Evidence suggests that individuals with PTSD often experience symptoms after receiving current, evidence-based treatments for PTSD, as well as difficulty attending and adhering to treatment, with some treatments, including exposure-based therapies, tending to be aversive. With previous studies suggesting that collaborative songwriting shows promise in helping with the symptoms of PTSD and being more accepted by patients than some of the current treatments for PTSD,

Louisa Sylvia, PhD, Ron Hirschberg, MD, and colleagues conducted a study to determine whether collaborative songwriting could help US military veterans with PTSD reduce symptoms and improve overall wellness. Their results were presented at the 2019 annual Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) Conference.

For the study, the Home Base program for veteran and family care partnered with Songwriting with: Soldiers, an organization that has developed a collaborative songwriting approach. The researchers conducted a collaborative songwriting intervention, during which a veteran or active duty serviceman/servicewoman with PTSD met with a professional songwriter for 2 hours to discuss their story and, together, create and record a song. Participants were provided with the recorded song and asked to listen to it daily for 4 weeks, as well as a wearable exercise monitor to record physiological variable and psychological assessments of PTSD and depression symptoms, perceived stress, and their ability to cope.

At 4 weeks, PTSD symptoms were significantly reduced by 33% and depressive symptoms by 22%. Participants also reported that the intervention was highly acceptable and would recommend it for other veterans. “This relatively brief intervention yielded clinically meaningful reductions in PTSD and depressive symptoms, and participants enjoyed the intervention,” explains Dr. Sylvia. Dr. Hirschberg adds, “Music serves as a common language for people, and when there are difficult memories and experiences to convey, it often can help ‘translate’ these issues into a digestible and usually positive medium or form.”


Collaborative Songwriting: A Therapeutic Music Intervention for Veterans and Service Members with PTSD and/or TBI