Striking a chord with patients

A few years ago, Sam Gale had not heard of music therapy – but now the 35-year-old believes he’s found the perfect career.

A classical guitarist by training, Sam studied music in his home state of Tasmania before discovering music therapy while volunteering with a refugee support service.

“I became very excited about all the unique ways music can be used to support healing and improve quality of life” Sam says.

He found that the University of Melbourne was one of only two Australian providers to offer a master’s in music therapy, so he moved to Victoria to study. In March 2022, Sam joined the Monash Health Allied Health Early Graduate Program as a music therapist, with his first placement at Kingston.

Monash Health provides music therapy services to inpatients and in community settings at five sites for children and adults, including in oncology, rehabilitation, general medicine, geriatric evaluation and management, palliative care, and mental health. Our 15 therapists help patients with managing pain, agitation and confusion, and distress and anxiety, as well as provide emotional support, and adjustment to a chronic illness or treatment.

Monash Health has one of Australia’s largest music therapy programs and is the only integrated program that provides services across the lifespan.

“There is a lot to music therapy, from neuroscience-based approaches for very specific goals such as motor or cognitive rehabilitation, to more holistic things like supporting social or community wellbeing, and everything in between really,” Sam says.

“It’s rewarding to adjust my skills to support such a variety of people by being flexible and making music totally accessible and individual. There is no point using music that is not relevant to somebody. It needs to have a personal connection.”

Therapy can involve Sam playing guitar and singing with patients, song writing, and discussing music.

“People can feel they have lost control when they are in hospital, have a life-changing diagnosis, or are recovering from an accident or a stroke,” he says. “Music can help to perk them up, talk or communicate, and provides something positive in a difficult time.”

Sam is delighted to have joined Monash Health, given the organisation’s commitment to music therapy, which has been part of our services for nearly 25 years.

“I’ve already had wonderful experiences here – there is something very special about music therapy,” he says. “It’s incredible when somebody is struggling with their memory and can’t even tell me the name of a band, but they will know every lyric and melody. It’s not about you as the therapist, it’s about connecting the patient with music that is special to them.”

This profile is part of a series spotlighting our Allied Health Early Graduate Program. We wish them all the best for their time with Monash Health. 

If you would like to join the team at Monash Health, take a look at our current vacancies on the Careers page.