We are so grateful to the Dry July Foundation for their support to help us create mini portable recording set ups, for us to expand on our therapeutic songwriting session with people living with cancer and their families- and literally help us ‘bring the studio session’ to them.
If there is one thing that 202O showed us it is that we all crave connection, and that music is such a strong vehicle for that connection. During our lockdowns we see the impact of how hard it is to be alone for everyone and this is magnified for all our patients. Often people living with cancer are isolated in their treatment without the pandemic, so add one in, and things are really, really, tough. Music therapy has been in high demand and we had to find ways to provide a safe and meaningful service through technology and our therapeutic songwriting shone through.
Therapeutic songwriting provides opportunity for self-expression and connection and, in many cases, gives patients the empowering chance to learn new skills.
Our award-winning therapeutic songwriting program was developed here at RMH and the addition of the portable music therapy studios means that patients can be involved in the creation of a polished version of their composition, replacing the lo-fi phone recordings of single performances. Being able to create backing tracks, layer instruments, edit and re-record sections of the song and capturing an overall superior audio recording results in a better sounding, ultimately resulting in a more pleasurable recording experience. The lo-fi phone recordings are now replaced with polished presentations of the compositions which patients can be truly proud of and that they can share with their loved ones.
It is very clear when we arrive on the ward that nursing and medical staff are happy to see the patients in their care having access to music therapy. The program is about the whole individual, about creative opportunities, about comfort, care, joy- its about connecting in music.
We work as a multidisciplinary team here at RMH Haematology Unit and Bone Marrow Transplant and having Dry July Foundation as a partner in helping us care for our patients truly increases our patients’ quality of life and that is a gift for us all.
Thank you Dry July Foundation!
Dr Emma O’Brien OAM, Head Clinician and Founder of Music Therapy
John Bedggood, Senior Clinician Music Therapy
A snap-shot reflection into a therapeutic songwriting in music therapy experience from Jack who was admitted to RMH for treatment for leukaemia:
Jack had a young daughter and, while he was from a close family, restrictions meant that he was unable to have visitors during music of his admission for treatment.
Jack was usually an upbeat person, even with his diagnosis, but it soon became clear that the visitor restrictions were causing him some stress. Not only was Jack missing the face-to-face contact with his loved ones, but he was also feeling the pressure of wanting to protect his family from what he was going through.
He reflected that he was being a rock for everyone, including himself at times, which was a coping mechanism of sorts to a certain point. But the lighted hearted and upbeat persona Jack adopted during conversation with family and friends was often followed by a slump into despair when he was alone in his hospital room. Jack was still coming to terms with his diagnosis as much as his family was.
As soon as we introduced the idea of songwriting to Jack he was eager to engage. The song he composed was ultimately one of hope. He could see how he could connect with his loved ones in creating a song, and also have a safe space to express his feelings.
The key line in the song talks about how he is not done yet and that there is much more he wants to do with his family. In it he talked about looking to turn his experience of illness completely around. He described how he had always considered that he would be the one to look after one of his family members should they ever become ill, and how his plan had not considered that he would be the one to get sick.
Jack’s lyrics outline not only the coping mechanisms he uses but also talk about the days where he sees himself in the mirror and is forced to recognise how ill he is and the long road ahead.
In our discussions after writing the song Jack felt that the process had provided him with an outlet to express some of the feelings that he had found difficult to articulate.
It was also an opportunity to be honest about the way he was feeling, outlining the challenges he was regularly keeping from his family and friends in conversations for their protection. Jack felt that he would share the song with his loved ones when he was home with the new recording, which also sounded full of hope, and he was very proud of it.
Name changed to protect privacy