WHILE medical care and pain relief can counteract physical symptoms, a complex illness affects the mind as much as the body.

Sobell House Hospice’s holistic approach to patient care has resulted in an array of services to soothe both, including a range of creative and complementary therapies.

The latter includes massage, reflexology and aromatherapy, which are available to people using the Headington hospice.

Creative art and music therapies allow patients to express themselves in a way that words sometimes cannot sum up - whether they are recording a song for their loved ones to listen to when they are gone, or painting a picture to ease their anxiety.

Tom Crook, who has been Sobell’s music therapist for four years, said melody and lyrics are powerful tools in unlocking emotions and memories.

He said: “It's sometimes hard to find the words to express how you feel, so we use music and art as a conduit for that.

"With music it's always client-led, and that might be just listening to favourite music. That can evoke memories that will sometimes be the beginning of a life review process.

"Sometimes just playing an instrument can be quite revealing - the way someone hits a drum or plays a piano."

This week Sobell is inviting supporters to share their experiences, to mark Hospice Care Week.

Mr Crook, who was a musician and published songwriter before training to be a music therapist, alsos help service users to write songs about their life or a special memory.

He said: "People can use that process to tap into the subconscious, perhaps the unconscious, and things that come up often surprise them."

He described the songs as a 'legacy' and said families sometimes play them at that person's funeral.

Hannah Cridford oversees art therapy at Sobell House, which sits on the Churchill Hospital site.

Even if patients are not naturally artistic, the act of being creative can help them to confront their situation in a visual way.

Mr Crook said illness can bring up 'existential questions' that can be hard to answer just by talking.

He added: “The materials and image being made is also an exploration and expression of feelings.

"It's making that mark and seeing where that takes them, the feelings that come up as they start engaging with the creative.

"It can be a distraction but it's about where that leads them - exploring the meaning of their illness, in a way that isn't verbal."