An interpretative phenomenological analysis of an improvisational music therapy program for cancer patients

Maria Pothoulaki, Raymond MacDonald, Paul Flowers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

29 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Although there are an increasing number of qualitative studies investigating the benefits of music therapy interventions in cancer care settings, few studies have adopted a phenomenological approach to explore how and why such interventions work. Objective: The aim of this study was to explore the psychological processes involved in an improvisational music therapy program for cancer patients. Methods: Nine individuals took part in an improvisational music therapy program and participated in semi-structured interviews. Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) was employed as a theoretical and methodological framework for the analysis of the interviews. Results: Recurrent themes revealed a variety of social and psychological benefits related to the experience of music therapy, such as facilitating peer support and group interaction, increasing self-confidence, relaxation, the generation of positive feelings, stress relief and feelings of enhanced communication through music. There was also an emphasis upon the importance of social interaction and communication. Conclusions: This paper highlights a number of key benefits connected with music therapy for patients with cancer and the effectiveness of IPA in applied health psychology research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-67
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Music Therapy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2012


  • cancer
  • music improvisation
  • music therapy

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