The Impact of Group Music Therapy on Negative Affect of People with Co-Occurring Substance Use Disorders and Mental Illnesses

  • Gardstrom S
  • Bartkowski J
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The purpose of this study was to explore the impact of group music therapy on levels of self-reported negative affect (NA) among men and women on a residential unit of an integrated dual diagnosis treatment program. More specifically, we sought to determine if, and to what degree engagement in composition, receptive (listening), re-creation (performing), and improvisation experiences would result in a shift—namely, a decrease—in the intensity of self-reported NA. Participants were adults in residential treatment who had been diagnosed with co-occurring substance use disorders (SUDs) and mental illnesses (MIs), predominantly mood and anxiety disorders. Twenty group-music-therapy sessions were held on the unit. Three researcher-developed visual analogue scales were used to assess pre and postsession levels of anxiety, anger, and sadness. In total, 89 surveys were analyzed. Results indicate that nearly a third of the participants who were involved in the treatment groups reported a decrease in anxiety, sadness, and anger combined, with more than half of the responses in each of these three emotional states indicating a decrease. While these are encouraging results, generalization of findings is limited primarily by the use of a nonstandardized measurement tool, the absence of a control group, the possibility of intentional deceit, and the potential for researcher bias in the collection and compilation of the data. In this study, we explored the impact of group music therapy on levels of self-reported negative affect among men and women in a residential, integrated dual diagnosis treatment program. Participants had co-occurring substance use disorders (SUDs) and mental illnesses (MIs), predomi-nantly mood and anxiety disorders. Approximately 8.9 million Americans aged 18 years and older are dually diagnosed with SUDs and MIs (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration [SAMHSA], 2010). The high prevalence of co-occurring SUDs and mood and anxiety disorders, specifically, has been clearly estab-lished in clinical investigations (Merikangas, Dierker, & Szamari, 1998). One recent publication asserts that people with addictions are twice as likely as those in the general population to be diagnosed with these particular affective psychopathologies (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2009). When compared with singular diagnoses, the combination of substance-related and mental health disorders appears to be correlated with higher frequencies of homelessness (Caton et al., 1994), incarceration (Abram & Teplin, 1991), hospitaliza-tion (Drake & Brunette, 1998), and relapse (Swofford, Kasckow, Scheller-Gilkey, & Inderbitzin, 1996), as well as poorer overall quality of life (Singh, Mattoo, Sharan, & Basu, 2005). Although the benefits of music therapy in the treatment of SUDs and various forms of MI have been singularly researched and reported, the role and efficacy of music therapy in the treatment of individuals with coexisting disorders remains comparatively under investigated—this in spite of the fact that nearly 20% of members of the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) reportedly work with clients with psychiatric disorders (AMTA, 2010), many of whom undoubt-edly have multiple mental health diagnoses, as indicated above. The research team for the present study was comprised of a university faculty MT-BC (principal investigator) with nearly 30 years of clinical experience with adolescents and adults with MIs and two junior-level student music therapists (SMTs) from an AMTA-approved undergraduate training program. We were not considered clinical staff at the facility; rather we were viewed as faculty and student visitors who provided voluntary music therapy sessions as a service to the residents. The fourth author, a statistician, conducted the analysis of data and assisted with interpretation of the findings.

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  • Susan C Gardstrom

  • Jacklyn Bartkowski

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