Music Therapy for Posttraumatic Stress in Adults: A Theoretical Review






Music therapy has been employed as a therapeutic intervention to facilitate healing across a variety of clinical populations. There is theoretical and empirical evidence to suggest that individuals with trauma exposure and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a condition characterized by enduring symptoms of distressing memory intrusions, avoidance, emotional disturbance, and hyperarousal, may derive benefits from music therapy. The current narrative review describes the practice of music therapy and presents a theoretically informed assessment and model of music therapy as a tool for addressing symptoms of PTSD. The review also presents key empirical studies that support the theoretical assessment. Social, cognitive, and neurobiological mechanisms (e.g., community building, emotion regulation, increased pleasure, and anxiety reduction) that promote music therapy’s efficacy as an adjunctive treatment for individuals with posttraumatic stress are discussed. It is concluded that music therapy may be a useful therapeutic tool to reduce symptoms and improve functioning among individuals with trauma exposure and PTSD, though more rigorous empirical study is required. In addition, music therapy may help foster resilience and engage individuals who struggle with stigma associated with seeking professional help. Practical recommendations for incorporating music therapy into clinical practice are offered along with several suggestions for future research

Music and Health Institute Terms

Anxiety; Cognitive Abilities; Emotional Functioning; Engagement Level; Mental Health; Memory; Music Therapy; Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD); Resilience; Symptom Management; Trauma

Indexed Terms

Psychology; Psychotherapy; Therapists; Trauma; Clinical medicine; Stress; Brain research; Violence; Listening; Mental health; Emotions; Cognition & reasoning; Post traumatic stress disorder; Anxiety; United Kingdom; United States; England

Study Type

Editorial, Opinions, Position Papers

Document Type