Multimodal Music Therapy for Children with Anxiety Disorders

Boy holding onto his mother

By: Jessica Schlabach, MT-BC

Living with a child with anxiety can be stressful for the caregivers, siblings, and other professionals interacting with the child. Without treatment, these behaviors can extend into adulthood so intervention should occur as early as the behaviors appear. Current treatment includes Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, pharmacological treatment, or a combination of these treatments. Music therapy is a non-invasive and safe way to help children manage their anxiety. This therapy is hands on and gives children an alternative method to communicate their feelings, which children may have trouble conveying through words.

Goldbeck & Ellerkamp (2012) conducted a study of children ages eight to twelve diagnosed with anxiety disorders. Individual and group music therapy sessions were conducted and included guided relaxation interventions, structured instrument play, and painting to music. Activities were aimed towards helping children identifying emotions, identifying when they need to relax, and how to use music to relax. Parent training sessions also occurred. Reoccurrences of anxiety were significantly less after music therapy group as opposed to the traditional intervention group. Results indicated that music therapy might be more appealing to children who are reluctant to participate in traditional verbal therapy.

Relaxation techniques can be incorporated as successful (and possibly fun) coping skills for your child! Teaching your children to identify their emotions (e.g. anger, happiness, sadness, nervousness, fear, etc.) and incorporating distraction/coping skills can help your children manager their anxiety or other stressful emotions. Activities such as painting and deep breathing to music can help children cope with their emotions and help them regulate their bodies so they can relax their mind.

For more information on music and anxiety, please visit or contact Erin Spring for more information on how music therapy for your child.

Goldbeck, L., & Ellerkamp, T. (2012). A randomized controlled trial of multimodal music therapy for children with anxiety disorders. Journal of music therapy, 49(4), 395-413.