Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) & Music Therapy

What is PTSD ?

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder is a mental health condition that is caused when someone struggles to recover from a traumatic event. This can cause people to experience some form of distress, memory trouble, avoidance of others and poor emotional wellbeing. [5]

Traumas that may result in PTSD include exposure to war zones and peacekeeping missions under challenging and stressful environments. [1]

Approximately 31% of men and 27% of women currently in the military will develop PTSD (Vaudreuil 2020) [9]

Music Therapy

Music therapy assists people in feeling calmer and reducing their agitation. Veterans have reported that music therapy helps with relaxing and not feeling different to others. It gives them the opportunity to express their feelings without the need of words. [3]

Music therapy uses various activities, such as listening to melodies, playing an instrument, drumming, writing songs, and positive imagination. [2] It has also been been shown to improve selective attention. This gives people living with PTSD more independence as they can cope with their own stress without relying on others. [6]

Music therapy can reduce symptoms of PTSD by 38%

There are two types of music therapy:

  • Non-clinical music therapy is done by implementing the activities explained above. It can be provided by any music profession such as a guitar teacher. [4]

  • Clinical music therapy is administered by a qualified music therapist. It combines general music therapy with clinical interventions such as talk-based therapy. [4]

‘I like playing music, it's like a relaxation thing because I don't relax easily’

- Past participants of the G4VA program . [8]

Guitars for Veterans America Study

A study undertaken by Pezzin et al. (2018) [7] investigated how Guitars for Veterans America's program impacted symptoms of PTSD and depression. After 6 weeks of music therapy the veterans showed an average reduction in PTSD symptoms of 14% [7]. Veteran’s depressive symptoms also decreased by 20% [7].

The veterans with moderate to severe PTSD showed significant reductions in psychiatric symptoms after 6 weeks of participating in the guitars for veterans program [7]. This clearly demonstrates the significant positive impact that the guitars for veterans program provides for veterans living with PTSD.

If you would like to visit the Guitars for Veterans American website you can do so here

If you would like this webpage’s information in a PDF format, please download our brochure below


  • [1] AGDVA (Australian Government Department of Veteran's Affairs) (2019) Post- traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), AGDVA, accessed 24 August 2021.
    [2] AMTA (Australian Music Therapy Association) (2021) What is music therapy? AMTA, accessed 24 August 2021.
    [3] Carr C, d’Ardenne P, Sloboda A, Wang D and Triebe S (2011) ‘Group music therapy for patients with persistent post-traumatic stress disorder – an exploratory randomized controlled trial with mixed methods evaluation, Psychology and Psychotherapy, 85(2):179-202, doi: 10.1111/j.2044-8341.2011.02026.x
    [4] Kern AM (2016) ‘Artistic transformation: The benefits of music therapy in U.S. veterans’ [Master's thesis], Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, accessed 7 September 2021.
    [5] Landis-Shack N, Heinz AJ and Bonn-Miller MO (2017) 'Music therapy for post- traumatic stress in adults: a theoretical review', Psychomusicology: Music, Mind, and Brain, 27(4):334-342, doi: 10.1037/pmu0000192
  • [6] Macfarlane C, Masthoff E, and Hakvoort L (2019) 'Short-term music therapy attention and arousal regulation treatment (SMAART) for prisoners with post- traumatic stress disorder: A feasibility study', Journal of Forensic Psychology Research and Practice, 19(5):376-392, doi: 10.1080/24732850.2019.1670023
    [7] Pezzin LE, Larson ER, Lorber W, McGinley EL and Dillingham TR (2018) ‘Music- instruction intervention for treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder: a randomized pilot study’, BMC psychology, 6(1):1-9, doi:10.1186/s40359-018-0274- 8
    [8] Shepherd B (27 April 2019) ‘Guitars become life-changing instruments for military veterans suffering from PTSD’, ABC News Australia, Accessed 14 September 2021.
    [9] Vaudreuil R, Langston DG, Magee WL, Betts D, Kass S and Levy C (2020) 'Implementing music therapy through telehealth: considerations for military populations', Disability and Rehabilitation: Assistive Technology, pp.1-10, doi: 10.1080/17483107.2020.1775312