Throughout history, the sound of music has brought comfort during times of stress, like the Nazi occupation of Austria during World War II for Maria Augusta von Trapp, whose memoir inspired two films and a Broadway show. More recently, the discovery of music (by aliens) in the 2012 indie film The History of Future Folk saves humanity from imminent interplanetary destruction.
Now, music therapy may help young cancer patients cope with their prognoses by expressing emotional thoughts otherwise left alone.
With few psychological therapies today for such young patients, investigators at Duke University and Indiana University sought to test the power of music in strengthening coping skills and building emotional resilience.
Leading the team, Dr. Joan E. Haase and Dr. Sheri L. Robb placed study participants — 113 patients ages 11 to 24 who were awaiting stem cell transplants —into two groups, one of which received only audiobooks as a study control. The other group received the “Therapeutic Music Video intervention,” with the experiment occurring in six sessions over three weeks.
A new musical therapy intervention was shown effective in helping kids and young adults build emotional resilience while awaiting stem cell transplant operations. The investigators, from Duke University and Indiana University, plan to next study efficacy in a standard care setting.
The “intervention was designed to help adolescents and young adults explore and express thoughts and emotions about their disease and treatment that might otherwise go unspoken,” the investigators wrote in a statement.
“Through the creative process of writing song lyrics and producing videos, a board-certified music therapist offers structure and support to help patients reflect on their experiences and identify what is important to them, such as their spirituality, family, and relationships with peers and health care providers.”
The music therapy intervention is similar in theory to mental health treatments including art therapy, which incorporates painting, sculpture, and other disciplines of the visual arts. “As they move through phases of the intervention — including sound recordings, collecting video images, and storyboarding — patients have opportunities to involve family, friends, and health care providers in their project, maintaining those important connections during treatment and encouraging communication,” the investigators wrote.
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