Adolescents’ Experiences of Music Therapy in an Inpatient Crisis Stabilization Unit

Music therapy has started emerging as a useful therapeutic tool for individuals who are undergoing stays within any mental health facility, regardless of inpatient, outpatient, or partial hospitalization. As years have come and past, music therapy remains a consistent benefit for clients with mental health issues. On a quest to gain insight into the ways in which music therapy supports the recovery process and understand the benefits of participation in music therapy along with the experiences of music therapy as identified by clients themselves, Rosado took part on a journey of interviewing adolescents in an inpatient crisis stabilization unit to find answers to these foreboding questions. 

Rosado interviewed fourteen young women, aged 12-17, admitted to an inpatient mental health facility. Of the participants diagnosis included major depressive disorder (MDD), bipolar I disorder, MDD with psychotic features, disruptive mood dysregulation disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. All participants were required to attend a minimum of three music therapy group sessions, obtain medical clearance from their physician, have parental consent and minor assent, be in the custody of a parent or guardian, have no current legal standings, and have cognitive and verbal abilities with an IQ over 80. 

A wide range of music therapy clinical interventions were used during this time including active music listening, clinical improvisation, adaptive group music lessons, music and relaxation, lyric analysis, song writing, multi-modal expression, and recreational activities. Each clinical intervention facilitated specific goals such as emotional awareness, increase emotion regulation, build leisure sills, anxiety reduction, promote self-discovery, increase coping skills, and social skills. Following the interviews, Rosado identified 13 themes that suggested interconnections among them. Using the interconnections, four central concepts emerged and captured the essence of the clients’ experiences. These four central concepts include (1) music therapy affirms participant’s strengths, (2) music therapy affirms coping resources, (3) music therapy integrates cognitive and affective processes, and (4) music therapy provides continuity of experience. 

Adolescents in crisis often have primary need to modulate and regulate emotions, Practicing accepting, understanding, and coping with their emotions is very helpful for them. When this practice occurs in music therapy, the teens experienced stabilization of their emotions, essentially contributing to their recovery. The value of music therapy in short-term therapeutic milieu, as teens experienced it, as affirmed through its contribution to important treatment goals of their hospital stay. 

The implications of this research for the field of music therapy will go very far. Two primary implications rose from the research they are as follows (1) teens already saw music as a resource and may benefit from the development of a better understanding of how they may use music regularly to manage their mental health post inpatient setting, and (2) it suggests the importance of considering client-preferred music in sessions as a gateway for engaging teens in the therapeutic process. 

Music therapy provides a safe and predictable environment to process and illuminate the importance of being present with difficult feelings. Group environments for music therapy in mental health settings may provide a safe place for individuals to share their music with each other and create bonds between group members. These group environments allow clients to learn from one another and work through feelings while learning to connect to positive coping resources. 

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By Sara May, MT-BC

Rosado, A. (2019). Adolescents’ Experiences of Music Therapy in an Inpatient Crisis 

Stabilization Unit. Music Therapy Perspectives.