Theoretical Rationale for Music Selection in Oncology Intervention Research: An Integrative Review


D. S. Burns


Journal of Music Therapy




BACKGROUND: Music-based interventions have helped patients with cancer improve their quality of life, decrease treatment related distress, and manage pain. However, quantitative findings from music intervention studies are inconsistent. OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this review was to explore the theoretical underpinnings for the selection of the music stimuli used to influence targeted outcomes. It was hypothesized that disparate findings were due in part to the atheoretical nature of music selection and the resulting diversity in music stimuli between and within studies. METHODS: A systematic research synthesis including a comprehensive database and reference list search resulted in 22 studies. Included studies were compiled into two tables cataloging intervention theory, intervention content, and outcomes. RESULTS: A majority of studies did not provide a rationale or intervention theory for the delivery of music or choice of outcomes. Recorded music was the most common delivery method, but the specific music was rarely included within the report. Only two studies that included a theoretical framework reported null results on at least some of the outcomes. Null results are partially explained by an incomplete or mismatch in intervention theory and music selection and delivery. CONCLUSIONS: While the inclusion of an intervention theory does not guarantee positive results, including a theoretical rationale for the use of music, particular therapeutic processes or mechanisms, and the specifics of how music is selected and delivered increases scientific rigor and the probability of clinical translation.

Music and Health Institute Terms

Cancer; Distress; Music Listening; Music Medicine; Pain; Quality of Life; Recorded Music Listening

Indexed Terms

Anxiety; Attitude to Health; Depression; Neoplasms; Pain; Pain Measurement; Personal Satisfaction; Quality of Life

Study Type

Systematic Review; Quantitative Methods

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Document Type