Group Music Therapy and Domestic Violence

Teague, A. K., Hahna, N. D., McKinney, C. H. (2006). Group music therapy with women who have experienced intimate partner violence. Music Therapy Perspectives, 24(2), 80-86.

If you heard about a friend of yours who was experiencing physical abuse from her partner, the standard response would be “Oh, she needs to leave him right away!” “What was she thinking staying with him for this long?” Anyone you ask, man or female, would understand the seriousness of the situation and advice this woman to get out as soon as possible. But then what? Far too often you hear of a woman going back to her abusive partner, or breaking up with him just to find a different abusive partner. Now, I’m not targeting women; I understand men deal with abusive partners as well. However, this article specifically discusses women. So what makes these women feel as if they have no way out, or can’t escape their circumstances?

Women who have experienced intimate partner violence also battle anxiety, depression, and self-esteem (Teague, et. al., 2006). Even if a woman leaves a violent partner, she still has to deal with her anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. Recent literature supports focusing on depression as part of the holistic treatment for anyone who has experienced partner violence. Obviously any type of violence can be traumatizing, but especially when it involves an intimate partner. So what can be done for these women? Teague, Hahna, and McKinney investigate the effects of group music therapy, combined with other creative arts methods. Music therapy is a viable treatment option for this particular group because music therapy can address increasing awareness and expression of emotions, developing problem solving, and decreasing social isolation (Teague, et al., 2006).  A similar study conducted by Whipple and Lindsey (1999) concluded that music therapy can increase levels of relaxation and increase communication.

For this study, a group of seven women met for six sessions weekly (Teague, et al., 2006). The goal areas targeted were decreasing depression, anxiety, and increasing social support. These women all currently resided at a transitional housing setting for women who had experienced intimate partner violence. The results of this study showed a significant effect on depression and anxiety, showing them lowered. There was no statistically significant effect on self-esteem. Most of the participants reported that all musical interventions were very helpful and that the six sessions as a whole were a positive experience. The findings suggests that music therapy within a group may be an effective intervention for improving mood and well-being in women recovering from intimate partner violence.

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Photo credit: Flickr user Alex R. Dixon