Music therapy and chronic mental illness: Overcoming the silent symptoms

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Music Therapy Perspectives, ISSN: 2053-7387, Vol: 33, Issue: 2, Page: 90-96

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Jackson, Nancy A.
Oxford University Press (OUP); Oxford Journals on behalf of American Music Therapy Association; Oxford Journal
Psychology; Medicine; Arts and Humanities; music therapy; chronic mental illness; positive psychology; Music
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article description
Finding a comfortable and functional life is a challenge for many individuals living with chronic mental illness. Even when active symptoms are resolved and the individual is deemed "stable," the residual traumas of mental illness, including loneliness, loss, grief, and stigma, persist, severely reducing quality of life and acting as destabilizers. Our current healthcare system is not inclined to spend time and dollars on symptomatology that is not immediately injurious to self or others or actively troublesome in social contexts, so these lingering symptoms that are psychological and emotional in nature become invisible, except by those for whom they are daily experiences. Research literature from positive psychology suggests that addressing the issues of self-concept, self-efficacy, and quality of life is integral to successful recovery from mental illness. Music therapy provides opportunities for individuals living with chronic mental illness to address these types of subjective goals through music engagement that allows them to be heard, to build relationships, and to re-experience the wholeness of their own humanity. Several music therapy perspectives that incorporate aspects of Positive Psychology Interventions (PPI) are identified, and clinical vignettes are shared that explore just a few of the ways that music allows these individuals to find relief from invisible symptoms, including building new, meaningful relationships, finding new identity beyond mental illness, and discovering enjoyment, camaraderie, and new roles in shared social experiences. The effective incorporation of PPI into clinical practice regardless of theoretical orientation or clinical approach is discussed, as demonstrated by the vignettes.