A Descriptive Analysis of Music Therapists Working With Consumers in Substance Abuse Rehabilitation: Current Clinical Practice to Guide Future Research

Michael J. Silverman


The purpose of this descriptive study was to examine music therapists working with consumers in treatment for substance abuse with the intention of using these data to design realistic and practical research studies and inform future music therapists of what to expect as a Board-Certified Music Therapist working with this population. The secondary purpose of this study was to assess job environment factors of music therapists and their perception of influence on clinical effectiveness within the substance abuse population. Participants reported that communication, coping skills, emotional expression, decision making, and self-esteem were the most frequently addressed clinical objectives. The 12 Step, cognitive behavioral, and dual disorders were the most frequently utilized treatment approaches while lyric analysis and music assisted relaxation were the most utilized music therapy interventions. Participants had been working with the substance abuse population for a mean of 11.69 years, enjoyed their work, and felt they had a positive impact upon treatment. A significant relationship was found between years as an MT-BC and perception of positive impact of music therapy, possibly indicating that therapists who had practiced longer felt they were more effective. There was a significant relationship between the music therapists’ enjoyment of clinical practice and their perception of positive influence upon their consumers’ treatment, possibly indicating that the more a music therapist enjoyed their work, the more impact they felt they had upon their consumers. Finally, a significant relationship existed between the music therapists’ perception of treatment influence on their consumers and the percentage of consumers who had met their clinical objectives during the last week. Suggestions for additional research, implications for treatment, potential biases, and limitations of the study are provided.