A Painless Prescription: Music as a Healing Power
by spark7 on April 14, 2014 - 10:57pm
Alternative treatments for medical conditions aren’t a new concept, but the field of music therapy and guided imagery are themselves semi-new treatment ideas, at least when it comes to physical illnesses. A large number of people have never even heard of guided imagery, which is the process of focusing one’s mind and being able to direct it to a different place. It taps into the imagination, but it really involves all the senses, starting with a deep breathing pattern and relaxation period before guiding the patient through mental processes, leading to a solution to their issue. The practice of music therapy is an expressive form of therapy involving the use of music in its various formats to attain a therapeutic end goal. Anyone who has heard of these treatments generally associates them with mental illness and while that is sometimes the case, they can also be used to treat physical illnesses that result from mental conditions, such as anxiety caused conditioned vomiting as it relates to chemotherapy. Karagozoglu, Tekyasar, & Yilmaz (2013) conducted a study comprised of 40 individuals aged 18-70 who had been diagnosed with cancer and were seeking chemotherapy treatment. The subjects were asked to rate their anxiety using a short questionnaire with possible answers to choose from for each question and were also tested for the severity of their nausea before and after chemotherapy once with out being exposed to any visual imagery or music therapy and once after being exposed to these treatments. This was done using a visual analogue scale on which subjects indicated their level of agreement to certain questions by picking a spot on a continuous line as representation. For the audio/visual treatment, the patient was advised to imagine themselves in the scenery depicted in a painting while listening to soothing, soft instrumentals chosen to match whichever of the five paintings the subject chose. The use of guided imagery and music therapy was shown to significantly decrease the pre-chemotherapy anxiety levels as well as the nausea and vomiting among subjects. This might not seem like a groundbreaking discovery, but it really means so much for those individuals who suffer from chemotherapy related anxiety and nausea/vomiting. There are drugs that have been said to reduce nausea, but for many these are useless. What are they supposed to do then? If music therapy was a wider field and there were more positions for music therapists in areas of hospitals other than psychiatric wings, these individuals would have the chance of minimizing their discomfort in such a situation. More research on this needs to be done so others will see the evidence for increasing music therapy jobs in areas other than the “typical” mental health section. This is only the beginning for music therapy and guided imagery possibilities, but it’s a really great start.
While the researchers write toward an audience that they assume would have a basic understanding, they didn’t gloss over too much information, however, a little more description on what music therapy actually is could have been helpful. Music Therapy is not just playing some music for someone. It is used in clinical settings to attain a specific therapeutic goal. These researchers spent a lot of time and effort crafting five selections of cds so that each one corresponded with a different visual image. They also had to take into account how different sounds act in sequence in order to achieve the right flow of sound that would keep the subject in a relaxed state while maintaining the mental belief that they were actually in the location that was depicted in the painting. A little more description of this profession could have made the article clearer, but it was still generally understandable as it progressed. The recommendation section brilliantly lays out what still needs to be done in a precise and effective way. If nausea/vomiting and anxiety from chemotherapy are ever going to be reduced or eliminated through music therapy and visual guided imagery, Karagozoglu and associates passionately argue for these treatment options to be widely implemented in chemotherapy units, more job training in said units in order to increase interest in these programs, and also for more research to be done regarding this topic with a larger sample size. These are all valid claims for what needs to be done in the future and if cancer patients who cant find relief from the typically prescribed medications are ever going to feel more comfortable with chemotherapy, word needs to spread in the medical community about the effectiveness of music therapy and visual guided imagery for treating conditions other than the usual mental illnesses. More jobs for music therapists and those using guided imagery must become available in a wider range of service areas, not specifically mental health alone.
Karagozoglu, S., Tekyasar, F., & Yilmaz, F. (2013). Effects of music therapy and guided visual
imagery on chemotherapy-induced anxiety and nausea-vomiting. Journal Of Clinical
Nursing, 22(1/2), 39-50.