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When It’s Not About the Music: Dialogues in Clinical Practice in the Paediatric Hospital Setting

There was a period in my music therapy practice where I strongly believed that in order to demonstrate the effectiveness of music therapy, I just needed to ‘let the music speak for itself’. People will ‘get’ music therapy, I reasoned, if I could just capture those significant moments through video recordings, therapeutic projects, or live demonstration of music therapy to others.

While this belief still somewhat holds true, I also realized that truly effective advocacy does not rely solely on the music. Rather, advocacy in music therapy requires the therapist to promote, protect and defend their work, in all aspects of their practice.

This facet of practice has been an area of growth for me in the past two years, working independently in an acute paediatric hospital setting. My previous experience in long-term residential care for adults with severe and profound neurological needs did not prepare me for this transition. In hospital, all my preconceived notions of music therapy were disrupted. How exactly does one prepare a therapeutic space when predictability, familiarity, safety, and protected time are inherently unavailable?

Music therapists are adept at being flexible in the moment, guided by the patient’s needs and preferences as they arise. However, many variables that can impact the therapeutic process are simply beyond our control. The weight of these external factors can make any music therapist feel stuck, helpless, disappointed, frustrated