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How Does Music Therapy Help Ptsd

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Music Therapy: Helps Soothe Ptsd Symptoms

Music Therapy Helps Veterans With PTSD

With the sound of a strumming guitar ringing in the background and the scratching of pen to pad, Veteran Todd Foster of Smyrna, Tenn., writes the soundtrack to his rehabilitation from the traumas of war.

Foster and other Veterans, with help from Tina Haynes, music therapist at the VA Tennessee Valley Healthcare System in Murfreesboro, and Bob Regan, a Nashville musician and Grammy Award-winning songwriter, are using the craft of songwriting as therapy for Veterans to overcome posttraumatic stress disorder.

Foster began the songwriting therapy group in November 2012 and quickly noticed its benefits. “This is one of the best therapies in the VA,” says Foster. “It is such stress relief, and it really keeps you motivated. It keeps you thinking, and not of bad stuff it really gives you a brighter perspective on how to deal with life.”

Most Veterans in the group have little-to-no experience with music. Haynes says that should not stop Veterans from participating, because the staff provides all equipment and instruction.

According to Haynes, the group offers safety, support and stimulation for Veterans to tell their stories and express their thoughts and feelings though songwriting. She says the goal of the program is to provide an environment for emotional, spiritual, and psychosocial support. This, Haynes says, will help develop insights into their struggles as well as problem-solving skills and social interaction.

Trauma And Its Effects

While the word trauma can refer to both physical and psychological trauma, in this paper we focus on the latter. However, defining psychological trauma is in itself problematic. The current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders , in the context of defining post-traumatic stress disorder , defines a traumatic event as actual or threatened death, serious injury or sexual violence, whether personally experienced or witnessed, or experienced vicariously. This definition can include a variety of stressors of varying magnitude, frequency and duration. In addition, individual appraisal of an event can lead to differing levels of impact upon each person experiencing the event . As described by Sutton , however, most scholars agree that three aspects are central to an understanding of trauma: shock, wound and a lasting effect .

What Happens During Music Therapy

Music therapy isnt simply listening to music. A music therapist may include passive therapy, like listening to music, in their session. But they may also use other interventions, such as writing songs, singing, or playing instruments.

Music therapy has proven to be useful for those struggling with trauma or PTSD. According to a study in the Psychomusicology Journal, music therapy reduces PTSD symptoms and improves day-to-day functioning. Research scientist Adrienna Heinz of the National Center for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder claims that music therapy has the potential to help those struggling with PTSD. She adds, More specifically, music therapy may be considered a resilience-enhancing intervention, as it can help trauma-exposed individuals harness their ability to recover elements of normality in their life following great adversity.

Some cultures use particular types of music as a therapy aid. For example, the Chinese medical community believes that the meridian systems of your body resonate with certain musical tones. When your body hears these tones, the vibrations help to heal your internal organs.

Music therapy can also help you expand your social skills and express your feelings. Sometimes, music therapists will use a certain song or genre to help someone contend with trauma or repressed feelings. In many cases, that person may not consciously realize that they have these thoughts or belief patterns.

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What Does A Music Therapist Do

A professional music therapist will begin by performing an assessment of your emotional and mental well-being. They work together with the physician and mental health professionals on your treatment team. The music therapist may design sessions that foster better communication skills, social functioning, and mood. They may also incorporate tools like active listening to a song, songwriting, meditative music with imagery, or learning how to play an instrument. The therapist will evaluate outcomes regularly and make changes where applicable.

The results are promising when it comes to the effects of music therapy and mental health. Even if havent yet been diagnosed with a mental health disorder, listening to music regularly may boost your mood. Whether it reduces your stress and anxiety or offers a health benefit like lowering blood pressure, music therapy can be a simple and affordable form of treatment. Allow the benefits of music therapy to soothe your soul and heal your body.

Military Uses Music Therapy For Ptsd Treatment

What Do Experts Say About Music Therapy for Individuals ...
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The practice of music therapy has showntheoretical and empirical evidence that promotes and facilitates healing amongactive-duty military personnel and veterans with trauma exposure andPost-Traumatic Stress Disorder , as well as a tool for addressing itssymptoms. As part of treatment and management of PTSD, music therapy isconsidered as an alternative self-management technique, in addition topsychotherapy, medication, and non-traditional therapies such as serviceanimals. Its applications date back in 1945, when the U.S. War Department issuedTechnical Bulletin 187 detailing aprogram on the use of music for reconditioning among service membersconvalescing in Army hospitals.

PTSD is defined as a condition that candevelop after exposure to a potentially traumatic event that is beyond atypical stressor. Military personnel are at riskfor developing PTSDcaused by combat exposure. It is essential tounderstand the role and contribution of music therapy on clinical outcomes as acomplementary and integrative treatment to address this condition.

Several empirical studies showed thatemploying music therapy to address PTSD and its symptoms have yielded thefollowing outcomes:

Improved feelings of self-worthand reduction of isolation using group drumming therapy.

Significant reduction ofpost traumatic stress symptoms using CBT alone or CBT with additional 10 weeksof music therapy.

Referencesand resources:

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Symptom Cluster C: Avoidance

Many individuals with posttraumatic stress go to great lengths to avoid distressing memories, thoughts, feelings, or cues associated with their index trauma . Avoidance of these reminders can exert dramatic negative impacts on an individuals social and emotional wellbeing. Group music making, accessed via group music therapy, can serve as a stand-in social process to address avoidant behavior and provide positive corrective experiences. Through group music making and group music therapy, individuals must coordinate so the music is cohesive, fostering connectivity and work collaboratively with others, particularly if the group uses musical improvisation, which demands active engagement . Ultimately, group music therapy can allow patients to increase their social engagement in a safe space. The intended effect is to help patients, in-vivo, become comfortable with social experiences until they can eventually rejoin their community in a functional way .

The Potential Of The Non

As previously noted, in the face of trauma, verbal communication with therapists can prove to be extremely troubling, difficult and sometimes impossible for the PTSD sufferer.65 Therefore, employing music as a neutral middle ground between patient and therapist – behaving as a substitute for conventional forms of communication – is a thoroughly useful tool.66 Particularly, though, this is true for pre-school and early years children, who, due to their stage of social and cognitive development, are already limited in their verbal communication capacities, even before trauma comes into the equation.67

It is this non-verbal feature of music that makes it so uniquely well-catered towards assisting in the treatment of children suffering from PTSD or in the process of overcoming trauma. Children are instinctively drawn to and connected with music: processing sound is a sensory register that occurs even before birth.68 Research has demonstrated that the impersonal, unobtrusive nature of music as a communicative medium allows children to engage with it more freely and with less inhibition than they otherwise would with conventional therapies, thus enabling them to more easily re-encounter their traumatic experiences in a non-threatening manner and context, and providing an opportunity to find their voice through music and emerge from the silencing, psychologically imprisoning effects of their trauma.69

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What Is The Prognosis For People Who Go Through Music Therapy How Effective Is It

Through musical involvement in the therapeutic context, your abilities are strengthened and transferred to other areas of your life. For example, you might work on vowel sounds by singing, which supports using those sounds when speaking. Music therapy can have a positive effect on many aspects of your life.

What Are Signs Of Ptsd In Individuals


Some survivors struggle with PTSD almost every day, while others mostly experience it when reminders of past trauma occur. PTSD can cause dysfunctional coping behaviors that are no longer needed once the distressing events are over. Frequently, sufferers have difficulty managing feelings of anger or sadness. They may lose the ability to concentrate, isolate themselves from others or abuse drugs. A person with PTSD may have some or all of these problems. Other symptoms include:

  • Reliving the trauma
  • Reacting forcefully to minor events
  • Experiencing a mood disorder such as depression

If the above symptoms are present for one month or more, a mental health professional may diagnose PTSD in an individual. Other symptoms can include nightmares, fearfulness and becoming agitated when unwanted thoughts of the trauma intrude into daily life. Certain occurrences sometimes called triggers, may remind a person with PTSD of a distressing experience. This can cause them to feel upset long after an incident happened.

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What To Look For In A Music Therapist

Music therapy sessions are designed with several factors in mind, such as the individuals physical health, cognitive skills, communication abilities, emotional well-being, and personal interests. After measuring these factors with their treatment goals, the music therapist will work with the individual to actively create or produce music. This may include writing a song of their own, engaging in music, or playing an instrument. During the receptive process, the therapist will offer music listening experiences as a method to facilitate relaxation. The individual receiving treatment may then discuss their thoughts, feelings, or ideas created by music.

Individuals of all ages have turned to the arts to deal with not only the stress of everyday life but to also cope with traumatic experiences that are ingrained in ones mind. So, from the soothing sounds of classical music to heavy metal, music is a creative activity that is therapeutic and most often the cause of healing with so many survivors across the world.

Trust Your Musical Intuition

If you’ve ever listened to music and were moved to tears or motivated to run an extra mile because of it, you already understand that music can have an extreme impact on emotions. When intended, music can provide comfort during difficult times and also promote relaxation. You might be thinking that music is more complicated than you originally thought. It is! Although there is much to consider when using music therapeutically, humans have a particular knack for choosing music that soothes and heals them, without having to think too much about the technical aspects. Trust the way you feel, and if you think you might need more assistance with this process, consult a board-certified music therapist.

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Music Therapy Treatment Rebuilds Physical Muscles And Coordination

Finally, many types of music can help veterans who need to rebuild muscle and coordination. Rhythmic movement such as dancing or tapping along to a beat improves motor skills, balance, and stamina. Learning an instrument can also help patients with certain types of hand injuries.

A type of therapy called Rhythmic Auditory Stimulation has shown success in patients who have difficulty walking. Veterans with TBI often face this issue. In RAS, the music therapist provides a strong, steady beat as the patient begins walking. They match the rhythm to the patients steps, which trains their motor system and gradually helps them walk more smoothly and more quickly

Order Your List To Help You Reach An Intended Mood

Temple VA band helps veterans deal with PTSD, realities of ...

As noted earlier, consider your goal. Do you want to feel energetic, happy, relaxed, or optimistic after listening to your playlist? With your intended mood in mind, think of how you might organize the songs to bring you from your current emotional state to your desired. For example, if you started with an up-tempo piece of music that matched your initial state of high anxiety, find something a little slower for your next song. If you are trying to move toward a more relaxed state, select a piece of music that is slightly slower for your third song. The third piece should also have less instrumentation or vocals. The idea is to decrease the amount of stimulation in the music so that your playlist can facilitate a gradual transition while allowing you time to adjust to the music. Select songs that are at least three minutes long and make sure your playlist contains at least thirty minutes of music. You want to give your body plenty of time to experience your current emotion and adjust physiologically with the music.

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Musical Healing For Tbi And Ptsd

Music therapy is an evidence-based therapeutic application for the treatment of brain and psychological injuries such as traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder . TBI and PTSD can be life-changing events that cause physical, cognitive, sensory, and/or emotional impairments. However, a trained music therapist can use music to activate injured areas of the brain involved in the control of movement, cognition, speech and emotions.

Substantial scientific evidence supports how and why music therapy works, but it also can be understood intuitively. Music evokes emotions and influences mood, whether happy or sad, relaxed or pumped. Music also inspires movement: Think how a good beat can induce foot tapping or dancing.

Injured nerve pathways actually can be stimulated by music. Music also can be used to stimulate speech and facilitate cognitive function. In those with PTSD, music can arouse memories that need to be accessed and processed during the healing process. Music can help to promote movement affected by TBI. Watch this video from the National Endowment for the Arts and DoD to see music therapy helping injured service members:

Therapeutic Responses To Ptsd & The Role Of Music

Whilst multiple therapeutic approaches have been taken in the treatment of PTSD over the years, musical therapies have been particularly standout in their efficacy in comparison with more traditional and mainstream talking therapies. The origins of the music therapy profession are inherently intertwined with the treatment of trauma.6 Music therapy was actually devised initially as a trauma response to aid the treatment of World War II veterans.7 Much of the research which has since surfaced, therefore, identifies the therapeutic technique with the treatment of those suffering from post-traumatic stress as a result of experiences in warzones, natural disasters and physically violent confrontations. 891011 Inevitably, however, sufferers of PTSD are not limited to those who have emerged from such circumstances: severe trauma of any nature can manifest in the development of the condition, and in addition to the groups mentioned above, minority groups, women and children are also likely to suffer from PTSD as a result of abuse. 12

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Benefits Of Music Therapy

Music therapy can be highly personalized, making it suitable for people of any ageeven very young children can benefit. Its also versatile and offers benefits for people with a variety of musical experience levels and with different mental or physical health challenges.

Engaging with music can:

  • Activate regions of the brain that influence things like memory, emotions, movement, sensory relay, some involuntary functions, decision-making, and reward
  • Fulfill social needs for older adults in group settings
  • Lower heart rate and blood pressure
  • Relax muscle tension
  • Release endorphins
  • Relieve stress and encourage feelings of calm
  • Strengthen motor skills and improve communication for children and young adults who have developmental and/or learning disabilities

Research has also shown that music can have a powerful effect on people with dementia and other memory-related disorders.

Overall, music therapy can increase positive feelings, like:

  • Calmness
  • Emotional intimacy

Use Of Music In Helping Alleviate Ptsd

Music Therapy For PTSD

Music therapy is the use of music to address the physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs of a group or individual. Music therapy influences all aspects of the brain, body, mind. This type of therapy is an alternative self-management technique that has been proven in improving symptoms of PTSD. Music has been shown to improve and reduce the emotional stress induced by trauma.

Research has shown that music can provide a nonverbal outlet for emotional expression for people suffering from PTSD. Music can also improve the physiological and emotional state of someone with PTSD as well as provide an opportunity to reconnect with friends and loved ones. Studies in neuroscience have shown that music itself can help rewire the brain. Now this does not mean erasing traumatic memories, but instead seeing the memories in a new perspective. This new perspective can be used as a coping mechanism to deal with the difficulties of reliving trauma. If you or someone you know is having difficulty coping with PTSD, Incadence is just a video call away.

Music therapy can be a useful life-affirming tool in helping victims of PTSD better deal with and understand their disorder.

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Music Therapy For Veterans Heals Emotional And Social Problems

Music helps us connect. Whether its expressing yourself by writing or playing a song, or simply sharing your love of a particular band, music creates strong social bonds. For veterans, this can be a powerful form of therapy.

In some VA hospitals and medical centers, music therapy programs include support groups for veterans with PTSD to share music that reflects their feelings. These groups act as a musical show and tell, where members can practice relating to one another in a safe space through music.

Many veterans can experience emotional problems such as anger, anxiety, depression, and feelings of isolation. By working with a music therapist, they can process these emotions. One simple, yet powerful exercise invites the patient to listen to a song and then talk about how it makes them feel.

Certain types of music have also been shown to trigger specific emotional responses in the listener. Music therapy can thus be used to calm, induce joy, or encourage a healthy emotional release.

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