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Landmark Multi-site Study Reveals Positive Effects of Music Therapy Protocol Among Youth in Cancer Treatment

January 27, 2014 09:21 AM


A ground-breaking collaborative multi-site study found that teens and young adults undergoing the rigors of stem cell transplantation as part of cancer treatment gain coping skills and resilience-related outcomes when participating with a board certified music therapist in a therapeutic music protocol that includes writing song lyrics and producing videos. Resilience is the process of positively adjusting to stressors; and, the study’s findings provide evidence supporting the use of a music-based intervention delivered by music therapists to help patients cope with challenging treatments.

Indiana University’s Joan E. Haase, PhD, RN, FAAN and Sheri L. Robb, PhD, MT-BC led the accomplished research team which included Debra Burns, PhD, MT-BC, lead physician, Dr. Paul Haut, and lead statistician, Dr. Patrick Monahan.

The SMART study - "Stories and Music for Adolescent and Young Adult Resilience during Transplant" - involved 11 sites with 49 board certified music therapists supporting the protocol. Published in Cancer, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, the findings indicate that such music therapy interventions can provide essential psychosocial support to help young patients positively adjust to cancer.

The music therapists’ role included helping patients identify and write about what was important to them through writing song lyrics, while also supporting their efforts to connect with healthcare providers, peers, and family through the process of creating their music video. While the intervention tested in this study requires delivery from a credentialed music therapist, it fosters involvement from patients’ entire team. The authors and AMTA advocate that nurses and other interdisciplinary team members collaborate with music therapists to identify patients/families who might benefit from this specific intervention – and use opportunities for involvement in the intervention to connect with their patients.

According to Dr. Robb, one challenge in healthcare is "making sure that research findings from studies such as ours are used to inform healthcare practices and service delivery. One of our team’s next steps is to disseminate findings, train professional music therapists on this intervention, and then conduct an implementation study to examine how the intervention may change as it moves into the standard care setting and whether, in the presence of these changes, patient benefits are maintained."

Over 700 board-certified music therapists work in hospitals across the United States, including many nationally recognized Children’s Hospitals and Cancer Centers. For information on the music therapy profession and referrals for interviews, contact AMTA at

CANCER, published by Wiley, may be accessed online:


Article: "Randomized clinical trial of therapeutic music video intervention for resilience outcomes in adolescents/young adults undergoing hematopoietic stem cell transplant: A report from the Children’s Oncology Group." Sheri L. Robb, Debra S. Burns, PhD, Kristin A. Stegenga, Paul R. Haut, Patrick O. Monahan, Jane Meza, Timothy E. Stump, Brooke O. Cherven, Sharron L. Docherty, Verna L. Hendricks-Ferguson, Eileen K. Kintner, Ann E. Haight, Donna A. Wall, and Joan E. Haase. CANCER; Published Online: January 27, 2014.