Music Therapy at The Credit Valley Hospital

“I feel as though I’ve traveled around the world and back again,” were the words of one of the patients on the palliative care unit at The Credit Valley Hospital in Mississauga following her music therapy session at bedside. During the session, music is improvised to match the patients breathing and mood to create an environment of peace. The music may invite a patient to “let go” and let their mind travel uninhibited to a different place and time. Music can elicit powerful emotions and trigger different memories and experiences. A song from your childhood can instantly transport you back to another time and place, or the calming strains of a string quartet may soothe you in the midst of a hectic day. Whether expressing feelings to a loved one through songwriting or reflecting on life’s journey, patients find music therapy helps to offer a meaningful and supportive experience while in hospital.

As the music therapist at Credit Valley, Adrienne Pringle, MMT, MTA, dedicates her time to patients in Palliative Care and Complex Continuing Care. Adrienne’s research interests focus on the role that music can play in meeting the experience of a dying patient. Her study is entitled Giving a Voice to Dying.

Music therapy is “…the clinical use of music by an accredited music therapist to promote maintain and restore mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health”. (Canadian Association for Music Therapy, 1994).

A music therapist is a performance level musician with extensive training in musical skills, psychology, and music therapy techniques.

At The Credit Valley Hospital music therapy is available to all patients in palliative care with referrals coming from physicians, nurses, patients, family members and other members of the multidisciplinary team. The music therapist meets with patients and, at times, their family members to discuss areas of need and to explore how music might be used to help meet their needs. Music therapy sessions are offered individually at the patient’s bedside. Techniques such as song writing, relaxation, discussion, improvisation and listening are used to achieve goals such as emotional self-expression, life-review and reminiscence, validation, and distraction or relief from physical and existential pain.

A music expression group is offered to patients living in Complex Continuing Care in collaboration with Therapeutic Recreation. This group provides non-verbal patients with a safe environment where they are given opportunity to engage in meaningful social interactions with members of their community in a musical environment.

In addition to Adrienne’s role as a clinician she organizes a singing group called “Voices Unite.” This group is comprised of staff from the palliative care team who meet weekly throughout the fall to prepare a winter holiday concert for patients in palliative care. Adrienne is a member of the palliative care steering committee as well as a new hospital wide initiative to address pain. A CD library of over 300 CD’s and a number of CD players has been compiled for patient’s in palliative care through generous donations from The Canadian Music Therapy Trust Fund, patients, staff and community members.


A 44 year old patient with breast cancer expressed a desire to compose a song for her four-year old daughter. She chose the melody “What a Wonderful World,” one of her daughter’s favourite lullabies. The song expressed her feelings for her daughter as well as her dreams and hopes for her daughter’s future. The patient recorded the song with the music therapist. The CD recording lives on as a legacy gift for this little girl. The lyrics of her song are as follows:

I see big brown eyes and long brown hair,
Giving hearts, she’s kind, she cares
And I think to myself
What a wonderful girl

I see my daughter, a lovely child
An artist, an angel, so pretty, so wild
And I think to myself
What a beautiful girl

Melissa you’re a strong and independent girl
You are bright and sweet, an enchanting child
Mommy want’s you to know
That she’ll never go
I’m watching, I’m here, I’m guiding your way
And I think to myself,
What a wonderful girl

I see my daughter, I’ll watch her grow
To be a beautiful woman, I’m proud and I know
That I think to myself
What a beautiful girl,
Yes I think to myself
What a wonderful girl