A Survey of Music Therapy Methods on Adolescent Inpatient Mental Health Units

It is often difficult to get a glimpse of music therapy in psychiatric settings due to necessary privacy laws. However, Johnson & Heiderscheit (2018) conducted a survey of music therapists working in adolescent inpatient mental health units to get a clearer picture of the overall work music therapists are doing in the adolescent psychiatric setting.  

The researchers developed a 35 question survey that asked about the structure of music therapy sessions, common goals, interventions (or activities within music therapy sessions), and what factors influence their decisions about what interventions to use. Fifty-One surveys were completed in their entirety and sent back to the researchers for use in the study. Regarding session format, 63.8% facilitated group settings and 34.5% provided both group and individual settings. 98.3% of respondents stated that their music therapy sessions were between 30 and 60 minutes in length. Indicating that most music therapists tend to facilitate psychiatric music therapy groups and agree that sessions should be at least 30 minutes in length.

Survey participants chose between 11 goals that they worked the most on in music therapy sessions (with the option to write in goals they address that we not listed as choices). 92.3% of respondents chose Improve self-expression, improve self-esteem, increase positive socialization, increase knowledge of coping skills. This shows a very strong agreement on the most common or necessary goals in the adolescents psychiatric setting. As for interventions, the top five reported interventions uses were song discussion, lyric analysis, songwriting/composition, music games, and instrumental improvisation. Interestingly, they listed the interventions that were most challenging to implement were vocal or instrumental improvisation, performance, guided imagery, music and movement, and songwriting.

This study helps to get a clearer picture of what music therapy might look like within the adolescent inpatient mental health setting and what interventions might be considered best practice with this population. This study did received responses from music therapists in all seven regions of the American Music Therapy Association.  I was personally impressed to read the high percentage of agreement across the top goals and interventions with music therapists across the country. For more information on music therapy, please continue to centralohiomusictherapy.com or musictherapy.org

By Jessica Fletcher, MM, MT-BC

Johnson, K., & Heiderscheit, A. (2018). A Survey of Music Therapy Methods on Adolescent Inpatient Mental Health Units. Journal of Music Therapy,55(4), 463-488. doi:10.1093/jmt/thy015