Cancer is dreadful — there's no way around that. But for adolescents and young adults who have yet to build an arsenal of coping tools it can be even rougher, especially given that few interventions are designed around the unique needs of younger patients. With this in mind, Joan E. Haase, PhD, RN, FAAN, and Sheri L. Robb, PhD, MT-BC, led a team that tested a music therapy intervention designed to boost resilience in young patients undergoing stem cell transplant treatments for cancer.

They define resilience as the process of positively adjusting to stressors, including those associated with a cancer diagnosis and treatment.

The researchers created a "Therapeutic Music Video" program that was designed to help the patients, ages 11 to 24, explore and express their thoughts about their disease and treatment; thoughts that may have otherwise remained unvoiced.

To evaluate the intervention's efficacy, they used 113 participants who were undergoing stem cell transplant treatments for cancer. Through a random selection, the patients were placed in either the Therapeutic Music Video intervention group or in a control group that received audio-books.

The music video group wrote song lyrics, collected images, and produced videos, which was thought to help them reflect on and pinpoint what is important to them, such as spirituality, family and relationships.

After six sessions in three weeks, the music video group reported "significantly better courageous coping." One hundred days after their stem cell transplant treatments, the Therapeutic Music Video group reported significantly better social integration and family environment.

The team concluded that several components of the program helped the patients to better cope with the daunting experience of cancer treatment. The factors, the statement notes, included "spiritual beliefs and practices; having a strong family environment characterized by adaptability, cohesion, and positive communication," as well as strengthening social connections with friends and healthcare providers.

"These protective factors influence the ways adolescents and young adults cope, gain hope, and find meaning in the midst of their cancer journey," said Dr. Haase.

"Adolescents and young adults who are resilient have the ability to rise above their illness, gain a sense of mastery and confidence in how they have dealt with their cancer, and demonstrate a desire to reach out and help others," she added.

The study was published in the American Cancer Society's peer-reviewed journal, Cancer.

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