Effects of family-based educational music therapy on acute care psychiatric patients and their family members: An exploratory mixed-methods study

You may have heard about music therapy for individuals or groups, but have you ever wondered if music therapy could work for families? Michael Silverman’s article “Effects of Family-Based Educational Music Therapy on Acute Psychiatric Patients and their Family Member: An Exploratory Mixed-Methods Study,” explores music therapy in a family based setting for psychiatric patients. As the length of inpatient psychiatric stays are decreasing, the care and support provided by families for their loved ones are increasing. Education groups and therapy groups have been successful for families struggling with a mental health diagnosis of a loved one. These types of education groups, or psychoeducation, groups can help decrease stressors involving communication, interactions, and coping within the family environment.

Eleven individuals in inpatient psychiatric treatment and twenty-one visiting family members were randomly placed in either educational music therapy groups, education groups with no music, or a music activity. Participants took pre and posttest surveys to measure their depression levels and satisfaction with life. During the music therapy sessions participants composed lyrics for blues songwriting focused on educational goals regarding life after discharge. The educational group with no music included a discussion of life after discharge and the music activity session included a music bingo game. During both educational groups topics included medications, coping skills, supports, communication, therapy, family-involvement, and symptoms.

The researcher found that both the music therapy educational groups and the no music educational groups were effective, but participants appeared to enjoy the music therapy groups slightly more than the no music groups. Themes, or subjective results noticed by the researcher, relevant to the progress in music therapy group noted that the songwriting providing necessary structure for the participants and the lyrics provided an opportunity for action oriented future dialogue, which was not as apparent in the non-music education group.

This study indicates that education focused music therapy groups may be as effective as talk therapy education groups when facilitated by an experienced board certified music therapist. For more information on how music therapy can help you or your family please continue to visit www.centralohiomusictherapy.com or visit www.musictherapy.org.


Jessica S. Fletcher, MM, MT-BC

Silverman, M. J. (2014). Effects of family-based educational music therapy on acute care psychiatric patients and their family members: An exploratory mixed-methods study. Nordic Journal of Music Therapy, 23(2), 99-122.32