Background: Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a common sequelae of severe combat-related emotional trauma that is often associated with significantly reduced quality of life in afflicted veterans. To date, no published study has examined the effect of an active, music-instruction intervention as a complementary strategy to improve the psychological well-being of veterans with PTSD. The purpose of this study was to examine the feasibility and potential effectiveness of an active, music-instruction intervention in improving psychological health and social functioning among Veterans suffering from moderate to severe PTSD.
Methods: The study was designed as a prospective, delayed-entry randomized pilot trial. Regression-adjusted difference in means were used to examine the intervention's effectiveness with respect to PTSD symptomatology (primary outcome) as well as depression, perceptions of cognitive failures, social functioning and isolation, and health-related quality of life (secondary outcomes).
Results: Of the 68 Veterans who were self- or provider-referred to the program, 25 (36.7%) were ineligible due to (i) absence of a PTSD diagnosis (n = 3); participation in ongoing intense psychotherapy (n = 4) or inpatient substance abuse program (n = 2); current resident of the Domiciliary (n = 8) and inability to participate due to distance of residence from the VA (n = 8). Only 3 (4.4%) Veterans declined participation due to lack of interest. The mean age of enrolled subjects was 51 years old [range: 22 to 76]. The majority was male (90%). One-quarter were African American or Black. While 30% report working full or part time, 45% were retired due to disability. Slightly over one-quarter were veterans of the OEF/OIF wars. Estimates from regression-adjusted treatment effects indicate that the average PTSD severity score was reduced by 9.7 points (p = 0.01), or 14.3% from pre- to post-intervention. Similarly, adjusted depressive symptoms were reduced by 20.4% (- 6.3 points, p = 0.02). There were no statistically significant regression-adjusted effects on other outcomes, although the direction of change was consistent with improvements.
Conclusions: Our findings suggest that the active, music-instruction program holds promise as a complementary means of ameliorating PTSD and depressive symptoms among this population.
Trial registration: Trial registered at ClinicalTrials.gov with protocol number Medical College of Wisconsin PRO00019269 on 11/29/2018 (Retrospectively registered).
Keywords: Depression; Post-traumatic stress disorder; Randomized trial.