A new study emphasizes the positive effects of music therapy on patients with a terminal illness, most with cancer. Palliative care patients between the ages of 18-101, were enrolled in a three year study to determine the effect of music therapy. Healthcare providers have embraced music therapy as a source of solace and comfort to palliative patients and value its physical, spiritual and psychosocial benefits. The study was conducted by Sandi Curtis, a music therapy professor in the Concordia University Department of Creative Arts Therapies, along with the help of undergraduate music therapy students. “This project combined the talents and interests of violinists, violists and cellists with those of advanced student music therapists,” she said. “Our study showed how music therapy was effective in enhancing pain relief, comfort, relaxation, mood, confidence, resilience, life quality and well-being in patients.”
Curtis formed divided the students into teams of two, and had a music therapist oversee each team. “Student music therapists had an invaluable opportunity to make music with professional-calibre musicians,” said Curtis. “Symphony musicians had an opportunity to experience the transformative powers of music in a nonperformance setting and palliative care patients had access to music therapy services.”
Each patient in the study had a terminal illness and was given one music therapy session, lasting between 15 and 60 minutes. The therapy focused on four specific areas, relaxation, pain relief, mood and quality of life. The benefits were so significant in three patients, that the families of those patients requested the music therapy to be conducted during the patients’ final hours. “On two other occasions, because of the strong relationship established in prior music therapy sessions, the music therapy team was asked to perform at the patients’ funerals,” Curtis notes. Curtis hopes this research will expand the use of music therapy to a broader application. She is currently examining the effects of music therapy on children and women who have experienced violence.
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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