The Benefits of Music Therapy
A recent study indicates that listening to music, playing an instrument or singing can have beneficial effects for cancer patients. By working with a music therapist, anxiety levels can be lowered and positive changes to mood and responses to pain are all indicated.
Presently the researchers do not know if actively taking part in music, that is singing or playing an instrument is more effective than just listening as there is not enough evidence available yet. Academics in creative arts believe that the evidence indicates that musical interludes may be positive when used as a complementary treatment for cancer sufferers.
The report contained data from 30 other studies where a total of 1,891 patients were monitored. Of the 30 studies, thirteen used trained music therapists. The therapists encouraged patients to sing or take some other active part in the session. The remaining seventeen studies had no active part, the patients only listened to recorded music.
When based on clinical anxiety scores it was discovered that those involved with the music showed considerably lower levels of anxiety compared to patients on standard treatments. Although depression was not helped by involvement with the music, researchers indicate that there were small benefits with blood pressure, breathing and heart rate. They also say that patients appeared to be in a better mood and dealt with pain better. All of this adds up to a better quality of life, say the researchers.
Although indications are positive the researchers agree that more study is needed to fully understand how much and why music helps anxiety. Advances in the understanding of the effect of music on suffering and the body are also required.
The American Cancer Society says that music therapy “may be used to encourage emotional expression, promote social interaction, relieve symptoms, and for other purposes”. It also advocates that music therapists use active or passive methods when dealing with patients. The individual patient’s needs and abilities will be the deciding factor.
The opportunity for patients to sing, play an instrument or select a particular piece or type of music should be made available by music therapists say the American Music Therapy Association. Even participating in a discussion about music can be beneficial.