You are on page 1of 9

Music therapy programs by Dr Romesh Senewiratne


2 Yamaha keyboards, battery powered with mains adaptors.
2 acoustic guitars one nylon-stringed, one steel-stringed and supplier of
replacement strings (responsibility of music therapist)
Assorted percussion instruments:
4 egg shakers
Drum sticks (under supervision of therapist)
Wood block and mallet (under supervision)
Cow bell (under supervision)
Maracas (under supervision)
Bongos (under supervision of nursing staff/therapists)
Djembe (under supervision)
Clap sticks (under supervision)
Electronic drum kit/acoustic drum kit

Harmonicas in F, C, G, D, A and E (under supervision regarding hygiene)
Wooden flutes
Pan flute
Wooden recorder


Electric guitar (solid body)
Electric bass (solid body)

1. Computer
Laptop computer with data base, recording software and music
library. To be kept in care of music therapist, who is responsible for
maintaining data up to date and organisation of computer contents.
Regular auditing by hospital authorities. Potential for helping clients
with professional recording experience and to enhance skills and
confidence in music making and engineering. Programs could flow on
to integrated outpatient setting and community health centres.

2. Playback system
Stand alone Disc player with MP3 plug and attached speakers
requires dedicated area for music listening (could double as a
relaxation room).
Individual portable systems for small group listening (to be lent by
nursing staff to the patients for the duration of their stay, provided
good behaviour).
Modest library of health-promoting music of a wide variety of styles
and genres (selection responsibility of music therapist)

Integrated sound system connected to television/video/DVD system
in addition to portable systems available to individual patients or
small groups.

3. Performance Equipment for advanced outpatient Music

Therapy Centres:
PA system with amplifier and speakers
Foldback system
Available venue
Advertising budget
Recording and distribution ability

Areas in which music therapy advanced centres will be of value:

Mental health
Neurology (eg stroke recovery, Parkinsons , epilepsy)
Paediatrics including behavioural and attention problems
Pain relief
Stress relief
Visual difficulties

COST OF EQUIPMENT: approximately $10,000

Plus cost of staff including 1 full-time music therapist employment by
each adult and paediatric hospital.

Specific therapy programs available by contacting

Dr Romesh Senewiratne
76 Fegen Drive
Australia 4105

Taking a musical history

For music therapy to be effective, the therapist needs to know
certain things about the patient. Do they enjoy music? What music
do they like? Do they play any instruments? Do they sing? What
musical equipment do they have at home?
These questions can be embedded within the therapy sessions which
should be focussed on creating a relaxing environment in which
patients feel free to express themselves musically. In therapy the
objective is to produce satisfaction for the patient not the therapist,
and music should be selected according to the taste of the patient,
not the therapist. This does not mean that the therapist cannot guide
patients in what they listen to or how they play an instrument. For
this to be done successfully it helps if the therapist has a broad taste
in music, including music from other cultures, and has at least
rudimentary knowledge of how to play a range of musical
instruments (especially percussion instruments, which are
particularly useful in a therapy environment).
Taking a musical history is also valuable for doctors and other
therapists who are not trained to practice music therapy. This music
history can be brief but effective, implanting suggestions of how
music can be used therapeutically at the same time.
Some of the things worth knowing are:
1. What are the problems that might be amenable to therapy?
2. What music have they listened to in the past (pre-teen,
teenage, twenties, thirties...)?
3. How often do they listen to music?

4. What playback equipment do they have: eg. CD, DVD, tape,

vinyl, MP3, headphones...(they may need practical advice on
how to get the best sound out of their sound system)
5. How interested are they in music?
6. What genres do they like?
7. What instruments did they learn as children?

Finding out what a patients taste is and having an idea of the

musical styles they have liked in the past provides as starting point
for therapeutic suggestions. There is no point in suggesting Mozart
to lower the blood pressure of someone who thinks they hate what
they call classical music or Miles Davis to someone who feels the
same way about jazz.
The benefit of non-musical doctors learning to take a basic music
history includes the promotion of a safe, cheap, effective method of
health insurance. Learning to use music to relax and energise oneself
has obvious health benefits.


Taking a brief musical history can be used to implant suggestions
about how music can be used therapeutically.
For example, the following list of questions:
What music do you enjoy listening to?
What styles of music do you enjoy?
What instruments do you like hearing?
What instruments do you like playing?
Did you learn to play any instruments when you were younger?
Do you listen to music to relax? What pieces spring to mind?
Do you listen to music to energise yourself? What pieces spring to
Do you listen to music if you are feeling sad?
Do you listen to music when you are feeling happy?
Do you think music can make you feel happy?

A simple strategy that is brief and valuable for future musical

therapeutic interventions. To individualise music therapy,
understanding the idiosyncratic nature of musical taste is essential
along with recognition of the uniqueness of an individuals
experience of music. This brief introductory interview also enables
the therapist to evaluate whether music therapy is likely to be

Of course, there are many situations in which music can be used to

establish communication with patients lacking verbal skills. In this
case taking a musical history may not be possible, and the
introduction between therapist and patient is centred on playing
music together. In such situations attention to body language and
eye contact is essential to maximise communication and empathy.
The important principle for good music therapists is flexibility and
ability to improvise according to the needs of the patient and the
available musical equipment. It is to be hoped that the powers that
be are prepared to spend more on providing the essential musical
equipment for improving public health to public hospitals, clinics and
health centres and that these institutions recognise that music is an
important therapeutic tool.