Transformation through a heartbeat: Stretching the boundaries of action research following suicide

This post is authored by Claire Ghetti, Brian Schreck & Jeremy Bennett about their recent ARJ article which was developed for publication by ARJ Associate editor, Rob Warwick.  Listen into their video discussion of the paper at the end: 

The authors write:

“An imbedded heartbeat within a symphony of grieving and transformation – our image depicts the first notes of a bereaved father’s musical honoring of his beloved son. Brian, a music therapist, has collaborated with Jeremy (the father), over a process of eight years, to interweave Dylan’s heartbeat (the deceased son) into their mutually performed and recorded music. These songs keep the relationship with Dylan evolving and have been an essential tool in Jeremy’s process of grieving and growing.

The music therapy process that Jeremy and Brian engaged in, has been initiated and developed by Brian in therapeutic and palliative settings over the past decade (for details, ). Known as “amplified cardiopulmonary recordings” (or informally as “heartbeat recordings”), this process-based approach integrates recordings of a loved one’s heartbeat or breathing sounds with either originally composed music or prerecorded music that carries significance for families. Through an ongoing relationship with a music therapist, patients and families can develop such recordings over time to support the unique trajectory of their grieving process. From the beginning of his grieving, Jeremy has been open about the profound impact this process has had on him and his family:

Through dialogues between Jeremy, Brian and Claire (a music therapy researcher) and subsequent analysis and reflection, we explore an extraordinary case of music therapy with heartbeat recordings to critique the status quo of hospital-based bereavement care and inspire further action for transformative change. We grapple with ethical challenges related to consent, blurring boundaries of care, and co-researching. This case serves as an exceptional example of possibilities, to engage emotions and point out what is often lacking in current health systems.

As a co-researcher in this process, Jeremy notes that the process of researching itself has been a part of the therapeutic journey for him. His dream of getting the message out to all kinds of people is being further realized through Action Research and is a critical initial step for transformative change in systems of care.

Those interested in reading beyond this article published with Action Research are encouraged to access:

  • Schreck, B., & Economos, A. (2018). Heartbeat recording and composing in perinatal palliative care and hospice music therapy. Music and Medicine, 10(1), 22-25.
  • Schreck, B., Loewy, J., LaRocca, R. V., Harman, E. & Archer-Nanda, E. (2022). Amplified Cardiopulmonary Recordings: Music therapy legacy intervention with adult oncology patients and their families—A Preliminary program evaluation. Journal of Palliative Medicine, 25(9), 1409-1412.

Paper Permanent link

Citation: Ghetti, C. M., Schreck, B., & Bennett, J. (2023). Heartbeat recordings in music therapy bereavement care following suicide: Action research single case study of amplified cardiopulmonary recordings for continuity of care. Action Research.