Poster Presentation COSA-IPOS Joint Scientific Meeting 2012

The effect of a specific music therapy song writing protocol on adult cancer patients mood - a mixed method, multi-site, randomized, wait-list controlled trial (#481)

Emma K O'Brien 1 , Jeff Szer 1 , David Westerman 2
  1. The Royal Melbourne Hospital, Parkville , VIC, Australia
  2. Haematology, Peter Macallum Cancer Institute, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia


The research study examined effect of the guided original lyrics and music (GOLM) songwriting on cancer patients’ mood, distress levels, quality of life, and satisfaction with hospital stay. GOLM is a specialised music therapy songwriting protocol to create an original song with the patient (O’Brien, 2005 ).The control was a Befriending Protocol (BP) which is a validated non-directive interaction that controls for the therapist’s presence.

This RCT was open adult cancer patients undergoing treatment (curative and palliative) at two major hospitals. All participants were randomised  to either the treatment post baseline. The protocol was three sessions over a maximum of two weeks, with a pre and posttest design.

Methods - Quantitative and Qualitative Analysis. The quantitative measures were McGill Quality of Life Scale, short form -Profile of Moods States, Distress Thermometer, a Mood Rating Scale, and a basic hospital satisfaction rating. Qualitative data was gathered post session from interviews about the experience of GOLM.


Following a effect sizes analysis on the MQOL to demonstrate a medium effect was N=44 (Cohen & Mount, 2000). The total number was N=50. Interviews were given to the first 9 participants in the study.

For this paper the method of GOLM will be illustrated, results from the POMSf will be presented alongside interview quotes and audio examples of the songs.

Results from the POMSf measure - A change score analysis (95% confidence interval for all measures regarding the difference between the means) when the waiting list control (BP) was compared to the songwriting (GOLM) (4-72 hours post the intervention- after session 3) found that GOLM was significantly more effective in reducing tension [p=0.008, CI -3.40 (-5.86,-.94)], depression [p=0.038, CI -2.21 (-4.30, -.13)], confusion [p=0.017, CI -2.49 (-4.5, -.47)] and overall mood disturbance [p=0.027, CI -11.66 (-21.94.-1.37)] GOLM did not significantly reduce anger (p=0.21), fatigue (p=0.10) and did not improve vigour (0.40).


GOLM is effective in reducing tension, depression and confusion resulting in a reduced overall mood disturbance for adult cancer patients as measured form baseline, after three music therapy sessions at 4-72 hours post intervention compared to a standard BP.