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BMC Palliat Care. 2018 Feb 20;17(1):32. doi: 10.1186/s12904-018-0286-4.

Patient's and health care provider's perspectives on music therapy in palliative care - an integrative review.

Author information

GAMUT (Grieg Academy Research Centre for Music Therapy) Faculty of Fine Arts, Music and Design, University of Bergen, Bergen, Norway.
Sunniva Centre for Palliative Care, Haraldsplass Deaconess Hospital, Bergen, Norway.
Sunniva Centre for Palliative Care, Haraldsplass Deaconess Hospital, Bergen, Norway.
Department of Clincal Medicine, University of Bergen, Bergen, Norway.
Regional Centre of Excellence for Palliative Care Western Norway, Haukeland University Hospital, Bergen, Norway.
VID Specialized University, Bergen, Norway.
Haraldsplass Deaconess Hospital, Bergen, Norway.
Department of Global Public Health and Primary Care, Centre for Elderly and Nursing Home Medicine, University of Bergen, Bergen, Norway.



The use of music as therapy in multidisciplinary end-of-life care dates back to the 1970s and nowadays music therapy (MT) is one of the most frequently used complementary therapy in in-patient palliative care in the US. However existing research investigated music therapy's potential impact mainly from one perspective, referring to either a quantitative or qualitative paradigm. The aim of this review is to provide an overview of the users' and providers' perspectives on music therapy in palliative care within one research article.


A systematic literature search was conducted using several databases supplemented with a hand-search of journals between November 1978 and December 2016. Inclusion criteria were: Music therapy with adults in palliative care conducted by a certified music therapist. Both quantitative and qualitative studies in English, German or a Scandinavian language published in peer reviewed journals were included. We aimed to identify and discuss the perspectives of both patients and health care providers on music therapy's impact in palliative care to forward a comprehensive understanding of it's effectiveness, benefits and limitations. We investigated themes mentioned by patients within qualitative studies, as well as commonly chosen outcome measures in quantitative research. A qualitative approach utilizing inductive content analysis was carried out to analyze and categorize the data.


Twelve articles, reporting on nine quantitative and three qualitative research studies were included. Seven out of the nine quantitative studies investigated pain as an outcome. All of the included quantitative studies reported positive effects of the music therapy. Patients themselves associated MT with the expression of positive as well as challenging emotions and increased well-being. An overarching theme in both types of research is a psycho-physiological change through music therapy.


Both quantitative as well as qualitative research showed positive changes in psycho-physiological well-being. The integration of the users´ and providers´ perspectives within future research applicable for example in mixed-methods designs is recommended.


Interventions; Music therapy; Pain; Palliative care; Patient reported outcomes; Physical comfort

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