Music Helps the Military and Healing

Posted by Rebecca Vaudreuil, May 13, 2013 6 comments

Rebecca Vaudreuil Rebecca Vaudreuil

Military service members are returning home in mass quantities nation-wide, some locations more prevalently populated and therefore more noticeable than others, such as in San Diego where Resounding Joy’s Semper Sound Military Music Therapy Program is based. 13% of all active duty military service members are stationed in California and San Diego has one of the largest military populations and is home to thousands of service members and their families. The need for service is ubiquitous and it is our calling to serve those who protect our freedoms as Americans.

The ever-compelling questions of, “WHY music?” and more commonly , “HOW can music therapy help returning veterans?” is answered  in the complete music therapy  definition as released by the American Music Therapy Association stating,Music Therapy is the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program.”  Music therapy was founded after WWII when psychologists at the VA in Topeka, Kansas saw the advantageous affects that music created by volunteer musicians had on the veterans. Psychologists began to train these volunteer musicians in the realm of behavioral psychology and hence the commencement of the music   therapy degree, which can be earned on the bachelors, masters, and PhD levels from accredited universities.

In addition to this concise yet comprehensive definition, music therapy is used to promote wellness, manage stress, alleviate pain, express feelings, enhance memory, improve communication, promote physical rehabilitation and very importantly with the military, provide reintegration opportunities.

Table 1:1  Pre/Post Music Therapy Pain and Anxiety Scales ; Observation Length- 8 weeks; n= 15New Picture (5)

In addition to the aforementioned benefits of music therapy, family support is a large component of music therapy with military that Resounding Joy’s Semper Sound Program offers. 56.6% of active duty military members are married and the largest percentage (42.6%) of minor dependents of active duty members is between the ages of birth and five years old. Music Therapy is able to promote spousal support through the promotion of effective communication and family bonding through parental and child active engagement through music.

Resounding Joy is a local San Diego 501-C3 non-profit agency that promotes social, emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being through music. . The Semper Sound Military Music Therapy Program was piloted at Naval Medical Center San Diego in October 2010. Finding support through the Heath & Wellness Department, we have been significantly expanding since 2010 to Camp Pendleton’s Wounded Warrior Battalion West, and the OASIS Program at the NAVY Base in Point Loma.

In this salon, we explore the ample benefits that music therapy provides for military service members including the methodology of approaches in which music therapy is successfully implemented. The facilitation of music therapy will be divided into three categories each detailing a specific element of the military music therapy process.


Music therapists can work with service members in individual or group settings. Both progressive and non-progressive music therapy clinical protocols can be utilized in individual or group dynamics. Goals and accompanying interventions for both types of clinical music therapy elements are: Rapport building through personal music inventory; Self-insight and awareness through lyric analysis and in-depth interpretation; Appropriate expression and communication through songwriting; Sensorimotor stimulation through therapeutic instrumental music performance (TIMP) and active music making; and Cognitive enrichment through lyrical, instrumental, or rhythmic recall.  These strategies can be implemented on an individual basis, in a group setting, or to support the family dynamic.


Service member musicians that practice songwriting experience processing of combat experiences in a supportive environment. The combination of their experiences written out in literal and metaphorical terms, matched with instrumental accompaniment selected through the process of musical executive function training (MEFT), bridges their verbal experiences with non-verbal complimentary music.  Songs written both in the individual and group processes are executed in a manner that any population (active service members, veteran, enlisted, officer, or civilian) can listen to and gain an understanding of what they are going though. In addition to facilitating the songwriting process, music therapists can document and record songs in order for the service member to archive their experiences in relation to time, mindset, and rehabilitation process as well as the general public to gain a better comprehension of their trauma and the rehabilitation needed to return the service member to their new state of homeostasis. Creative arts to music can also be integrated into the CD making process, where the service members design and create their own album artwork.


Service members who engage in active music making and TIMP in a group/band setting with the intention to play cohesively together as in a performance, self-disclose that they experience an increased internal motivation, are more inclined to help others in need, and build rapport with other service members that they would not have necessarily had the opportunity to come into contact with. Peer support is an integral part of experiencing inherent camaraderie and helps to diminish feelings of survival guilt.

Table 1:2  Peer Support Systematic Structure New Picture (6)

6 responses for Music Helps the Military and Healing


May 15, 2013 at 11:22 pm

Rebecca is doing, and has done amazing work! The Yamaha Music and Wellness Institute is working to do all we can to assist with these projects as well. I too am so pleased that the military is finally making this happen! This work is SO important!! Keep up the good work everyone out there!

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Noelle Pederson says
May 14, 2013 at 12:23 pm

Re: previous comment

Self-guided music interventions definitely work too! I think the writer does a nice job in the "Systematic Structure" visual above that has a bubble for "music therapy" and one for "peer support" ~ there's a need and space for both. I am so happy that the military is opening up to both options for active service members and veterans as a means for creativity for healing, therapy, and expressive outlets...oh yeah, and fun too! Great program!

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May 14, 2013 at 11:02 am

Self-guided music interventions also "work" for military. Example: Guitars for Vets. Pilot study conducted by Veterans Administration found playing the guitar to be an effective intervention and symptom relief for combat-related post-traumatic stress. See:

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June 04, 2013 at 4:21 pm

Was checking out what you have been up to career wise and no surprise I find that you're using the gifts god gave you to spread peace and happiness across the entire world. You always have had a heart of gold and those who are lucky enough to experience your aura definitely are blessed!

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Rebecca says
January 10, 2015 at 5:17 am

Hey Drennan! I just saw this posting and thank you for the kind words. I thought about you last fall when I was in CO, as my sis moved to Denver for grad school at DU. Let's catch up soon! 617-756-5704

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December 08, 2013 at 4:11 am

Hi there,

I just happened upon your blog. I hope you'll stop by and out facebook group by the same name. It is an Arts Engagement Program for which I am curently seeking financial support in order to talk to all vets to inspire a search for a creative activity that speaks to them.

I'm not sure I understand how scoopit works, or how to use it, but it seems helpful.

Thanks for your efforts!

Anita Brown
Composer/Teahing Artist

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