Mechanisms of Change in Music Therapy When Treating Adults Coping with Trauma

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1 Scopus citations


Music therapy with adult clients coping with trauma is a developing field of interest. However, little theoretical research exists regarding the mechanisms involved when using music as a therapeutic modality. This chapter presents five mechanisms of music that may contribute significantly to the process of healing from trauma. The first mechanism, relaxation, is the primary condition for stabilizing the sympathetic nervous system and moving away from the traumatic “fight or flight” state. The second mechanism, playfulness as a space of freedom, spontaneity, free-associative flow, imagination, and enjoyment, may create a non-verbal connection to traumatic memories. The third mechanism, trauma-related super-expressive emotions via music, may serve as a means for bypassing the difficulty of translating trauma-related emotions into words, thus becoming a vehicle for expressing strongly felt emotions. The fourth mechanism, sense of control, can be achieved by using controlled basic rhythmic patterns, dynamics, tempo, and timbre to address feelings of helplessness caused by the unpredictable and uncontrollable nature of traumatic experiences. Finally, interpersonal synchronization can be achieved through synchronized group music playing, which may alleviate feelings of acute loneliness, alienation, and detachment from society while fostering a sense of belonging and togetherness.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTrauma-Informed Music Therapy Theory and Practice
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages8
ISBN (Electronic)9781000635492
ISBN (Print)9781032061276
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 selection and editorial matter, Laura E. Beer and Jacqueline C. Birnbaum; individual chapters, the contributors.


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