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Online Group Music Therapy: A proactive mental health option

Online Group Music Therapy: A proactive mental health option

Presenter Name:Finnerty, Rachael

School/Affiliation:McMaster University, Psychology Neuroscience and Behaviour

Co-Authors:Dan Bosnyak, Laurel Trainor


Online group music therapy: A proactive mental health option

Rachael_Finnerty1, Dan Bosnyak1,2, Laurel_Trainor1,2
McMaster University, Department of Psychology, Neuroscience and Behaviour1, McMaster University, McMaster Institute for Music and the Mind2

Student mental health is a diverse issue that not only affects the institutions students are attending, but society as a whole. Music therapy has been frequently cited as an effective means to  address stress and anxiety. This study is the first to investigate music therapy on a university campus, and to collect data about the efficacy of online group music therapy for proactive wellness, specifically, the reduction of stress and anxiety.

Participants were randomly assigned to one of two therapy groups or a control group. After attrition there were 46 in music therapy standard of care; and 19 in the control group. Therapy groups met for online weekly group therapy sessions for six-weeks. A standardized questionnaire for state anxiety and a Likert scale for stress was completed before and after each group therapy session. A sample of hair for cortisol was given and a standardized perceived stress questionnaire was completed by all participants in week 1 and week 6.

A significant reduction in state anxiety and stress scores before and after each group therapy session was observed. Preliminary findings reveal cortisol levels increased in the control group over the 6 weeks, but not in the therapy groups.  A non-significant reduction in perceived stress from week 1 to week 6 was observed in all therapy groups in comparison to the control group.

The sample size is too small for definitive conclusions, but the reductions in stress, anxiety and cortisol scores suggest online group music therapy may prove to be an effective addition for proactive management of student wellness. An in-person study to further investigate group music therapy for proactive wellness, with a larger sample size, will begin in February 2023.

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