Music Therapy for Oncology

Music therapy can support the physical and psychosocial needs of patients and families who are dealing with cancer. Music therapy may be offered to alleviate pain, ease treatment side-effects, support immune system functioning, enhance coping, and reduce physical and emotional stress. Music therapists with advanced training in music psychotherapy techniques personalize individual bedside sessions to fit each patient's needs and preferences.

Support group sessions including family and staff promote an “at home” feel as well as a warm, pleasant, and welcoming hospital atmosphere. Sessions may include live improvisation, drumming, toning, and guided visualization, song writing, and song sensitation, song for life-review, music meditation, and sedation.

Clinical Services currently available in Oncology can include a range of experiences:

  • The bi-weekly sessions for nurses and caregivers on the unit provide a safe and supportive space for them to share their experiences in working with this population as well as cope with the intense emotional aspects of their daily work
  • Environmental Music Therapy (EMT) is offered to create a relaxed, less stressful environment
  • Individual sessions are used to provide the patients with an increasing sense of self, support integration and stimulate self-expression that may decrease anxiety and depression when coping with hospitalization
  • Music therapists may accompany patients to procedures in various areas of the hospital, including the operating room, endoscopy, and chemotherapy
  • Pre- and post-operative sessions are offered to ease pain, promote self-healing and recuperation, and reduce stress and tension

The Louis Armstrong Department of Music Therapy, in collaboration with The Helen Sawaya Fund, also provides music therapy services to adult patients receiving Oncological care at Mount Sinai. To learn more, click here.

The Garry Dial Fund Music Therapy Project in Radiation Oncology

The Garry Dial Music Therapy Fund at Mount Sinai West hosts a full-time music therapy program which provides cutting edge music therapy for patients undergoing radiation therapy (RT) treatment from the first imaging sessions through final radiation treatment sessions weeks later. This unique music therapy program is the first of its kind and has been implemented at two other cancer care facilities in the Mount Sinai Health System.

Our music therapy services offered in cancer care:

  • Anxiety Reduction
  • De-stress prescribed music playlists
  • Emotional support
  • Music assisted relaxation
  • Pain Management
  • Post-Traumatic Stress
  • Procedural Support
  • Strategies for coping with illness burden 
  • Symptom Management

Music therapy addresses the psychological well-being of patients with cancer by directly influencing the perception of RT as being less intrusive, leading to a sense of ease throughout the entire treatment trajectory. Once a patient arrives, a music playlist is prescribed during radiation, reducing their potential stress. Patients are then given a variety of mind-body resources that enhance patient comfort and resilience.

This program also provides continued therapy sessions that use both live music and pre-recorded music for the duration of treatment, addressing potential secondary issues associated with cancer treatment such as stress, anxiety and fear, pain, emotional difficulties (including trauma, depression, acute stress disorder, and PTSD), as well as psychosocial and spiritual concerns.

Music psychotherapy is also available to patients' family members who accompany them to their treatment sessions. This can create a unique 'nucleus of care' that provides relief and support to both patients and their personal caregivers, and can enhance feelings of resiliency, reinforce coping mechanisms, and a proactive stance toward the challenges of cancer treatment.