo that is fast, slow, or suddenly stops or starts, they might pay less attention to a needle prick or cannula being removed. 

Children who are feeling homesick can be soothed and comforted by familiar songs that remind them of home. They can also be empowered by having choice, such as between instruments or music styles. Music is non-threatening and children can benefit from experiencing control during a music therapy session as frequently they can sense a lack of control during hospital procedures. There is the opportunity for self-expression, enabling the release of emotions during stressful times which can be helpful, and improved coping mechanisms through the social interaction music can provide.

Meet our music therapists

Roxanne McLeod and Lulu Xiaoyan are our registered music therapists at the Children's Hospital at Westmead. The music therapists try to meet every child and family, and will prioritise patients receiving music therapy each day based on factors such as length of stay, whether a child is coping and their response to trauma. If your child has not seen a music therapist during their hospital stay and would like to, please ask the nurses to page the music therapists.

Registered music therapists are formally trained in both therapy and music. They complete a tertiary course in music therapy which is accredited with the Australian Music Therapy Association Inc.

Who can benefit from music therapy?

Although all patients can benefit from music therapy, some children may need it more than others. These include children who are:

  • Undergoing medical or painful procedures
  • About to undergo surgery
  • Withdrawn or distressed
  • Dealing with or recovering from trauma
  • In intensive care
  • Experiencing pain
  • With a life-threatening illness
  • In isolation
  • In hospital for a long period of time
  • Involved in rehabilitation programs
  • In palliative care

Contact us

Phone: (02) 9845 2579

Roxanne McLeod

Lulu Xiaoyan


Last updated 19 August 2020

Share this:

sign up for latest news and updates