Music Therapy Interventions for Bullies and Bullying Victims

Music Therapy Interventions for Bullies and Bullying Victims

Bullying is a serious issue facing youth today. Bullying can lead to problems with socialization, anger issues, and an increase in behavior problems. Bullying is defined as “repeated act of intimidation or attack involving an imbalance of power with the intention to intimidate or cause harm to the victim.”

Shafer & Silverman looked into music therapy intervention for bullies and victims of bullying and reported their findings in the November 2013 issue of The Arts in Psychotherapy. This was one of the first articles regarding music therapy and its potential for helping bullies and their victims. Music therapy techniques can be applied in school settings and may be effective when collaborating with music educators. Previous research with similar groups of children working on social skills have participated in music video projects, music therapy activities moving from passive to active, and improvisation activities.

Shafer & Silverman suggest using interventions that provide opportunities for positive reinforcement and roleplaying.  Specifically, the authors highlight using mallet instruments and songwriting in activities focused on emotional expression and decision making. These activities are easily adapted to students elementary through high school and can include, emotion identification, listening, turn taking, lyric composition, instrument playing, etc. These activities are motivating because the students get to play instruments and possibly create their own music/lyrics. These activities are flexible, rhythmic, and are easy for music therapists or teacher to adapt to the needs and preferences of the students.

The main goal of these activities is to transfer the learned skills to real life situations of bullying. For instance, a song written by Kayla Shafer features lyrics such as “Just walk away, Just walk away, I don’t need to take this” with mallet instrument accompaniment. This song could serve as a reminder to victims when faced with bullies. This article also features a rhythmic composition made up of clapping, finger snapping, and stamping with lyrics such as “when I’m feeling angry, I stop and breath, I stop and breath.” This composition can serve as a reminder for bullies and victims to breathe in order to cope with a frustrating situation. The authors also highlight analyzing the meaning of song lyrics dealing with bullying in order to start a conversation with affected students.

Shafer & Silverman point out that the goal of these music therapy activities is to apply them to real life situations so the bullies and victims can utilize the learned skills in everyday life. Music therapy may be successful with students involved with bullying because music is accessible and enjoyed by most adolescents. For more information on how music therapy can help you or your child, visit

Shafer, K. S., Silverman, M. J. (2009). Applying a social learning theoretical framework to music therapy as a prevention and intervention for bullies and victims of bullying. The Arts in Psychotherapy, 40(5),495-500. doi:10.1016/j.aip.2013.07.004