By Dr. Ray Hanbury, Ph.D., ABPP
Chief Psychologist, Jersey Shore University Medical Center; Clinical, Trauma, & Police Psychologist; Voices of Valor Consulting Psychologist.
The Project known as Voices of Valor was established to provide a new outlet for Veterans to be able to express their thoughts, feelings , and emotions with regard to their military experiences. Generally Veterans find it very difficult to talk about those situations that have caused many of them stress, anxiety, and depression to name a few of the consequences of those months and years of service in the military, including the time spent in combat.
Even though the Program is not a research project, it is important to attempt to determine the effectiveness of the overall objectives of the program. Those objectives are to assist in the mitigation of the stress, anxiety, and depression in the veterans who choose to participate.
The process that has been implemented is that groups are developed in various facilities, colleges, or Veteran Administration Hospitals. The composition of the groups include the Veterans, the Directors of the Project, facilitating musicians, and Psychology doctoral graduate students who are mentors. At some of the locations, the facilities’ or institutions’ staff are involved. Each group lasts for eight sessions. The Veterans who volunteer to participate in the group complete surveys on both a pre-session and post-session basis. The goal of the program is to reduce and alleviate some of the signs of distress that they may have been experiencing.
When one talks about outcome measures one is addressing the determination and evaluation of the results of an activity, plan, process, or program, and a comparison with the intended or projected results. The measures need to be reasonable and realistic. The goal of this project is to assess the impact that music has in assisting the Veterans in verbalizing some of their thoughts and feelings about their respective military experiences. Given that this is not a research project as mentioned above, we are looking at the outcome measures of the structure and process that has been utilized. We are really addressing the responsiveness of the Veterans, which is the property usually discussed in the context of patient reported outcome. Essentially, we are examining and detecting change over time in the veterans who complete the group sessions. The reported change would hopefully be a reduction in their anxiety, stress, and depression.
Based on the findings that are reported, we may eventually be able to convert to an actual clinical research study. This would be an expensive and challenging undertaking, however such a study could enhance the knowledge about the use of music in the process of enabling Veterans to communicate more openly about their life experiences in the arena of combat stress.
A few related articles on the effects of music on health and wellness:
US News and World Report, July 17, 2008
“Music as medicine for the brain.”
Stanford University News Service, May 31, 2006
“Symposium looks a therapeutic benefits of musical rhythm.” By Barbara Palmer
Psychology Today, June 21 2013
“Music Therapy for Health and Wellness” by Catherine Ulbricht, Pharm.D.
American Music Association, January 27, 20145
“Landmark multi-site study reveals positive effects of music therapy protocol among youth in cancer treatment.”
Annals of Physical Rehabilitation Medicine, Vol. 52 Issue 1, Feb. 2009
“Effect of music therapy on mood and anxiety – depression: An observational study in institutionalized patients with traumatic brain injury.”
British Journal of Psychiatry, April 27, l2011 pp 132-139
“Music therapy for depression: It seems to work, but how?” by Maratos, Crawford, and Proctor.