MD Anderson Offers Music Therapy For Cancer Patients
Music therapy can be a powerful tool in times of trauma or crisis, providing an outlet to express one’s emotions without verbally expressing them. Not only that, but it’s also non-verbal in nature so it offers another non-verbal outlet as well.
At MD Anderson, patients can access a range of complementary therapies like massage, creative arts, reflexology, Qi Gong and music therapy. These practices may reduce symptoms associated with cancer such as pain and fatigue.
At Houston Methodist Hospital’s Behavioral Unit, music therapist Michael Richardson often brings his therapeutic skillset with him – such as an acoustic guitar, choir chimes and keyboard – to patients undergoing treatment for serious mental illnesses. Patients refer to him affectionately as “the music man,” often asking him to play for them.
He strives to incorporate songs that he knows best into each patient’s sessions, making them more personal and meaningful for each one. He utilizes a sound dome – an expansive soundproofed room – in order for patients to focus on their thoughts and emotions while listening to music.
When Michael Richardson isn’t working with patients in the behavioral health unit at MD Anderson, he enjoys spending time playing guitar and singing with his daughter Mi-Sun Bae. Recently the two joined forces to mark Cancer Survivorship Week at MD Anderson – a program that helps those living with cancer find ways to cope after treatment ends.
In group music therapy sessions, participants selected songs that were specifically related to their cancer experiences and discussed them with one another during the gathering. This enabled them to express their emotions in a safe space while also relieving some of their emotional distress, according to the research study.
They shared their stories and pondered the meaning behind the song and its lyrics. Afterward, they took a seat and allowed their emotions to take hold.
One such session, the MT-BC played live acoustic guitar while singing a Mexican song that described an effective remedy for emotional pain. As the patient and his daughter sang along, both began to cry with joy at hearing about how this powerful experience had changed their loved one during trying times. They felt both relieved and joyous that such an incredible thing existed in such a positive light during those trying times.
Patients’ family members were invited to join in the telehealth sessions as a part of their support team. They used Zoom application, which allowed them to connect to the MT-BC via iPad in their hospital room using Zoom application.
Despite the difficulties associated with in-person telehealth sessions, family members and other hospital personnel were very supportive, providing feedback to the MT-BC about what they believed to be an effective approach for meeting their loved one’s emotional and behavioral needs. They noted that the telehealth format removed some barriers patients would typically face in traditional office settings–such as parking and driving–which may have negatively impacted patient comfort levels and rapport building with the MT-BC.