Music therapy is a discipline in which credentialed professionals (MTAs*) use music purposefully within therapeutic relationships to support development, health, and well-being. Music therapists use music safely and ethically to address human needs within cognitive, communicative, emotional, musical, physical, social, and spiritual domains. The clinical practice of a certified MTA is guided by evidence-based practice (EBP): the integration of the best available research evidence; the patient’s needs, values, and preferences; and the expertise of the clinician.

*Music Therapist Accredited


MTAs assess patient needs and strengths and personalize patient-centered treatment plans. They use specific music-based interventions to meet the patients’ unique goals. Patients experience active involvement through music making, singing, improvisation, songwriting, and creating keepsake projects; as well as receptive activities such as listening, reflection, and life review.



create meaningful experiences for patients and families at end-of-life.




Do you need to be a musician to participate in and benefit from Music Therapy? 

ANYONE can participate in, and benefit from Music Therapy, regardless of musical experience. There is no training, prior knowledge, or experience required to partake in music therapy.


What training does a Music Therapist have? 

Music Therapists have…



Is there a cost for myself or my loved one to participate in music therapy at Valley Hospice?

No, there is no cost to participate in the Music Therapy program at Valley Hospice; this service is free to all patients who come through our doors.


Why haven’t I heard about Music Therapy before? 

Music therapy is a relatively new profession in Canada.  It began in an unofficial capacity in World War I and II when community musicians went to military hospitals around the country to play for veterans suffering from both physical and emotional traumas. The veteran’s physical and emotional response to music led doctors and nurses to request hiring of musicians by the hospital. It was soon evident that the musicians needed some prior training before playing in hospitals so they could properly handle patient’s medical and therapeutic needs.  The demand grew for a music therapy curriculum.  Current research on the mechanics of music and the brain are gaining international attention and bringing the areas of music therapy and music in medicine into public consciousness.

How is a Music Therapist different from a person who is hired to play music for entertainment? 

Though surely beneficial, musical entertainment is not music therapy because the activity is not facilitated by an accredited Music Therapist. Why is the MTA involvement so important? An MTA will have a therapeutic intent with the activity being carried out. The activity, intervention, and techniques used are done to reach goals specific to the individual or group. The MTA’s observation, involvement, and support all works to closely monitor and record how the individuals respond to the music and intervention. MTAs pay close attention to any changes or progress during these musical activities and continually modify and adapt future activities to keep meeting the needs and goals of the individuals. The MTA is focused on safe musical experiences with the patient to best support their needs.


Can music ever be harmful to patients? 

Contrary to popular belief, music CAN present harm to patients, if not used correctly. Here’s how:


Overstimulation – For example, a Music Therapist who works in palliative settings is very careful and intentional about the sound stimulus they create to support a patient near end-of-life. While some patients find the sound of music soothing, some will not. When singing, the therapist will use a soft, fluid tone that has a limited pitch range, and a simple melody. If they are using recorded music, they will ensure that the volume level is at an appropriate amount for the patient so as not to overstimulate them. They also closely monitor the physiological and behavioral indicators for subtle signs of distress and respond as needed.


Memory Trigger – Music is second only to smell for its ability to trigger memories. Clinically, there are certain situations where this can be incredibly powerful, as in cases where dementia is involved, and a well-known song creates a moment of lucidity. But music can also have adverse effects if it elicits memories that the patient is not yet ready to confront or is tied to a traumatic experience.


Anxiety-Inducing – Music is not a one-size-fits-all experience. Not everyone likes music. And very few people like every type of music. In fact, most people I have worked with have certain genres, songs, or artists on their personal “no listen” list. Hearing that song, artist, or genre—even in an open public space—can induce negative responses physiologically and/or emotionally.


If you are interested in learning more, please visit www.musictherapy.ca.