Music Therapy – Beneficial Method for Palliative Patient Care

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Music Therapy can be a beneficial method for palliative patient care. Palliative care is specialized for people who are dealing with a life-threatening illness or disease. This type of care focuses on relieving the symptoms and stresses caused by the diagnosis. Music Therapy is a type of modality in which, the improvement of the quality of life for the patient and their families is priority. There are a few different forms of Music Therapy that can be administered, either by a Radiation Therapist by means of a pre-selected musical choice given by a licensed Music Therapist. Children have shown the most benefit from Music Therapy. “Purpose Music is important in most children’s lives. To advance efficacious pediatric supportive care , it is necessary to understand young cancer patients’ thoughts about music,” (O’Callaghan, 2010).

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It may also lend encouragement and relief to a patient’s chronic pain and the anxiety levels regarding receiving their radiation treatment or the mental effects such as depression upon receiving a terminal illness diagnosis. Throughout the paper I will be discussing in detail the effects Music Therapy has on cancer patients’ and children, who experience pain, anxiety and mood disturbance. The increased awareness and research combined have encouraged hospitals to put into practice and offer Musical Therapy as an option while they are there. Hospitals can cause many people anxiety. Just the thought of walking through the doors to visit a loved one, have surgery and receive your lab results can instill fear and animosity. Hospital’s are now implementing “quiet-rooms” throughout the hospital, which play relaxing music that are available for the patient while they wait, and or family members and visitors to enjoy at their disposal. I believe having a more clam serene environment with in the hospital will have a snowball of positive effects on the staff, patients and visitors. “The search for complimentary interventions that are both cost effective and associated with few side effects has led to an increased interest in the therapeutic use of music for cancer patients within the field of palliative care,” (Archie, 2012).

Music Therapy may be administered to patients, by a form of a pre-recorded session administered by a music therapist or the radiation therapist. In some cases a patient will leave a prerecorded session with the radiation therapist to play while receiving the radiation treatment. During a typical radiation treatment the patient spend an average of 15 minutes in the waiting room and 15 minutes on the treatment table. That may seem like a short time to you or I but as a patient who is seeking treatment five days a week for weeks at a time, a pleasant reassuring music therapy session might just be the answer to an already hectic day and situation. “Many investigators have proposed that music may compete with noxious stimuli and thereby close neurological gates of pain signal transmission, or that it may distract patients from threats that cause them to feel anxious, and/or that it may promote a sense of well-being in patients with an otherwise depressed mood. While these may all be valid theories, advances in neuroscience, and functional neuroimaging studies in particular, are providing dramatic new insights into the findings from clinical trials involving music-based interventions,” (Archie, 2013).

Anxiety is dynamic and can differ immensely from patient to patient, having varied effects on different age groups and genders. For example, adults experiencing anxiety have a more equipped ability to understand and manage their anxious feelings better then per say a child would. For instance in a one study, “Ten pediatric patients completed the Kidscope coping strategies questions in their interviews. When pediatric patients were in the radiation therapy treatment room, 80% (n=8) used distraction, cognitive restructuring, and wishful thinking coping strategies, and 70% (n=7) used emotional regulation. Of the standard care group, 83% (n=5) used cognitive restructuring and emption regulation. Of the music therapy group intervention group, 100% of pediatric patients (n=4) used distraction and wishful thinking” (Barry, 2010). What this study explains is that children use a less realistic approach to anxiety, and with the use of music therapy it demonstrates that the children used distraction as a method to cope with the fear and anxiety of having to remain completely still, in a closed off room, all alone. Imagine how scary that would be for a small child to have to go through their treatment without their parent to reassure them being by their side. Music Therapy can help distract and take the edge of by adding a pleasant portion that can help ease their worries. Referring to (Table 2) it demonstrates how the children felt music therapy eased their uncertainties and anxieties regarding radiation therapy. Which in turn can greatly reduce and improve the negative emotional responses a parent or sibling may be dealing with, in regards to seeing their family member with a life-threatening illness go through treatment.

“Data collected from raclopride PET demonstrated that intensely pleasurable responses to music may be associated with dopamine release in the striatal system” (Archie, 2013). Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, which aids in regulating sleep, behavior, mood and cognition. It is also directly responsible for the feeling of happiness and pleasure. When listening to music, studies have shown that a correlation to the lyrics and/or melody can evoke an emotional response for the listener. Although these studies are small and it is a fairly new method, there is a direct correlation with music and dopamine/endorphin release. “There is still a shortage of rigorous scientific data supporting the clinical application of music therapy, and there is thus a need to confirm and expand the preliminary findings regarding the potential and actual effectiveness of music therapy. This need should be addressed through prospective, randomized, controlled, single-blinded investigations of the short- and long-term effects of music therapy in diverse clinical conditions,” (Boso, 2006). With more research done by neuroscientists the possibilities could be substantial with regulating and assisting pain management in a healthier way. Further more music therapy could be a useful tool in aiding the opioid epidemic that is taking over America. 

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Music Therapy - Beneficial Method For Palliative Patient Care. (2021, Apr 05). Retrieved January 29, 2023 , from

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