Psycho educational Music Therapy techniques to treat and manage mental illness

Psycho educational music therapy is one of the ways music therapy can be integrated into treatment for the psychiatric consumer (Silverman, 2010). Silverman further pointed out that 50% of people diagnosed with severe mental illnesses (SMI) develop a substance abuse problem during their lifetime (Boyle, et.  al., 2005; in Silverman 2010). Thus, the dual-disorder treatment (IDDT) that resulted from studies beginning in the 1980’s was the attempt to treat mental illnesses and substance abuse simultaneously. (Mueser, et. al., in Silverman, 2007) outlined four illness management components and recurring techniques, (p. 6), that could be relevant for today, such music therapy techniques as lyric analysis, song writing, musical games, imagery, role play, music improvisation and relaxation (Silverman, 2007, p. 6). He further spoke about how music therapy can be used for these four illness management components, namely:

  • Psychoeducational: To gain a better understanding and knowledge of their illnesses.
  • Strategies for addressing medication: Non-compliance and helping people adhere to treatment protocol as prescribed. Behavioral Music therapy can encourage behavioral adherence behaviors.
  • Relapse prevention training: To reduce symptoms and hospitalization.
  • Coping skills training: To reduce severity of symptoms and recurring episodes utilizing cognitive behavioral/dialectical behavioral techniques.

Silverman (2009, p.7) cited scripted lyric analysis and song writing as related evidence based therapy (EBT) incorporated in their clinical practices. Per Silverman (2008 & 2009), psychoeducational music therapy attendances were higher than psychoeducational sessions alone without music.  Silverman (2008) proposed evidenced based therapy- EBT and music therapy to best serve in future integrated dual disorder education regarding medications.  He also suggested music therapists collaborate with other professionals to bring about the best integrative approach to healing. Silverman (2005) attested that reading and integrative music making could help reduce auditory hallucinations in Schizophrenia patients. Researchers also showed that a patient diagnosed with Schizophrenia acquired significantly reduced frequency of auditory hallucinations through recreational activities and music listening (Frith & Owen 1986; Silverman, 2005).

My groups in acute behavioral health were open group format, since so often a patient might be pulled out for a doctor’s consultation. The objective was to design a landscape, an environment that prompted voluntary attendance and vivid expression. Patients and their families have expressed how they appreciated that if their loved ones played an instrument in the past, that instrument was provided for them while they were hospitalized; likewise, families were thrilled if the patient restored lost interest, if just for a brief time. Groups were where patients supported and encouraged each other and applauded their peers’ progress and breakthroughs. By patients’ second day relationships had developed with music being the most common interest.  Younger patients invited older ones to groups and even found them and brought them to groups that they enjoyed and likewise did older patients with younger.  Often, spoke one patient to another, “Come with me to this group, you will enjoy it”. From my experience, inter-generational groups were more effective and realistic in behavioral health music therapy, than separate age cohort groups.  It promoted communication and socialization, two domains most deficit among psychiatric patients.  Mental health patients tended to isolate and exasperate in their low self-pity and depression and closed themselves out from their environment and community. Likewise, society withdraws from the elderly and the mentally ill patient if they make themselves invisible.  So the idea was to practice connecting and communicating to continue those learned behaviors upon discharge and after care as in the real world. Music therapy is one of the most communal modalities to train connecting to people. The very nature of music brings people together.  Silverman (2010) attested that work, or at least independent functional abilities are strong motivating factors in health and quality of life.

All patients came to the unit where I worked as individuals with diverse disabilities. They found strength, support, expression and healing in performance practice in music therapy. The open group format provided for connectivity and vivid expression. All participants were transformed from resisting life; and from isolated and withdrawn patients on a psychiatric unit into to contributing members of a supportive and nurturing community. From the psychosocial aspect of each patient’s treatment, the psychiatric patients enjoyed music therapy sessions over and above all other psychoeducational groups. All creative expression groups were higher attended than any other groups on the unit and patients attended the entire periods of the groups unless called out for medical procedures (Silverman, 2008). However, music therapy groups were favored above all.  In adhering to Silverman (2008)  the music therapist collaborated with the pharmacologist by requesting her to teach a medication class, and followed it with a song writing group. Patients wrote songs about their illnesses, pain, medication and coping and presented their songs in a group recital, where they invited staff and even family members. Staff, family and even patients commented that the songs were eye openers. Some such songs were about “Psycho pharm hop scotch ” , and “doctor doctor, calm this pain” and songs commanding “Voices, voices to get out of my head”.  Some of the songs were rap, blues and, different genres. They laughed, they cried,  they opened and connected in a way like no other.   That was one fun way to apply music therapy and an example of collaborating with other professionals to bring about integrative healing.

You don’t need to be blue or in pain to laugh or cry through the music; and even if you are, we offer instruments at prices so competitive that you have no barriers to music making to lighten the blues and ease the pain. Why not grab one of our affordable guitars or drums and sit with a friend and “remember when”, or create some memories of your own. Shop and help keep music therapy alive.


Silverman, Michael (2003). The influence of music on the symptoms of psychosis: A                     meta-analysis. Journal of Music Therapy 40, 27- 40.

Silverman, Michael & Marcionetti, Michael J.  (2005). The effect of reading                                      and interactive music making and recorded music on auditory hallucinations: A                pilot study. Music  Therapy Perspectives 23 (2), 106-110.

Silverman, Michael (2006) Psychiatric patients’ perception of music therapy and other                 psychoeducational programming. Journal of Music Therapy, 43, 111-122.

Silverman, Michael (2007). Evaluating Current Trends in Psychiatric Music Therapy: A                 Descriptive Analysis. Journal of Music Therapy, 44, 388-414.

Silverman, Michael (2008b) The Effects of song Writing on Knowledge of Coping Skills an:             A Randomized Controlled Trials Working Alliance in Psychiatric Patients. Poster                   session presented at the 10th annual meeting of the 10th annual meeting of the                    American Music Therapy Association

Silverman, Michael (2009). The effects of single-session psychoeducational music

therapy on verbalization and perception in psychiatric patients. Journal of Music               Therapy 46, 105- 131.

Silverman, Michael (2010). Integrating music therapy into the evidenced-based                            treatment  for psychiatric consumers. Music Therapy Perspectives 28, 1) 4-10.



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