Therapeutic Music Videos with Teens with Cancer


Teens who are hospitalized for cancer treatment experience a great deal of physical and emotional challenges. Treatment for cancer often involves an aggressive regimen including surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, bone marrow transplant, and/or immunotherapy which cause harsh side effects. Cancer patients often suffer from side effects such as pain, nausea, fatigue, hair loss, nerve damage, and more.

Emotional and psychological problems are also common. Teens undergoing cancer treatment may experience depression, difficulty coping, family stress, and even symptoms of trauma. Therefore, teens present a variety of needs in addition to treating their cancer.

Music Therapy in Pediatric Oncology

Music therapy can help with the physical effects of cancer treatment while supporting patients’ emotional, psychological, social, and spiritual wellbeing. For teens, music is a natural way to connect with them because music is often an important part of their identity and development. Music therapists use a variety of techniques to support teens with cancer, such as actively making music, improvising, songwriting, music-assisted relaxation, and more. Research shows that active engagement in music therapy can improve coping behaviors in children and teens while in the hospital (Robb et al., 2008; 2014).


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Therapeutic Music Video

An example of a music therapy intervention specifically tailored to teens is a Therapeutic Music Video, published by music therapist researchers (Robb et al., 2014). The music therapists designed this intervention to use technology, patient-preferred music, and other aspects that are important to many teens. The therapeutic music video involves writing a song with teens to their preferred music style (for example country, rock, or pop).

The music therapist and the teen work together to record the song with vocals and instrumental accompaniment. Teens also select photos or artwork to represent their story in the lyrics. The music therapist then produces the finalized music video on DVD which teens can use to “premiere” to friends and family or to keep for themselves. Throughout the process of the Therapeutic Music Video, the music therapist uses predictability and structure, teen-directed choices about the music, lyrics, and video, and building a therapeutic relationship to improve teens’ coping (Robb, 2000; Robb et al., 2014).


Music therapy is known to reduce the negative effects of cancer treatment in children and teens. Music therapy is particularly effective because it is a process of active, creative, and therapeutic engagement in music with a credentialed music therapist. To help more children and teens have access to music therapy, consider supporting Sam’s Fans mission.


McFerran, K. (2010). Adolescents, music and music therapy: Methods and techniques for clinicians, educators and students. Philadelphia, PA: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Robb, S. L. (2000). The effect of therapeutic music interventions on the behavior of hospitalized children in isolation: Developing a contextual support model of music therapy. Journal of Music Therapy, 37(2), 118–146. doi:10.1093/jmt/37.2.118.

Robb, S. L., Burns, D. S., Stegenga, K. A., Haut, P. R., Monahan, P. O., Meza, J., … & Kintner, E. K. (2014). 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. Cancer120(6), 909-917.

Robb, S. L., Clair, A. A., Watanabe, M., Monahan, P. O., Azzouz, F., Stouffer, J. W., … Hannan, A. (2008). Randomized controlled trial of the active music engagement (AME) intervention on children with cancer. Psycho-Oncology, 17(7), 699–708. doi:10.1002/pon.1301

Sara Bentley

Sara Bentley

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