The act of expressing thoughts and feelings in words and song lyrics can help cancer patients find more resilience and coping strategies to help them live with the disease. Two recent therapeutic writing projects shows just how effective writing your pain down on paper can be.
The first project, a ‘Therapeutic Music Video’ (TMV) was run by the Indiana Nursing School in Indianapolis for adolescents and young adults undergoing stem cell transplant treatments for cancer. The aim of the TMV project was to encourage the patients to explore their thoughts and emotions about their disease and treatment through the creative process of writing song lyrics and producing a music video. Oncology Nurse Advisor reports that the project helped patients express what had remained unspoken, allowed them to reflect on their experience of illness and treatment, and helped them identify what was important to them (friends, family, spirituality, healthcare professionals).
The 113 patients took part in 113 sessions over six weeks, where they made music videos and share them with loved ones, so they could also gain a new perspective on the cancer patients’ experiences.
The study found that that the TMV group reported “significantly better courageous coping”, especially through feeling better connected and supported by family and medical staff – helping to boost their feelings of resilience in the face of their disease.
A second study, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, found that expressive writing could boost quality of life for renal cancer patients. The report authors concluded: “Expressive writing may reduce cancer-related symptoms and improve physical functioning in patients with renal cell carcinoma. Evidence suggests that this effect may occur through short-term improvements in cognitive processing.”
In other words, the chance to give outer expression to inner conflicts, struggles and challenges can, to some extent, be healing.