Integration of trauma in music therapy: A qualitative study

Psychol Trauma. 2022 Mar;14(3):367-376. doi: 10.1037/tra0001032. Epub 2021 Mar 11.


Objective: The importance of integration in psychotherapy is a growing area of research, theory, and practice, especially regarding traumatic events. Although research relates to integration in the context of music therapy with trauma survivors, it has rarely been the main focus of research. The current study investigates which principles and techniques guide music therapists to facilitate integration of trauma survivors.

Method: Using the phenomenological approach, analysis of semistructured interviews with 41 experienced music therapists working with traumatized populations was conducted to identify themes regarding their perception on integration.

Results: The findings yielded three different ways of integration. Body integration entails the ability of active music playing to serve as a sensorial stimulus that bypasses linguistic and logical mediation and enables clients to live in peace with their body and feel whole. Event integration relates to a process by which a repressed traumatic event reemerges into consciousness through music and leads to emotional and cognitive integration of that event. Lastly, life story integration relates to the ability to perceive a life story as a whole. The process includes embedding a trauma into the natural flow of a life story through music and achieving emotional and cognitive integration.

Conclusions: These three ways of integration are conceptualized as a progression of three consecutive levels of integration which may assist music therapists in their work with trauma survivors. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved).

MeSH terms

  • Emotions
  • Humans
  • Music Therapy* / methods
  • Music*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Survivors / psychology