Music Therapy – A space of being

Music therapist, Sané Leach, explains how music therapy has positive effects on cancer patients, both physically and psychologically.

If there is an honour worth mentioning in the world, it would be the privilege of having a magical musical connection with the brave warriors fighting an oncology battle. 

In music therapy, we often have this honour and it’s a treasure filled with creativity, authenticity and raw vulnerability of life through the eyes and minds of the most amazing people. 

Little Angelo

“I think I have the same struggles,” said eight-year-old Angelo as he is drawing a spaceship on his reflective artwork. We just finished a ‘song story’ experience that we physically acted out in the room. The main character, Mtokozisi, has a problem with anger.  We sang and shouted and danced through the journey of Mtokozisi; Angelo, overwhelmed by frustration and pain from his journey with cancer, suddenly had a special moment of realisation with Mtokosizi. 

The outbursts of frustration, lack of control and hurt, along with his struggle in emotional regulation became understandable to himself, in a way that he can start processing and transforming it. 

At the same time, not being able to go to school for so long made the cognitive stimulation and challenges for him extra important, along with the social connection and interaction we had in our therapeutic process. 

Benefits of music therapy

Music therapy has been widely researched regarding its positive effects on patients undergoing oncology treatment, both physically and psychologically. 

It has been found to be helpful in reducing anxiety, pain, fatigue and enhancing coping-related behaviours amongst other things. Music therapy is multi-faceted and beneficial to people from all ages and walks of life. It’s also known for its positive impact on people with as Alzheimer’s, autism and even premature babies.

Martha, the mother of a child undergoing cancer treatment, was so tired. Tired of being strong, tired of life happening in ways completely out of her control. 

For her, the empowerment started with the simple providence of a non-judgement and advice-free music therapy space where she was welcomed and accepted as an equal partner in the therapy process.

How does it work? 

Music therapy is a non-evasive modality of creative arts therapy. It’s versatile and free from side effects and is an established health profession. Music therapists must be registered with the medical board. 

Even though it doesn’t affect cancer itself, music therapy can have a significant impact on mood and strengthens the patient’s ability to cope.  

Music therapy is used in a variety of ways. From playing instruments and song writing to receptive music therapy with relaxation and guided imagery, the music used strives to meet the current condition of the client, match them as they are being, allowing them to ‘be’ completely themselves in that moment, and guiding them to discover new waves of strength in themselves. Just like Angelo and Mtokozisi discovered a mutual understanding in each other. 

Sessions are tailor-made and is all about a therapeutic relationship within which music is used to attain individualised goals. 

If you would like to know more or get in touch with a music therapist, email the South African Music Association at [email protected]

Sané Leach is a HPCSA registered music therapist and social worker. She 
is currently volunteering her time in India, empowering vulnerable women 
and youth through music therapy. She is a lover of people, music and the combination of the two.


Sané Leach is a HPCSA registered music therapist and social worker. She is currently volunteering her time in India, empowering vulnerable women and youth through music therapy. She is a lover of people, music and the combination of the two.