MusiCARER: Building capacity for high-quality research on the role of music therapy in supporting informal carers of people at end of life
MusiCarer is a research study being led by Dr Lisa Graham-Wisener, Lecturer in Health Psychology, and Dr Tracey McConnell, Marie Curie Senior Research Fellow, School of Midwifery & Nursing, Queen’s University Belfast. Dr Katie Gillespie is the Research Fellow on the project. This research is funded by the Music Therapy Charity, London.
This page aims to give you an introduction to the research team members and background to the project. This page will be updated with any associated events, publications, and relevant material that may be of interest.
Meet the team
Lecturer in Health Psychology in the Centre for Improving Health-Related Quality of Life, School of Psychology, Queen’s University Belfast. She is also a Fellow in the Centre for Evidence and Social Innovation at Queen’s University Belfast. Lisa’s expertise is as a chartered psychologist with an interest in interventions which improve quality of life and psychological wellbeing for individuals with chronic physical health conditions and their close persons.
Marie Curie Senior Research Fellow, School of Nursing & Midwifery, Queen’s University Belfast. The majority of Tracey’s research is within palliative/end-of-life care, and in exploring the effectiveness of music therapy for improving psychosocial outcomes.
Research Fellow, School of Psychology and School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work (Centre for Evidence and Social Innovation), Queen's University Belfast. Katie has experience with systematic reviews and mixed-methods research with vulnerable populations. She is interested in exploring creative therapies for improving mental wellbeing.
Patient and Public Involvement representative. Angela’s career background is strategic public and voluntary sector management, including posts in NHS commissioning and community care, and as Research and Development Director for a vision charity. Recently, Angela has held various lay advisory roles in health research for NCRI, NIHR, HRA and Marie Curie, with interests in older people, mental health and end of life care research.
Patient and Public Involvement representative. Lorna is a researcher and educator from Dublin, Ireland, with a strong background in Music Education. Lorna is an active member of Voices4Care, an organisation which aims to make a positive difference for people with an illness or condition which may limit or shorten their lives. She is interested in using the arts to enhance well-being.
Managing Director and Music Therapist, Chroma Therapies Ltd t/a Chroma, Daniel’s area of expertise is the management of large-scale music therapy projects, with NHS and private healthcare partners as well as local authorities and other partners. Chroma is the UK’s largest and leading provider of arts therapies (including music therapy) services.
Assistant Professor of Music Therapy, Mary Pappert School of Music and the School of Nursing, Duquesne University, USA. Dr. Potvin has worked as a board-certified music therapist and licensed professional counsellor in hospice and palliative care for over a decade.
(independent researcher) has worked as a music therapist for 12 years in paediatric and adult learning disability, mental health, and paediatric palliative care. She has managed a team of therapists working in a range of settings across Northern Ireland. Jenny’s current work is in public health, scoping and reviewing Allied Health Professional services as part of the Health and Social Care Transformation agenda in Northern Ireland.
Senior Lecturer in Social Work, School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work in Queen’s University, Belfast. After working as a specialist palliative care social worker for years, Audrey conducted a number of research projects with patients living with life-limiting illness and their carers. She also has a strong interest in supporting informal carers with bereavement.
4th year student at North-eastern University pursuing a degree in psychology with specific interests in End of Life care. Ishan supported the screening process for the first phase of this project - a mixed-methods systematic review of music therapy for supporting informal carers of individuals with life-threatening illness pre- and post-bereavement.
PhD Researcher, School of Psychology (Centre for Improving Health-Related Quality of Life), Queen's University Belfast. Cara’s research interests are primarily in the field of health psychology and palliative care. She has experience with mixed-methods systematic reviews and qualitative research with vulnerable populations. Cara is supporting the first phase of this project - a mixed-methods systematic review of music therapy for supporting informal carers of individuals with life-threatening ilness pre- and post-bereavement.
An informal carer is anyone who looks after a family member, partner or friend who needs help because of their illness, frailty, or disability and cannot cope without their support. The care they provide is unpaid. Informal carers of people who are end of life (within the last year, weeks or days of life) often experience emotional distress, which can impact on their own health and quality of life. Some carers may also experience complicated grief which can have a negative long-term effect on their mental wellbeing and social relationships. In order to avoid this, it is important that informal carers receive appropriate support.
Arts-based therapies, such as music therapy, can work on reducing risk factors such as pre-bereavement depression, anxiety and family conflict at end-of-life. Music therapy can be offered pre- and post-bereavement to support the patient and carer, the whole immediate family, or the carer only depending on need. However, despite being highly valued by patients and carers, there is very little research on the role of music therapy in improving outcomes for informal carers of people at end of life. As a result, we don’t know if current music therapy services are producing the best outcomes possible for carers, and music therapy is rarely funded as a core service in the NHS.
This programme of research aims to identify where more research is needed for supporting informal carers of people at the end of life and invite informal carers to join our Carer Advisory Group (CAG) to work with music therapists and researchers in designing music therapy support during pre-bereavement, that can be used as part of routine NHS care.
There will be three phases of the project:
Phase 1: We will search for all the existing international research on music therapy with informal carers of people at end of life to see what research questions still need to be answered.
Phase 2: We will hold a workshop with people who have had experience of bereavement, music therapists and other healthcare professionals supporting carers to identify any other key questions that need to be answered. This will help us develop a plan for research on music therapy with informal carers of people at end of life.
Phase 3: People who have experienced bereavement, music therapists, and other professionals who support carers will work together to design a music therapy intervention that is adapted to the needs of carers of patients at end-of-life, and that can be used as part of routine NHS care.
All these phases of work will help us develop a funding application to test the feasibility of our co-designed music therapy intervention, with the final aim of improving outcomes for informal carers of people at end of life.
Music therapy uses sound and music as a therapeutic medium to bring about change.
Music therapists are trained musicians and qualified therapists who assess and treat adults and children with sensory, physical and learning disability, mental health problems, emotional and behavioural disturbances and neurological problems. To work in the UK they have to be registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) and adhere to strict standards and ethical principles. […]
Music is a means of communicating between individuals.
As a therapeutic measure music can:
- be effective in reducing tension and anxiety, and challenging behaviour.
- increase self awareness, the awareness of others, and the ability to manage feelings and stress.
- encourage and promotes the development of communication and social skills, self expression, confidence and self esteem.
- promote well being, helps pain management and physical rehabilitation.
- help to meet the social, emotional, behavioural and cognitive needs of vulnerable people of all ages, contributing to the quality of life and enabling them to achieve their full potential. (The Music Therapy Charity, 2014)
Music Therapy: An Introduction
Watch this short video from the British Association for Music Therapy for an Introduction to Music Therapy in the UK (British Association for Music Therapy, 2021).
Previous research the team has conducted alongside colleagues includes the 'MusiQUAL' study, which was a pilot and feasibility trial of a music therapy intervention for patients in a hospice inpatient setting. This project was led by the School of Nursing and Midwifery, Queen's University Belfast.
If interested, you can read a number of publications from this research below:
- A randomised controlled pilot and feasibility study of music therapy for improving the quality of life of hospice inpatients
- Evaluation of the effectiveness of music therapy in improving the quality of life of palliative care patients: a randomised controlled pilot and feasibility study
- A critical realist evaluation of a music therapy intervention in palliative care
- Music therapy in UK palliative and end-of-life care: a service evaluation
- Music therapy for end-of-life care: an updated systematic review
- Music therapy for palliative care: A realist review
- From Chopin to Christina Aguilera: how music therapy helps people with a terminal illness