Instructional and improvisational models of music therapy with adolescents who have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): a comparison of the effects on motor impulsivity

J Music Ther. Spring 2006;43(1):39-62. doi: 10.1093/jmt/43.1.39.


This study compared the impact of instructional and improvisational music therapy approaches on the level of motor impulsivity displayed by adolescent boys (n = 13) who have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). A combination of a multiple contrasting treatment and an experimental control group design was used. No statistical difference was found between the impact of the contrasting approaches as measured by a Synchronised Tapping Task (STT) (Humphrey, 2003) and the parent and teacher versions of Conners' Rating Scales (Conners, 1997) Restless-Impulsive (R-I) and Hyperactive-Impulsive (H-I) subscales. However, while no firm conclusions can be drawn, there are indications that the instructional approach may have contributed to a reduction of impulsive and restless behaviors in the classroom. Further, over the period of the study, both music therapy treatment groups significantly improved accuracy on the STT, and teachers reported a significant reduction in Conners' DSM-IV Total and Global Index subscale scores. These findings tentatively suggest that music therapy may contribute to a reduction in a range of ADHD symptoms in the classroom, and that increasing accuracy on the STT could be related to improvement in a range of developmental areas-not specifically motor impulsivity.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior* / psychology
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / complications
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Impulsive Behavior / etiology
  • Impulsive Behavior / therapy*
  • Male
  • Motor Activity*
  • Music Therapy / methods*
  • Treatment Outcome