boy playing flute
Music Is Hope

About Pastoral Music Therapy

People who are seriously ill, as well as members of their families, often experience deep feelings of hopelessness. This is especially true if the person lives in an institution, such as a hospital or nursing home. This hopelessness results from a sense of isolation, and the frustration of family members as they try to break through that isolation.

These people commonly suffer the anxiety of feeling abandoned, losing their freedom, living in surroundings that can be inhospitable, in which they must surrender control of their lives to strangers. If they are confused or demented, or if their illness is particularly serious or even terminal, their family members may give up any hope of communicating with them or maintaining a meaningful relationship with them. This lack of communication with loved ones only increases the patient’s sense of isolation and the deep fears that inevitably result.

This approach to music therapy is called Pastoral Music Therapy, since its intention is to address the emotional and spiritual needs of patients and their families. It is nonsectarian. drawing upon the music of different cultures and traditions to tailor the therapy to the individual. Pastoral Music Therapy can create a link between the impaired person and family members even when verbal communication is no longer possible. Music can help mobilize the person’s inner resources, building resistance to fear and depression. Music can also create shared experiences between these people and their families, maintaining communication and relationship even until the very last moment of life.

My intention is to promote the awareness of the power of music to accomplish these goals. I especially emphasize the hospice environment as a compassionate alternative to traditional hospital care for those who are terminally ill, and as a model for health care in general. This approach to music therapy can also greatly improve the quality of life of people living in hospitals and nursing homes.

You can hear a 30-minute talk about Pastoral Music Therapy (MP3 format) by clicking the icon below:

Pastoral Music Therapy Interview

Clicking on the music notes at the left will take you to an interview I gave on The Music Therapy Show with Janice Harris. Ms. Harris was a most gracious host, and I hope you enjoy the talk. Please contact me if you have any questions.

Charles (Carlos) Gourgey worked for two decades as a Board-Certified Music Therapist and New York State Licensed Creative Arts Therapist in hospices and nursing homes. He has published articles on psychology, disability, and religion, and is the author of the articles on this web site as well as the book Judeochristianity: The Meaning and Discovery of Faith. He presently serves as a New York State Long-Term Care Ombudsman defending the rights of nursing home residents.