Music is expressive

Why does music help in care?

Because it is expressive.

Music conveys feelings and emotions

  • Empowers non-verbal communication
  • Articulates moods and emotions
  • Provides a legacy tool

When words fail, music can express some of our deepest or most complex sentiments. Communication can be challenged when receiving care; medication side-effects, treatments, pathologies and apparatuses may all interfere with a person’s ability to communicate freely. Using music as a means of non-verbal expression can help empower a care receiver retain their agency as much as possible. A song can communicate important and complex messages such as: “I love you;” “I am angry;” “I’m afraid;” “I forgive you;” and “I am ready.”

Music helps ventilate and articulate moods and emotions, giving both an outlet for a feeling and a way of invoking a feeling. When we listen to and share music that reflects our mood, we can experience the catharsis that comes with having articulated the feeling and, possibly, move through it. Similarly, music can help us invite feelings that we want to express but are struggling with: for example, when we want to cry but can’t seem to let our guard down, listening to the right song can help unleash that feeling. By contrast, we can use the right music to help energize or cheer us up when emotions are running high but we want to focus on being upbeat. In care settings, both scenarios are common challenges for care receivers, loved ones, and caregivers alike.

Not only can music help us express emotions in the present, it can help us express aspects of our identity posthumously. Music can be strategically used as a legacy tool, particularly in end of life, as a way of expressing who we are and what mattered to us. Engaging in conversations about music for funerals can be one way of using music as a legacy tool; music therapists and other skilled musicians and practitioners can work with people at the end of life to create original songs and playlists that tell a life’s story. These legacy songs can live on with loved ones, leaving an impact that transcends words alone.