Using Culture-specific Music Therapy to Manage the Therapy Deficit of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder and Associated Mental Health Conditions in Syrian Refugee Host Environments

Hasan Abdulbaki
Jonathan Berger


The death of mental health professionals in low-resource Syrian refugee-host environments poses a pressing need for alternative non-verbally centred psychotherapeutic interventions, particularly given the prevalence of psychological disorders such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety. Here we consider music therapy as a socially adept therapy mode that provides a de-stigmatizing, culturally-sensitive avenue capable of increasing patient confidence in mental healthcare, as well as providing a scalable and sustainable intervention to help address the mental health crisis in such low-resource environments. This review of literature summarises evidence supporting the use of culture-specific music therapy that leverages musical modes familiar to the cultural backgrounds of the refugee communities, and identifies key questions that need further investigation. The review includes a discussion of comparative effectiveness, summary of clinical efficacy data, respective validated epidemiological research, and psychiatric epidemiology targets that serve as guidance for further research into the outcome of methodical cultural adaptation of musical interventions. Given that the prevalence of psychiatric disorders exceeds management capacity, alternative therapies that can help address this critical deficiency are in dire need. This review concludes with key research questions and areas of focus that provide a blueprint for future investigations to assess the use culturespecific music therapy as a valid mode of psychotherapy.