Sick children helped by music therapy

Music therapy is being used at North Carolina Children's Hospital - located at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the US - to help young people cope with their illnesses and to benefit their recovery. Elizabeth Fawcett, a Music Therapist from the institution, has been engaging critically ill children with instruments and singing during the 20 hours a week she shares with youngsters at the facility.

Ms Fawcett, who plays the guitar and piano, also helps kids write their own songs as part of the initiative.

She explained the approach allows the children to express themselves and their feelings in a safe environment, adding: "I'm not coming in there to poke them again, to draw blood, to give them good or bad news. I'm just there to have fun with them."

As well as the fun aspect of the programme, the patients' abilities are tested and goals are set in order to help them return home quicker.

Dr Mike Lowis, Chartered Psychologist, commented: "Music communicates emotions and feelings, whereas speech communicates ideas and logic. Thus music can be used to help people express their feelings and to interact with others when words fail or are not appropriate.

"Music is also universal and may have originated even before speech through the way that mothers bonded with their babies using sing-song noises. Music is present in virtually every culture that we know of, and has been present during every historical period.

"Added to all this, is the fact that music is very pleasurable to most people, and listening to it, playing it, and singing it can release endorphins, the body's natural opiate."