For many people, music connects them to their emotions and is often a way to be socially connected. That is why music can be an effective form of therapy for people with cancer.
The use of music as a therapeutic tool in health and medicine dates back to ancient times. In modern Western medicine, music therapy started being formally used in the 1950s and is now often incorporated into conventional medical care. Music therapy is a key therapeutic tool used within most integrative medicine programs at large cancer centers around the nation.
When used in conjunction with conventional cancer treatments, music therapy has been found to help reduce pain and discomfort; improve mood and diminish stress; increase quality of life; and allow patients to better communicate their fears, sadness or other feelings.
MD Anderson's Integrative Medicine Center provides music therapy for children and adult inpatients, outpatients and their families. Our board-certified music therapists, Michael Richardson and Ingrid Sevy, provide individual and group sessions, using passive listening or actively playing various musical instruments. No musical experience is required to participate.
The group sessions offered at the center include Exploring Music for Relaxation, where a music therapist guides participants to learn relaxation techniques through live and recorded music. The session is offered 11 a.m.-noon every Wednesday at the Mays Clinic center location.
In addition, Richardson leads a support group and choir for adult cancer survivors and caregivers called The Celebration Singers. The group's purpose is to make beautiful music, to have fun and provide inspiration to the newly diagnosed as well as long-term survivors. The singers perform at MD Anderson and at events that support cancer survivorship throughout the community.
Studies have shown that group singing improves mood, coping strategies and pain management, and has other health benefits. One long-term member says of her cancer diagnosis and experience with the singers, "I went through it all with the Celebration Singers by my side. We met at MD Anderson every Tuesday evening and sang. This experience gave me a sense of healing on the inside of my physical body and in my heart and spirit, too."
Music therapy is offered at no cost through the Integrative Medicine Center. Interested people can self-refer or be referred by appropriate MD Anderson staff. For more information call 713-794-4700.