Music Therapy: Benefits for AYA Patients

Pictured: Music therapists use a pentatonic relaxation chime to help patients deal with stress and anxiety.

Music heals in a variety of important ways. It’s used as a therapeutic tool to target the unique psychosocial needs of adolescent and young adult (AYA) cancer patients and alleviate the physical and emotional side effects of treatment. When used in conjunction with conventional care, music offers a respite for young adults and caregivers struggling with ways to cope.

As a licensed Creative Arts Therapist with 6 years of experience working in the Artist-in-Residence program at Roswell Park, I’ve witnessed the significant benefits music therapy has for young cancer patients. Music naturally lifts the sprits and creates a soothing environment for patients with high levels of pain, stress and anxiety. It is especially effective when combined with positive visualizations – closing your eyes and imagining a place you love. It creates a calm, peaceful state of mind conducive to healing and wellbeing.

Music therapy involves songwriting, playing instruments, playing live or recorded music and sometimes adding visualization or guided imagery. I often bring relaxation instruments to inpatient rooms, waiting areas and pediatric communal spaces to encourage patients to connect and socialize through music. The energy of the room always shifts to a more peaceful environment and everyone breathes a little easier.

Each music intervention is used to accomplish individualized goals and can easily transition to your home environment. Just listen to music you love!

Music therapy is designed to:

  • Promote wellness
  • Manage stress
  • Ease anxiety
  • Reduce pain
  • Express feelings
  • Enhance memory
  • Improve communication & social connectedness
  • Boost confidence
  • Promote physical rehabilitation
  • Increase resilience
  • Lower blood pressure

The Creative Arts Team plays a strong supporting role in patient care at Roswell Park. Self-expression helps us feel more alive, spontaneous and in control. Studies have shown that patients who engage in music therapy in a hospital environment tend to feel less bored, sad and anxious. Music gives young adults control over their immediate environment, even if just for a while.

To learn more about the Artist-in-Residence program or to request an inpatient visit, contact us at or ask your healthcare provider for more information.

From The Physician

Lynda Beaupin, MD, formerly of Roswell Park shares her insight on music therapy:

Though some may hesitate initially, I’ve always seen visits by the music therapists as very well-received by patients.

A recent study from the Children’s Oncology Group found that adolescents and young adults going through a stem cell transplant who received music therapy had a greater benefit in coping skills, and family and social interactions compared to those who had audiobooks during their treatment.

There are no downsides to receiving music therapy, and we are lucky to have the Artist-in-Residence program here at Roswell Park.