Funding Boost for Music Therapy

The Children’s Cancer Foundation is funding music therapy for patients at the Children’s Cancer Centre at The Royal Children’s Hospital for the next 3 years, through to 2020. 

Music therapy has long been recognised as making a powerful contribution to supporting the health, functioning and wellbeing of young cancer patients, particularly those who experience long stays in hospital. 

Therapists use the experience of music to help patients cope with their illness. It distracts, calms, inspires and empowers children.

At The Royal Children’s Hospital, music therapy is celebrating its 25th year in 2017. It has predominantly been funded by philanthropic donations and the Children’s Cancer Foundation has been proudly funding the music therapy program since 2007. The Foundation’s latest commitment of $173,000, will add an additional 3 days per week of music therapy for cancer patients.

No matter how sick the child and no matter what age or musical skill, music therapists seek to engage the healthy part of the child. 

Therapy can help empower the child by engaging them in singing, playing, composing and song-writing. It can also help children express emotions, provide relaxation and relieve anxiety and tension. Importantly for children with cancer who endure so many medical procedures, it can help with pain control by providing a distraction and alternative focus.

Beth Dun, Manager of Play and Music Therapy at The Royal Children's Hospital says Music Therapists engage patients in music to reduce anxiety.

“Music in these situations is used to decrease anxiety, reduce distress, and help to decrease pain perception. Sometimes patients may not feel well enough to get out of bed, and their focus may be on how unwell they feel.  The music therapist can use music to help patients engage with the healthy part of themselves to help change that perception.

“I’ve seen very sick children lying in bed suddenly sit up and participate in music, even if only for a short period of time.This has important implications in helping children cope with stressful treatments and long-term side-effects,” said Beth.

Unlike other aspects of their cancer treatment, children have a much greater degree of control over their music therapy. They can direct what they will do, what form it will take and when it will start and stop.

Beth says music therapy provides patients with numerous opportunities to make choices, exercise independence, and interact positively with family and hospital staff.

The music therapists provide weekly group music sessions on the ward to encourage healthy social interaction and development for children who are regularly in and out of hospital,” says Beth.

This funding follows the commitment by the Foundation in January 2016 to increase the music therapy program at Monash Children’s Hospital to provide a full-time service. It means the Children’s Cancer Foundation has allocated more than $1.53 million since 2003 to support music therapy services in Victoria.  

Young boy plays the guitar in a music therapy session