Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


College of the Arts



Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Joke Bradt

Committee Member

Luis Montesinos

Committee Member

Heather Buchanan


This thesis focuses on aspects and interactions related to communication and music therapy in family units with a terminally ill mother. Post-treatment analysis of music therapy with four terminally ill female patients and their families was used to study patterns in communication and explore how music therapy may serve to facilitate interaction amongst family members. All patients were mothers and familial issues pertaining to this role were explored.

In order to better support this population, it is important for music therapists to understand the various needs and dynamics of terminally ill patients and their families. In this thesis, physical and psychosocial needs are discussed, along with music therapy interventions that may be effective in communicating and meeting those needs. Through case examples, the stories of four families are presented in the hope of broadening understanding of family-centered music therapy with terminally ill mothers. The case examples present patients of different ages and stages of life, all with children. In two of the cases, the children were adults and in two of the cases the children were under eighteen. The special needs relating to both situations were explored.

In all cases, music therapy appeared to have a positive effect on the communication issues and family dynamics. Through interpretation and study of posttreatment session notes, common themes in treatment of terminally ill mothers were found. These themes included safety in the music therapy sessions, enhanced awareness of emotions, increased acceptance of the terminal diagnoses, release and re-allocation of roles within the family unit, and openness in communication. Through the case examples, the writer explores these themes and discusses their implication for work with terminally ill patients and their families.

File Format


Included in

Music Therapy Commons