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Music Therapy and Cancer Care: Psychosocial Support through Music

SarahRoseBlackby SarahRose Black, BMus, MA, MMT, Music Therapist, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and Kensington Hospice



Defining Music Therapy

Over the past few decades, music therapy has been used increasingly in psychosocial oncology, and has been shown to greatly improve quality of life and assist with symptoms such as pain and anxiety. I’m always asked to define music therapy, and although each day can be very different for me, music therapy is essentially defined as the use of music and a therapeutic relationship to promote health and well-being. I use music to connect with people dealing with cancer at virtually any stage of the disease trajectory. Whether people are undergoing treatment, receiving palliative care, re-integrating into their communities after treatment, or providing care for someone with cancer, music therapy can offer a means of self-expression, and a way to process the issues that arise. Music therapy has also been highly effective in helping people cope with physical symptoms such as pain and nausea. Interventions such as songwriting can provide an alternative method of expressing oneself, and interventions such as inter-active listening (when the therapist plays and the client listens) can be soothing and relaxing in the midst of physical and emotional pain. I use a combination of many interventions such as these to create therapeutic goals with my clients (both inpatients and outpatients), their caregivers, and their healthcare team.

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