The Importance of Music Therapy for Dialysis Patients

National Kidney Month  

March is, among many other things, National Kidney Month. I specifically chose this cause out of many listed for this month because it is one that is near and dear to my heart. While I was working in the dialysis clinic at one of the local hospitals, I became very close with many of the patients who were undergoing dialysis as a result of kidney failure and went through treatment 3 times a week for long periods of time. Not only was this time commitment and process physically difficult for the patients and their families, but it took a huge emotional toll on these individuals too. Bringing light to what this all entails and how I saw firsthand how music therapy helped these patients is what I would like to focus on this month.

Coping Skills  

With each session lasting multiple hours and these dialysis treatments happening multiple time a week, boredom often is close by. Patients aren’t able to move around and therefore are often limited to looking at their phones, iPads, reading, or crafting. Now imagine that you are a teenager, and don’t like making crafts…most likely you are going to spend the next 3-4 hours looking on your phone.

One of the things I liked to suggest to these kids was learning a new instrument. They had a lot of time that had opened up and many of the patients were excited to do this. Learning a new skill (playing an instrument in this case) helped individuals learn to cope with their diagnosis and situation and turn it into something positive (learning something new). It helped many of the people I was working with be excited to come receive treatment and it gave them something to look forward to.

Emotional Expression

As you can imagine, spending that much time every week in a hospital is difficult emotionally as well. At the children’s hospital where I was working, many of the patients had to come in super early so that they would miss as little school as possible…but they were still missing school. They were missing out on building relationships with their peers. Missing out on playing with their friends at recess. Getting behind on lessons so that they felt “out of the loop” and didn’t feel like they fully belonged.

Through participating in music therapy, we were able to work on expressing these feelings that they were experiencing in a way that can seem more approachable than using words to describe their feelings. Through improvisation on instruments, songwriting, and lyrics analysis many of these patients were able to process their experience in a way that they could relate to.

Developmental Skills

As mentioned early, many of these patients missed school due to their treatments, which meant that some of the very young kiddos were also missing out on some of the developmental growth that comes with playing and interacting with peers. For those very young patients, focusing on developmental play through music and instruments was so important and appreciated by their parents. It not only allowed their children to have fun during something that could be the exact opposite, but helped them not fall behind their peers.

Decreasing Pain Receiving dialysis treatment can also be very painful for some patients. The port site might not be situated perfectly, or their muscles might spasm from the changes that are happening during the treatment. Many patients also felt nauseous during various points of the treatment. In those situations it was my job to help the patients relax through music. There were some patients that would even fall asleep once the music started and they could feel (I could see) their bodies relaxing as they became more in tune with the music and focused on that stimuli instead of the pain that was coursing through their bodies. In those moments, the patients and their families were so grateful to have a music therapist there to comfort them through music.

Contact Us

As you can tell, music therapy can be so beneficial for individuals going through dialysis treatment due to kidney failure. If you have any questions after reading this newsletter, please contact us at


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