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Commentary: Music Therapy Could Build Resilience In Teen Cancer Patients

musicandcreativetherapyby SarahRose Black, BMus, MA, MMT, Music Therapist, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and Kensington Hospice, CKN Music & Creative Therapy Section Editor

As the field of music therapy continues to grow, an ever-increasing body of knowledge is being developed through qualitative and quantitative research studies in a number of different areas. In March 2014, the journal Cancer published a randomized controlled trial study done in the United States, on how music therapy could potentially build resiliency in teens undergoing stem cell transplants. The results were promising, as those who participated in creating a therapeutic music video reported more courageous coping, better social integration, and a better family environment during a high-risk cancer treatment. Adolescents and young adults can often be overlooked in the healthcare system as they have unique psychosocial needs and are often caught between care for pediatric and adult patients. Music has a unique capacity to cater to any age and stage of disease progression, particularly when offered by an accredited or board-certified music therapist. While more research needs to be done to develop a deeper understanding of these benefits within a broader adolescent and young adult population, the results of the therapeutic music video intervention are exciting and speak to the power of music to support people during some of the most challenging times of their lives, regardless of their age.

Read the report in the Huffington Post:



Musical Moments for Medical Professionals

musicandcreativetherapyby SarahRose Black, MA, MMT


In my recent clinical work, I have spent time focusing on music and health as it pertains to medical professionals. I am often struck by the peripheral effects of music on the staff. At times, staff will ask me if I could play for them. Sometimes I find myself plugging in my keyboard in a nursing station, putting on small concerts with oncologists, or sneaking away to a piano with a palliative care physician to play duets. In all of these situations and many more like them, I am amazed at how powerful music can be for medical professionals.

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Music and our Environment

musicandcreativetherapyby SarahRose Black, MA, MMT


As a newcomer to the world of clinical work within an urban hospital, I was particularly taken aback by the constant cacophony of sounds I experienced. Years ago, when I spent time volunteering in both general and mental health hospitals, I was not nearly as aware of the vast soundscapes that surrounded me. Only when I re-entered the medical world as a music therapist did I become acutely aware of the onslaught of sounds that greeted me not only as I walked into the hospital, but on all the inpatient units, in the clinics, and even in places of administration. How, I wondered, do these sounds affect the patients? What about the staff? How do I get around or integrate myself into these sounds as a music therapist? Is that even possible? Does anyone else notice?

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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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