Intervention Inspiration Series: Family Communication & Expression

As a new initiative for MTSA this summer, we are choosing to share different ideas for Music Therapy practice in the hopes that this will provide a valuable resource for beginning music therapists and as inspiration for practicing therapists. Every Monday, a different intervention idea will be presented. They will be very basic and will be best as beginning inspiration to be varied and adapted for different clinical settings. They may include specific music, but will typically only indicate the style of music to be incorporated.

The following basic format will be given for each intervention: 1) Activity, the type of intervention; 2) Target population, the intended client population for the intervention; 3) Materials, the instruments and supplies required; 4) Goals/Aims, ideas for goals or aims that could be addressed in the intervention; 5) Method, a detailed description of what would occur during the intervention; 6) Comments, an explanation of why this intervention is applicable for the given client population and how the goals/aims are addressed; and 7) Evaluation, questions to allow for reflection on whether or not the intervention was effective for a particular client or clients.

Family Communication & Expression

by Elaine Cheung


Photo Source


Family Improvisation

Target Population:

Peadiatric Palliative Care


Various percussion instruments

Piano/guitar (optional)


– To engage in a meaningful activity as a family

– To create a positive and memorable experience for all

– To create an opportunity for the child and family to co-create

– To give opportunity for family to see their child outside of illness context

– To facilitate communication and emotional expression of all members


The music therapist will ask if everyone would like to make music together.  Members of the family will have the choice of percussion instruments.

The child is asked to begin the improvisation by playing whatever he or she is feeling.  Family members are asked to start whenever they like.  The music therapist will start improvising with the child, and will gradually encourage each member of the family to start improvising as well.  The music therapist will engage in clinical musicianship to facilitate everyone’s musical expression.

Chance may be given for each individual to improvise solo, either in silence, or while others are playing in the background, or dialogue between certain members.  The music therapist will facilitate return to group improvisation and lead the improvisation to a close.

Reflection and discussion could take place.


Music therapy in paediatric palliative care aims to “support and improve the quality of life of children and their families when confronted by terminal illness” (Lindsenfelse, Grocke, McFerran, 2008, 331).  Music therapy creates positive experiences through whole family participation.  The child and family members are able to share musical processes and experience positive emotions.  Music therapy is a multi-faceted experience for both the child and family, and changes the way they perceive their illness situation.  Participation in music helps normalize the situation so that the illness does not separate the child from the family, and reinforces that they are no different (Lindenfelser, Hense & McFerran, 2012).


Did everybody participate?  Were they comfortable participating?

Was this a positive experience for everybody?

Did the improvisation create communication pathways?

Were participants able to express what they wanted to express?


Lindenfelser, K.J., Gocke, D., & McFerran, K. (2008). Bereaved parents’ experiences of music therapy with their terminally ill child.  Journal of Music Therapy, 45(3), 330-348.

Lindenfelser, K.J., Hense, C., & McFerran, K. (2012). Music therapy in pediatric palliative care: Family-centered care to enhance quality of life.  American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Medicine, 29(3), 219-226.

Sheridan, J. & McFerran, K. (2004). Explring the value of opportunities for choice and control in music therapy within a paediatric hospice setting.  Australian Journal of Music Therapy, 15, 8-32.


About Laurier MTSA

We are a student association at Wilfrid Laurier University and most of our members are students in the Music Therapy program. We exist to educate about, promote, and support the work of music therapy, and to support the academic, career, and personal needs of the Music Therapy Students. Our mandate is to unite prospective, current and alumni students while promoting our profession in the larger community.
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