Music Therapy and Military Populations

The History of Music Therapy in Military Populations

The history of using music therapy to help post-combat veterans dates back to the days after World War I, when community musicians performed in military hospitals for wounded servicemen. Doctors and nurses noticed that their patients responded positively to the music. During the last years of World War II, it became evident that these hospital musicians needemilitary and flagd special training, thus the first music therapy degree was created.

In 1945, the U.S. War Department developed a program using music to recondition service members recuperating in Army hospitals. In this program, music was used in several therapeutic settings, including recreation, education, occupational therapy and physical reconditioning. This early use of music as a support of multiple therapies for military populations helped the music therapy profession grow. It developed further with research endorsed by the Army.

How Can Music Therapy Help Veterans and Their Families?

Veterans of recent wars face post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury, major depression and polytrauma, not to mention substance abuse, family conflict and suicide. Music therapy can be a valuable part of a treatment plan for post-combat veterans and their families, offering another tool in supporting a service member’s recovery. Interventions can include improving coping skills, offering relief from pain perception and reducing stress associated with traumatic experiences.

Music is used with military populations in various ways, including drum circles, writing original music and engaging with a music therapists individually or in a group setting. Music therapy interventions often address multiple goals, such as awareness of mind/body connections, identifying feelings and emotions, physical discomfort/pain, attention, executive functioning and non-verbal means of expressing thoughts, feelings and emotions.

Interactive music experiences, music-based workshops, or incorporating music therapy into established support groups are just a number of ways music therapy can support veterans or active service members’ families. Shared music making between family members and their service members also allows everyone to engage in an activity that can be fun and positive.

One of our music therapists, Laetitia Brundage, had the invaluable experience of working with the veteran population for a few months last summer as a part of the Home Base program, a two week intensive clinical program run by MGH. Laetitia incorporated a drum circle to the opening night, kicking off the program every two weeks for new participants.

If you or a family member is a veteran or active service member interested in music therapy, please contact us.