Music Therapy is an important treatment for hospice patients and grieving families. Willamette Valley Hospice is unique in having three board-certified music therapists on staff to respond to patient and family needs.

What is Music Therapy?

It is a clinical and evidence-based healthcare practice that uses music to accomplish personalized goals. At Willamette Valley Hospice, music therapists consider a patient’s musical preferences, along with their cultural background and spiritual beliefs. With this information, they provide compassionate care to help ease bothersome symptoms, like difficulty breathing and anxiety. Professionally trained music therapists use counseling techniques to provide support both verbally and musically to patients and their families.

For example, Greta was a hospice patient that had a wound that needed tending often by her nurse. Greta hated it when the nurse came to change her wound’s dressing because it was painful. Her nurse asked a music therapist to come help during the dressing changes. The music therapist played specific music during the wound care, which helped Greta focus her attention on something else, released the body’s natural painkillers in her brain, and made the experience much more tolerable for Greta.

How can Music Therapy help Willamette Valley Hospice patients and their families?

Music affects the mind, body, and spirit in many ways. It can influence the natural rhythms of the body to regulate blood pressure and breathing. It can release the body’s natural painkillers, while reducing anxiety and restlessness. Music is the language of the heart and soul. It helps us express ourselves both emotionally and spiritually and to find greater meaning in our lives. Music Therapy has been found to be effective in addressing the following issues in hospice and palliative care:

  • Pain and anxiety
  • Emotional and spiritual concerns
  • Supporting grieving families
  • Need for meaningful interaction between family members
  • Development of coping skills
  • Search for meaning and reviewing one’s life
  • Depression, fear, isolation, confusion, and loss of control
  • Quality of life
  • Facilitating a peaceful death

What Music Therapy services does Willamette Valley Hospice offer to their patients?

Individual and group family Music Therapy sessions are available to hospice patients. The length and frequency of the sessions depends on the needs of the patient and their family, goals of the patient, and the interventions used.

Music Therapy group sessions are available to families who participate in Willamette Valley Hospice Bereavement Programs, such as grief support groups for families & children and Camp Mighty Oaks, the annual summer bereavement camp for grieving children and families.

Who is qualified as a Music Therapist?

Board-certified music therapists are graduates from college programs approved by the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA, In addition to academic coursework, the bachelor’s degree requires 1200 hours of clinical supervision through internship. Music therapists are eligible to take the national board-certification exam following this training to earn the credential MT-BC (Music Therapist–Board Certified) necessary for professional practice. Graduate degrees in music therapy focus on advanced clinical practice and research with various patient populations. To maintain their certification, music therapists must take continuing education classes.

Contact us to learn more about this important service.

Heart Strings Vol 1: River Song & Heart Strings Vol II: Reflections are unique works of art performed by Willamette Valley Hospice music therapists. Songs include original works from the music therapists themselves, as well as songs written and co-written by hospice patients. These CDs are $15.00 and available to order online or by contacting staff Judith at 503.588.3600 or They are also available for download at Amazon and Apple Music/iTunes.