The Effect of Songwriting on Knowledge of Coping Skills and Working Alliance in Psychiatric Patients: A Randomized Clinical Effectiveness Study


M. J. Silverman


Journal of Music Therapy




The purpose of this study was to determine the effects of a songwriting intervention on psychiatric patients' knowledge of coping skills and working alliance. Participants were randomly assigned to scripted and manualized experimental (n=48) or control (n=41) conditions. The experimental condition was a group psychoeducational music therapy songwriting session concerning coping skills while the control condition was a group psychoeducational session concerning coping skills. Both conditions were single-session therapy with patients on an acute adult psychiatric unit. Results indicated no significant between group differences in measures of knowledge of coping skills, consumer working alliance, or perception of enjoyment (p>.05), although the experimental condition tended to have slightly higher mean scores than the control group for these measures. There was a significant between group difference in measures of therapist working alliance (p< .001), with the therapist scoring the experimental group higher than the control group. Although the music therapy group had a higher mean rate of previous psychiatric hospitalizations, their perception of enjoyment scores were still higher than those of the control condition, a finding incongruent in the literature. Furthermore, despite the increased number of previous hospitalizations, the music therapy condition had higher attendance rates than the control condition, thus possibly providing incentives for funding. It seems that group songwriting about coping skills can be as effective a psychosocial intervention as traditional talk-based psychoeducation to teach psychiatric inpatients how to proactively manage their illness. Additionally, music therapy can be as effective as talk-based psychoeducation in establishing working alliance. Implications for clinical practice, limitations, and suggestions for future research are provided.

Music and Health Institute Terms

Composition; Coping; Hospital Setting; Hospitalized Patients; Mental Health; Music Therapy; Psychological Outcomes; Self-Report Measures; Songwriting

Indexed Terms

Adaptation, Psychological; Creativity; Focus Groups; Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice; Interpersonal Relations; Mental Disorders; Mentally Ill Persons; Psychotherapy, Group; Writing

Study Type

Randomized Controlled Trial; Quantitative Methods

PubMed ID


Document Type