Selecting the Best Music for Patient Listening while Unwell: A Music Therapist’s Personal Experience

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Joan Webster BA, Dip Tchg, ASMT, NZ RMTh, Retired.

Daphne Rickson PhD (Music), MMusTher, MHealSc (MenH), NZ RMTh. Victoria University of Wellington – New Zealand School of Music, Te Kōkī.


Keywords: Music therapy, music medicine, receptive methods, music preference, personal narrative


Receptive music therapy methods, music medicine (pre-recorded music administered by medical professionals) and patient self-selected music are regularly used to support patient recovery in a wide range of medical settings. Music therapists generally accept that it is helpful to engage music therapy participants in interacting with or listening to their preferred music. However, people who are unwell may find their use and experience of music changes over time. Using a brief vignette of a music therapist’s personal experience of listening to music during a period of being unwell, we highlight the complex nature of the effects of music listening and ask readers to consider the prospect that previously preferred music might have negative effects, and the possibility that “no music” might be the right option for some patients at particular times.

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