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Hospice Music Therapy

Christian Nielsen MT-BC has been doing hospice music therapy since his music therapy internship in 1999. He also has experience providing music therapy to several populations, but his specialty is end of life, bereavement, and geriatric mental health. He has  more than 22 years of professional experience working with those at end of life. Christian worked with Ridgeview Hospice from 2000 - 2021, but left Ridgeview in order to make time for other creative and spiritual pursuits. Christian still sees a limited number of end of life and palliative care clients and does some group work. As a seminarian and long time church musician and lay preacher, Christian also provides spiritual care as part of his practice.

Music therapy offers many benefits to those in hospice.

Music therapy can:

  • Reduce feelings of pain or symptoms such as shortness of breath

  • Elevate the mood

  • Reduce feelings of anxiety, restlessness, isolation, and agitation

  • Reduce need for medications for pain, symptoms, anxiety, and depression

  • Offer spiritual, emotional, and grief support

  • Reduce need for other psychological interventions

  • Create a feeling of overall well being

  • Provide support to family and loved ones of the client

  • Create quality shared experiences with client and family of all ages

  • Offer aesthetic  experience

  • Assist in the final stages and transition to the next world

  • Increased sense of well-being

  • Research is beginning to show that with hospice clients who receive music therapy, overall medical expenses are reduced

* research references available on request


The Music Therapy Experience

Music Therapy makes a difference during all stages of the dying process. It can help when a person is more up and active, or in the final days or hours. It is often said that hearing is the “last thing to go”, and quite often this is true. The music therapy experience for those at end of life will vary and is individualized to meet the needs of the person on each visit. Sessions can work if a person feels active or has very low energy- the experience is customized with each visit. Music therapy services are client-centered, and meet a person where they are with each visit. A person need not be a musician or "musical person" in order to benefit from music therapy.


Sessions may include:

  • Music listening

  • Singing

  • Playing instruments

  • Guided imagery

  • Meditation

  • Music-assisted relaxation exercises

  • Spiritual support based on each client’s belief system

  • Grief support and counseling

  • Intergenerational family sessions, and other specialized music therapy interventions.

Many styles of music are used in music therapy. Christian and therapists he works with are proficient in many styles and instruments:

  • Folk & Old-time music

  •  Classic Country

  • Popular music from 1900’s-1980’s (some current music)

  • Spiritual Music and/or Hymns

  • Jazz & Big Band

  • Classical

  • Rock & Roll from Elvis, to the Beatles, to U2

  • Ethnic and cultural music

  • Special Healing, Meditation & Relaxation music

  • Many more and I'm always willing to learn new music- just ask!

Instruments Christian plays include: Guitars, Voice, Native American and other Ethnic Flutes, Reverie Harp, Ukulele, Percussion, Keyboard, and others.


Music Therapy can be very beneficial to people of all ages at the end of life. Music brings memories and allows for reminiscence and life review as a way to help find life meaning- even for those with advanced dementia. It is a vehicle for emotional expression. It can soothe pain, anxiety, agitation, and bring comfort to an otherwise uncomfortable time. It can provide emotional and spiritual support. It can also provide positive interaction for those with cognitive challenges and their loved ones. It can support the needs of the entire family, not just the client. As a holistic treatment, it focuses on the needs of the whole person, not just the disease or condition.


Music Therapists are trained extensively in music, psychology, physiology, education, and spirituality. A board certified music therapist has a minimum of a bachelor of science degree (one that usually takes more than 4 years) and over 1,100 hours of clinical training. Additionally music therapists must take a clinical certification examination, and receive 20 hours of continuing education annually. While musicians are ocassionally employed by other hospice programs, they do not have the same level of qualification or benefit as a board-certified music therapist (MT-BC).

Here's Christian Singing some relaxing songs with ukulele

Christian Singing some old-time & country tunes

Christian plays the Native American Flute by Lake Superior

Christian plays and sings Christian church songs

Church Music Sampler - Christian Nielsen
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Christian plays & sings Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Somewhere Over the Rainbow - Christian Nielsen
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Christian plays and sings some upbeat music on the ukulele

Ukulele Sampler - Christian Nielsen
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Christian plays more Native American flute

In this recording, Christian plays Guitar, Native American flutes, and an instrument designed for hospice music therapy: The Reverie Harp. Over a little more than an hour this recording becomes calmer and calmer.

Christian plays & sings Here Comes the Sun

Christian plays and sings Danny Boy

Christian plays and sings For the Beauty of the Earth

Music Assisted Guided Relaxation

Here are some music assisted relaxation recordings Christian has produced. These techniques are often helpful in promoting relaxation, reducing anxiety, pain, and respiratory issues. In therapy visits, techniques can be customized to each client's needs.

Environmental & White Noise Recordings to aid in relaxation & sleep

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Music Therapy in the News
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