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Hospice Music Therapy

Hospice Music Therapy

Senior man wearing headphones, eyes closed, close-up

The traditional hospice team includes healthcare professionals from numerous disciplines, volunteers, and complementary therapists who provide supportive care and comfort through natural approaches. One of these approaches is using music therapy in hospice care.

By definition, music therapy is the clinical and evidence-based use of music by a board-certified music therapist (MT-BC) to meet individuals’ physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. In practice, music therapy in hospice has been shown to accomplish a number of goals, including the following:

Hospice Music Therapy

  • Pain management
  • Anxiety reduction
  • Expression of emotions (verbally and non-verbally)
  • Processing grief-related feelings and experiences
  • Increasing feelings of meaning/purpose
  • Improving comfort
  • Fostering a sense of resilience
  • Providing a normative experience
  • Increasing opportunities for meaningful socialization
  • Increasing feelings of closeness, acceptance, and intimacy
  • Resolving family conflict/relational stress
  • Increasing self-esteem/self-acceptance
  • Increasing range of coping mechanisms
  • Enhancing quality of life
  • Gaining a sense of spiritual support
  • Fostering meaningful sensory engagement
  • Creating positive memories at the end of life

Read more about Samaritan’s music therapists >>

“I learned about my uncle through the music therapy process. I found out that he had played 7 instruments! … His spirit would always be more upbeat singing.” – Stephanie L.


Support Hospice Music Therapy

Though not required or covered by Medicare, Medicaid and many private insurers, the services of Samaritan’s music therapists are made possible through generous donations to Samaritan.

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Music is probably the only real magic I have encountered in my life. There’s not some trick involved with it. It’s pure and it’s real. It moves, it heals, it communicates and does all these incredible things. Tom Petty

Music therapy in hospice

Application for Music Therapy in Hospice

The above-mentioned hospice care goals are accomplished in music therapy through the relationships that develop between the patient/family, the music therapist and the music. Music therapy at Samaritan Hospice weaves together each patient/family’s individual goals and objectives with their unique personal music history and preferences, designing a course of therapy which utilizes primarily live music (including guitar, piano, voice, and/or various percussion instruments) as well as receptive/listening-based interventions during music therapy sessions. Music therapy experiences may include any of the following:

  • Singing songs: any combination of music therapist, patient, or family singing preferred, familiar songs as a means to reminisce and validate patient’s life history, and as a normalizing experience for patients/families in the present

(pictured) Although her illness relegated her body nearly immobile, during every music therapy session up until the week that she died, Karen would sing and do slow, but certain, signature Supreme’s dance moves to her favorite Motown songs. She is pictured here with Samaritan RN and fellow “Supreme’s dancer,” Roni Mongtomery, “stopping in the name of love” during a music therapy session. Karen’s love for actively engaging in music and her zest for life truly transcended her disease.

  • Music-assisted relaxation: providing individualized live or recorded music with guided discussion, imagery, or mantras to help patients decrease pain, anxiety, or discomfort
  • Song lyric discussion: listening to and analyzing live or recorded music as a means of identifying, relating to, and processing patient and family grief-related emotions and experiences
  • Instrumental improvisation: playing rhythmic or melodic instruments with music therapist or family as a non-verbal means to identify, express, and validate emotions. This form of music therapy is often utilized when helping children identify and express emotions.
  • Songwriting and composition: working with music therapist to give voice to feelings or experiences related to hospice journey by writing original song(s) containing lyrics, acoustic, and/or virtual instruments
  • Song parody: re-writing portions of a known song to reflect and express patient’s and families’ own emotions and experiences.
  • Music legacy projects: Creating a CD of songs that have been important to patient, have accompanied significant life milestones, or are dedications to loved ones. The CD’s are often given to family and friends, creating a lasting and meaningful connection both before and after death.
  • Planning music for funeral or memorial service
  • Procedural support music therapy: providing live music to help refocus patient’s and/or families’ awareness from potentially stressful or painful procedures such as wound care

Please check with your hospice team to find out if you or your loved one is eligible for music therapy. Music therapy is offered in select locations.

About Our Music Therapists

Carrie Rupnow-Kidd, MMT, MT-BC earned her master’s in music therapy from Temple University in 2004. Since that time, she has worked with many diverse populations such as adults with psychiatric and substance abuse disorders, children who survived domestic violence and homelessness, and patients with cancer. She has presented locally and nationally on music therapy applications with bereaved adults and children. Carrie has been the music therapist at Samaritan Healthcare & Hospice since 2012.

Her favorite part of her job is working with, and learning about, the unique music of each of her patients and their families. She also enjoys collaborating with the hospice team to compliment the hospice philosophy of aligning mind, body, and spirit. Carrie’s favorite things include exploring the great outdoors with her family, singing with a fantastic women’s quartet, and working with her husband to lovingly restore their historic home.



Sara Joy Kuhlen, MA, MT-BC received her bachelor’s degree in music therapy from Mansfield University in 2005, and master’s in creative arts therapies (music concentration) from Drexel University in 2013. She has worked in correctional mental health for over a decade in the state prison system, completed a graduate level internship at A.I. DuPont Hospital for Children, and has been with Samaritan Healthcare & Hospice since June 2018.

Sara particularly enjoys learning about how music has touched the lives of her patients and their family members, and singing songs that have been particularly meaningful for them. She feels especially honored to be welcomed into the homes and residences of her patients at such a vulnerable time. In her personal life, Sara is passionate about utilizing music and sound for wellness, and plays crystal singing bowls during group meditations. She also enjoys making up silly songs with her two young children.