A NSW Government website

Music, Art & Child Life Therapy

Music Therapy

Music Therapy is delivered by a Registered Music Therapist. The music therapist is a proficient musician who has a broad knowledge and understanding of music and is also a qualified therapist whose training has included the applications of music therapy and substantial clinical training in a variety of settings.

Music Therapy programs involve a range of musical applications including: instrument playing, singing/vocalising, composition, song/lyric writing, music and movement, listening, improvisation and performance.

The Music Therapist draws on a variety of therapeutic processes including psychology, physiology, social/behaviour sciences and human development to address a variety of objectives. These could include: socialisation, communication, relaxation, stimulation, pain or stress management, emotional expression or coping, self-esteem, motivation, independence, physical and motor skills and cognitive skills.

Benefits of Music Therapy

Music provides a diversion from the hospital environment and can help with stress, anxiety and pain relief. Music is also a form of communication and expression which can be helpful when exploring thoughts and feelings about being sick.

For seriously ill children, soothing guitar music and simple relaxation techniques help reduce discomfort and pain. During these times, children often say they don't hurt anymore.  After one of these experiences recently, a nurse commented that the music was "better than morphine".  Other nurses have commented that the music is so relaxing; they could listen to it all day.

Child Life Therapy

The Child Life Specialists at John Hunter Children’s Hospital are qualified professionals, usually with a background in education.

The work of a child life specialist is founded on a theoretical framework resulting in an integrated programme of play activities, effective communication, preparation, rehearsal of coping techniques, and emotional support.  They work across all inpatient wards of the hospital as part of a multidisciplinary team. Child Life specialists see both inpatients and outpatients by referral, providing individualised play sessions.

Child Life Specialists support children, young people and their families by helping them understand their treatment; providing information and support for medical procedures; and providing therapeutic recreational activities during their stay.

Child Life Specialists engage children in role play with medical equipment to gain insight into their understanding of their care and coach children and families to develop relaxation and coping strategies.

Children make sense of their environment through play - it provides opportunities to explore create and learn. Child Life Therapy allows children and young people to develop coping strategies that support them during hospitalisation, minimising psychological trauma.

Tips to help your child during their stay

  • Ask as many questions as you need to make sure that you have the information to help your child.
  • Be honest with your child. Give them clear and simple descriptions that you think they will understand.
  • Allow your child the opportunity to ask questions about their stay.
  • Have your child help pack for hospital. Bring a favourite toy or comfort item. Make sure that all items are clearly labelled
  • Bring along familiar activities to engage your child during their stay.
  • Think about what helps your child to relax. Some examples could include breathing exercises, listening to music, reading a favourite story or talking.
  • Notice all the positive things that your child accomplishes. Reward them with praise.
  • Wherever possible maintain routines such as sleep times during hospitalisation.
  • During medical procedures, provide comfort by talking to your child, holding them for comfort (discuss with nurse), and engage them in a familiar activity, book or song.
Art Therapy

Art Therapy is delivered by an Art Therapist who is experienced and qualified in visual art, counselling, child development and education and has an understanding of the varied health conditions that occur within a clinical setting.

Art Therapy has many components and contributes to the total well-being of the child or adolescent whilst in hospital. Art therapy sessions may be utilised for the young person to express feelings about stress, anxiety, pain or fear and can also provide opportunities for creative exploration.

Art is also utilised in the treatment of brain injury or mental illness to assist other clinicians in aiding neurological and physical recovery.

Parents have been included in the program at different times to help with stress management.

Benefits of Art Therapy

Art therapy provides stimulating and creative experiences that promote the release of serotonin or endorphins. These chemicals are natural neurotransmitters that can improve mood, dampen pain and regulate sleep. High levels of stress and inactivity due to illness and hospitalisation can reduce overall levels of these chemicals.

Art also creates a distraction that allows patients to think of something positive instead of focusing on their ill-health. It also gives them something they can control. Creative projects are designed to have a successful outcome for the patients and consequently boost their self-esteem and confidence as well as help them to relax.

Art therapy provides an opportunity for the young person to be viewed holistically and not only as a patient. It can also be utilised as a means for them to express how they feel about their illness or to visualise their level of recovery or discomfort. Patients often find it easier to communicate visually many concepts that they would be struggling to explain with words.