Music Therapy

There is an extensive literature examining the role of music in the treatment of a variety of physical ailments and mental disorders, including the impact of using culturally appropriate types of music. [Chase 2003] Although many such studies have evaluated the effects of music on patients’ experience of pain, a large number of them have also examined related experiences of depression, anxiety, and other emotions. Siedlieki and colleagues evaluated the effects of different types of music on pain, depression, and disability in patients from different ethnic groups, comparing music selected by the investigators and music selected by the subjects. [Siedliecki 2006]

No significant differences in benefit were identified between patients in the researcher-provided vs the patient-provided types of music, but the investigators found that both groups reported less pain, depression, and disability music could enhance the effects of analgesics; decrease pain, depression, and disability; and promote feelings of power. Moreover, Chase reported that music can help patients to appreciate the supportive aspects of their own cultural backgrounds and promote positive feelings that can provide therapeutic advantages in treating emotional problems. [Chase 2003]

In an analysis of several non-standard approaches in treating African Americans with mental disorders, Campinha-Bacote recommends combinations of spirituality, music, and humor—including jazz, blues, Bible study, and parlor games—that draw on traditional sources of strength and support in African American culture as complementary adjuncts to more standard therapeutic modalities in treating individuals experiencing mental disorders. [Campinha-Bacote 1993]

A very contemporary approach to music therapy seeks to offer a therapeutic tool that speaks to a group that is particularly at risk of HIV infection—young African Americans. Allen discusses the benefits of a music-therapy technique arising from the field of social work: hip-hop therapy. [Allen 2005] A core appeal of hip-hop therapy is that it represents a widely popular urban music culture whose lyrics reflect many of the difficulties confronted by young people in their daily lives. The author explains that this therapy employs hip-hop music and culture to engage young people in the therapeutic process and to address their issues by encouraging them to reflect on the music’s lyrics as they relate to the clients’ own life experiences.

At the same time, hip-hop therapy also makes use of tools from established therapeutic approaches such as music therapy, behavioral therapy, and narrative therapy, and it is applicable in either individual or group settings. Analyzing hip-hop lyrics encourages the client to participate, stimulates discussion, and promotes critical examination of the client’s mental and emotional problems. Hip-hop therapy uses the person-in-environment approach from the field of social work; it explores clients’ social, cultural, and environmental orientations and contexts. Practitioners who use hip-hop therapy attempt to deconstruct their young clients’ negative attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors and replace them with more positive goals and behaviors. [Allen 2005]




Howard University College of Medicine AIDS Education and Training Center - National Multicultural Center