A Hospice Music Therapy Bereavement Program Integrating Humanistic and Existential Philosophies

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Shifrin, Rachael
Master of Arts in Music Therapy
Available music therapy literature makes clear the benefits that music therapy can have in bereavement. Through songwriting and improvisation, music therapy can facilitate an exploration of hope and meaning in life, increase self-esteem and selfexpression, and provide an avenue for understanding existential and spiritual needs. Music also specifically allows a connection to be formed between the past, present, and future, because, while it is an event in the present, it provides a channel for memories of the past or hope for the future. In addition, group therapy literature makes clear the benefit that group therapy can provide among bereaved individuals. When surveyed, bereaved spouses overwhelmingly believed their participation in a bereavement support group was beneficial and most frequently acknowledged that it helped them not feel as isolated during the grieving process. Bereavement support groups can also instill a feeling of hope, normalize the experience of grief through common experiences, and counteract negative societal messages about grief recovery. However, a music therapist implementing a music therapy oriented bereavement group program does not have any literature or framework to guide this practice. The purpose of this thesis was to create a resource, or “toolbox,” of interventions that can be utilized within an eight-week music therapy support group for bereaved spouses. The resource is a book that includes forms necessary to implement the group and interventions including prompts, song lyrics, and relaxation scripts. It is hoped that this will someday be published and integrated on a national level for music therapists working in hospice bereavement, and can be used to expand our understanding of how music therapy can be used together with group therapy to benefit bereaved individuals.